Are You Sabotaging Your Slumber?
Millions among us are suffering from “sleep debt”, an epidemic of enormous proportions. Prolonged insufficient sleep – due to long hours burning the midnight oil, caffeine, energy drinks, late-night use of social media, light pollution, or repeatedly hitting the snooze button – can really add up. It only takes a few nights of missing a couple of hours to create a deficit akin to pulling an “all-nighter”. According to the National Sleep Foundation®, adults aged 18 to 64 years of age require around 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at full capacity.1 Some of the best sleepers out there stick to regular routines. Examining how you can improve yours can mean the difference between sleepless nights or optimal shuteye.
Your bedroom should be your sanctuary; so, don’t bring anything into it that doesn’t promote complete restfulness. This means your bed shouldn’t multitask as a desk, coffee table, food tray, or hobby area. Reserve your space for sleep and intimacy alone, and it will create a powerful mind-body association between bed and sleep. While it may sound Pavlovian, experts believe that we can train ourselves to think this way.2
It may be worth inspecting those eating habits too. An article published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine affirmed that it’s best to avoid heavy meals and spicy foods before retiring for the evening.3Eating can rev up your metabolism, which may make it difficult to sleep soundly.4 Meat, chocolate, Chinese food (containing MSG), colas, coffee, and tea are a few of the foods and beverages that act as stimulants.5 If the fridge beckons you in the wee hours, reach for non-fatty foods like bananas or a bowl of (melatonin-rich) berries in lieu of that greasy burger, or leftover slice from the pizza shop.
Is a nightcap usually on the menu for you? If so, you may want to think about skipping this late-night libation. There’s a common misconception that drinking soothes you into a deep sleep; in reality, it can have the reverse effect. Because alcoholic beverages knock you out, so to speak – they can affect your sleep cycle negatively, keeping your brain in the lighter stage of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) for longer than it should.6 For this reason, so many people tend to wake up tired after a night out on the town.
Water is essential for good digestion, weight loss, and optimal functioning of the human organs – but, did you know being dehydrated can disrupt your sleep? Water deprivation can affect your overall mood and sleep-wake cycles. Not consuming adequate amounts of H20 during the daylight hours can dry out your nasal passages and mouth, as well as decrease your levels of restorative sleep.6 Rather than chug your daily allotment before getting into the sheets – space out your intake with meals, and before, during, and after exercise to avoid getting up to go to the bathroom.
Regular exercise is vital to a satisfying night’s sleep; however, timing is everything. Steer clear of high-intensity exercise within 3 hours of bedtime7, as it raises our body temp and stimulates the body’s heart, brain, and muscles. Scheduling your exercise for morning time will help you hit the hay in the evening, and energize you all day long.
Are you screen-obsessed? The harsh, blue light emitted from our laptops, tablets, cell phones, and computers is becoming a constant in our lives. Blue-blocking glasses and taking breaks can be beneficial for preventing eye strain, but according to Sleep.org, exposure to this excess light can lead to melatonin suppression. This important hormone is responsible for regulating our sleep/wake cycle, and a lack of it may make falling asleep a difficult feat.8 Try to keep cell phones and televisions out of the bedroom, and get rid of your gadgets for 30 min prior to snoozing.
Establishing your own bedtime routine can be highly advantageous for those who struggle with sleep. Whether you choose to take a relaxing soak in the tub or read your favorite book, having a healthy habit can calm the mind and get your body accustomed to normal sleep patterns. Writing down mantras or reminders for the next day can quell any worries or distractions you might have.9
If you’ve addressed many of these suggestions, but are still waking up tired – it may be time to consider the advice of a sleep specialist. The physicians at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine are highly trained to diagnose, treat, and prevent a variety of sleep disorders. The team prides themselves on offering individualized care and will craft a treatment plan that is sure to improve your quality of life. For more information, call 815-477-7350.