It’s 3 a.m. and you’re tossing and turning. You’ve been awake for hours watching the clock and you have to be up at 5 a.m. Sleep isn’t going to come again tonight. According to the American Sleep Association, you are one of the 50-70 million U.S. adults with a sleep disorder.
Good sleep is directly related to good health. Unfortunately, sleep problems — snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep deprivation, and restless leg syndrome — are prevalent for people of all ages. Sleep can impact your hormone levels, mood, weight, and productivity. The National Sleep Foundation’s 2015 Sleep in America poll found greater stress was associated with less sleep and worse sleep quality.
One of the most common sleep disorders, insomnia, involves difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. The symptoms include trouble falling asleep, waking frequently and having trouble going back to sleep, waking too early, and/or feeling tired upon waking. There are two types of insomnia. Primary insomnia is non-health-related, while secondary insomnia can be related to other health conditions like asthma, heartburn, acid reflux, depression, arthritis, or cancer, etc.
Acute insomnia is short-term and can be triggered briefly by life stressors (job loss, death, divorce, poverty), illness, emotional or physical discomfort, environmental factors, or medications. Chronic, long-term insomnia can be caused by depression, anxiety, chronic stress, and pain/discomfort at night. If you experience insomnia on a long-term basis, seek attention from your healthcare provider.
Dr. Jordan Stern, founder of BlueSleep, calls obstructive sleep apnea, “the disease of the decade.” He believes that sleep apnea may affect up to 30% of the population. This serious disorder occurs when something partially or completely blocks your airway during sleep. Symptoms include fatigue; dry mouth or sore throat upon waking; headaches in the morning, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, depression, or irritability; poor mental and physical performance; night sweats; restlessness; snoring; waking up gasping/choking; and trouble rising in the morning. Often our partners recognize apnea before us. If you suspect this sleep disorder, see your doctor immediately for a sleep test.
What Else Keeps Us Up?
What you eat and drink before bed can affect your sleep. While alcohol can cause drowsiness, it often interrupts your sleep cycle later in the night. Likewise, heavy, spicy meals with fatty or fried foods before bedtime can disrupt good sleep. Also, if you are experiencing sleep issues, avoid caffeine and nicotine later in the day as they act as stimulants.
According to WebMD.com, the amount of sleep you need depends upon your age. Infants and toddlers need 11-15 hours a day. Pre-school children require 10-13 hours. School-age children need 9-11 hours and teens about 8.5-9.5 hours on average. Most adults require 7-9 hours a night, though some may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day. Pregnant women may also need more sleep.
Unfortunately, too little sleep can have negative effects like memory loss, lack of concentration, depression, irritability, and weakening of your immune system. Sleep deprivation also leads to driver fatigue, which is responsible for 83,000 motor vehicle accidents and about 850 deaths each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Recent studies also show that lack of sleep contributes to weight gain and even obesity. Sleep-deprived people often eat more high fat foods, simple carbohydrates, and fewer vegetables. This could be due in part to sleep loss changing the body’s chemical signals related to metabolism and hunger.
Good Habits Can Improve Sleep Quality
Changing your sleep habits can help you get your ZZZ’s. Here are some tips for improving your nightly routine:
Maintain a schedule. Go to sleep and get up the same time each day. Avoid napping.
Establish a relaxing wind-down ritual like meditating, taking a warm bath, reading a book, using a lavender diffuser, or listening to calming music.
Power off electronics. The National Sleep Foundation found that 95% of people use a computer, video game, or cell phone a few nights a week within the hour before bed. Scientists claim the light from electronic devices disrupts sleep by sending signals to the brain. Prolonged use of cell phones, iPads and tablets, reading devices, and even television can make it harder to fall asleep.
Avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day.
Exercise early in the day. Don’t exercise strenuously four hours before bedtime.
Stay away from heavy late-day meals. Opt for a light snacks like cheese and crackers or cereal and milk before bedtime, if desired.
Transform your bedroom into a sanctuary. Keep your room dark, quiet, and cool (around 65 degrees) for optimum sleep. In fact, 73% of Americans believe a dark room is conducive to a good night’s sleep. If light is an issue, purchase blackout drapes or try a sleeping mask. Use earplugs, a fan, an air purifier or “white noise” machine to mask disruptive sounds. Change your sheets frequently and avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep or sex.
Now that you know what to do, get some rest! Sweet dreams!
All books are available at amazon.com. Click on title to learn more.
Sleep Well. Sleep Deep. How sleeping well can change your life
by Alex Lukeman PhD
by Chris Idzikowski
The Sleeping Disorder Cure
by Jonathan Wright
sleepfoundation.org – What Causes Insomnia?
sleepassociation.org – Sleep and Sleep Disorder Statistics
health.com – 11 Kinds of Insomnia
newyorker.com – Why-cant-we-fall-asleep
bluesleep.com – Solve your sleep problem online
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