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Secrets to Good Sleep

Secrets to Good Sleep

Why is Sleep Important? | Promoting a Healthy Sleep Style | If You Have Difficulties Sleeping...

Why is Sleep Important?

Sleep is more than just a "time-out" from our busy routines; it is critical for good health, mental and emotional functioning and safety. As an example, research has determined that people suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea are likely to have higher blood pressure while they sleep and deal with the daytime sleepiness.

Occasional sleeping issues are apt to make daily life more stressed or result in a less productive day. In a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, people who said they had problems getting enough sleep reported difficulty concentrating, accomplishing tasks and handling minor irritations. In total, sleep loss has been found to impair tasks involving memory, learning and logical reasoning.

Sleep needs vary from person to person. On average, a healthy adult requires an average of 8 hours of sleep per night. However, some people function without sleepiness or drowsiness with as little as 6 hours of sleep. Yet other people are unable to function unless they have slept for 10 hours. Contrary to what has become a common myth, we do not need less sleep as we get older, although being able to get all of the needed sleep at one time might be reduced.

How then do you measure how much sleep you really need? A good rule is to notice how alert you are during boring or monotonous situations. If you have trouble staying focused and alert, you are not getting enough good-quality sleep. Other things to notice are if you become easily irritated with co-workers, family or friends, and experience difficulty concentrating or remembering facts.

Promoting a Healthy Sleep Style

Here are helpful tips for creating a healthy sleep environment from the National Sleep Foundation:

Scheduling Tips

Keep a regular sleep schedule. It is beneficial for both your brain and body to go to bed and get up at the same time each day. This allows them to balance sleep and wake cycles and sync with our "circadian clock". Keeping a common bed and wake-time, even on weekends when you are tempted to sleep-in, makes it easier to fall al seep and maintain sleep quality throughout the week.

Caffeine Tips

Avoid caffeine. Caffeinated products, such as coffee, tea, cola, and chocolates, is a stimulant which remains in your body on average for 3 to 5 hours or sometime longer. Consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening can disrupt sleep, so it is important to monitor your caffeine intake starting late in the afternoon. Even if you think caffeine does not affect you, it may be disrupting your sleep. By avoiding caffeine within 6 hours of going to bed, you will improve your sleep quality.

Nicotine Tips

Avoid nicotine. Nicotine is another stimulant. Smoking before going to bed will make it more difficult to fall asleep. Smokers experience nicotine withdrawals while sleeping creating problems falling asleep or waking in the morning. Nicotine can also cause nightmares. Improving your sleep quality is another reason to quit smoking.

Alcohol Tips

Avoid alcohol. Many people think of alcohol as a sleep aid due to its sedating effects when in fact it causes more sleep disruptions through the night. Consuming alcohol before going to bed normally helps people to relax and fall asleep, but may end up leading to a night of disturbed sleep.

Eating Tips

Do not eat or drink too much before bedtime. It is recommended to avoid having a heavy meal close to bedtime as it may make you uncomfortable when laying down. Also avoid spicy foods as they may cause heartburn leading to difficulty falling asleep and discomfort during the night. Attempt to restrict fluids close to bedtime in order to prevent nighttime awakenings to the bathroom. Of course, going to bed on an empty stomach also makes it difficult to sleep. A light snack is recommended before bed and may help you sleep better.

Exercising Tips

Exercise at the right time to promote sleep. Exercise generally makes it easier to fall asleep and contributes to a sounder sleep. However, exercising right before going to bed may make going to and staying asleep more difficult. Exercising makes us more alert and raises our body temperature which takes about 6 hours to cool back down. A cooler body sends the signal that your body is ready to sleep. It is important to exercise, but be sure to do so at least 3 hours before your normal bedtime. Late afternoon exercise will help you fall asleep at night.

Relaxation Tips

Use relaxing bedtime rituals. A relaxing, routine activity before going to bed will make it easier to fall asleep, but try to avoid activities involving exercise or working as it will become a stimulant making it harder to fall asleep. Examples of relaxing activities are a hot bath, reading or listening to music.

Environmental Tips

Create a sleep-promoting environment. An environment that is cool, quiet and dark is usually best for sleeping. Check your bedroom for noise or other distractions and make sure your mattress is both comfortable and supportive.

If You Have Difficulties Sleeping...

  • Associate your bed with sleep and sex only. In order to strengthen the psychological bond between bed and sleep, use your bed for only sleeping and sex. Be sure to follow a regular wake-up schedule. Also, if you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, eliminate it from your bedtime routine. Do not engage in activities that cause anxiety as they will prevent you from sleeping.
  • Limit sleep time in bed . You should always go to be when you feel tired. But if you have difficulties falling asleep and are still awake after 30 minutes, it is best to get out of bed and do another relaxing activity until you feel sleepy again. You may have to repeat this a couple times before finally falling asleep. You should nap during the day only when needed and plan on napping for 20-30 minutes.
  • Use a sleep diary and talk to your doctor. While tying these tips, record your sleep and sleep-related activities in a sleep diary. If the sleep problems continue, discuss the sleep diary with your doctor. There may be another reason for your sleep problem, and you will want a proper diagnoses (refer to How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?).
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