National Sleep Awareness Week

Do you find yourself feeling tired and sluggish all day even after a full night’s rest? If so, you may be part of the 20% of the population who suffer from day time sleepiness.

Day time sleepiness may be one of the most common plagues of our day and while its prevalence may not be a surprise, there are many health risks and pesky side effects associated with poor sleep that many people aren’t aware of. We will be discussing what contributes to sleep health and why sleep is so important.

consequences of poor sleep

Most people know that if they don’t get enough sleep then they will be tired the next morning. What some don’t realize is that some of the consequences associated with poor sleep go far beyond just being tired the next day.

Those who don’t sleep enough can have difficulty with mental processes such as recalling, retaining, and processing information, concentration, or may have sudden mood changes or irritability.

Lack of sleep can wear you and your body down. Not being in a good mood the day after a long night of binge watching your favorite Netflix show is fine and good (and should be done every now and then), but what are the risks associated with consistently not getting enough sleep? Those who consistently lack sleep or lack enough quality sleep have a greater risk of weakening their immune system and ,therefore, getting sick, having a low sex drive, and gaining weight. Just to name a few.

But unfortunately it doesn’t end there. The longer you go being sleep deprived the greater risk you have for developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Luckily there is a lot you can control when it comes to your sleep and there are a lot of things you can do to help increase the quality of your sleep.

how to increase your sleep health

Here is a list of things you can do to increase the amount and quality of sleep you are getting.

  1. PLAN FOR SLEEP: Plan ahead of time so that your daily activities end early enough for you to get enough shut eye. There are sleep calculators out there you can use to figure out how many hours of sleep you need to feel refreshed as well as suggestions for when to go to bed and what time to wake up.
  2. KEEP TO A CONSISTENT SCHEDULE: Go to bed and wake up the same time every day. The consistency helps your body self-regulate and makes it easier to go to bed and get up in the morning.
  3. KNOW YOURSELF: Know the amount of hours that make you feel the best. It is recommended that kids sleep between 8-12 hours, teens between 8-10 hours, and adults sleep between 7-9 hours each night. If it is recommended that you sleep 7-9 hours but always feel better when you sleep around six hours then do that. Know the hour range that works best with your body.
  4. LET THE LIGHT IN: Opening the windows first thing in the morning helps kickstart your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is our body’s natural sleep/wake cycle and it is directly influenced by light and darkness. The light lets our body know that it is time to be awake, to move, and to have energy. Adversely, the darkness tells our body that it is time to shut down, relax, and go to sleep.
  5. NAP EARLY OR DONT NAP AT ALL: Napping (especially later in the evening) can mess with our circadian rhythm and also throw off our sleep schedule. If we nap too late in the evening we will not feel tired at the time we would normally get tired.
  6. DECREASE SCREEN TIME: All electronics emit a blue light that interferes with the circadian rhythm, telling your body that it’s time to be awake. Using electronics especially late at night will greatly interfere with your sleep and the quality of sleep you are getting. Try to decrease your over all screen time during the day, turn off all electronics at least an hour before going to bed, use blue light blocking glasses, or install apps on your phone that block blue light to get better sleep quality.
  7. EXERCISE DAILY: Daily exercise helps expel energy and naturally aid in being tired.
  8. DECREASE STIMULANTS: Having too many stimulants during the day or taking them too late at night will affect your sleep/wake cycle or the ability to go to bed. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, teas, or coffee too late at night.
  9. SLEEP WHEN YOU’RE TIRED: Go to sleep when you feel like sleeping. If you push past the sleepiness to finish whatever you may be doing at the time, you can finish your task and find that you are not tired. By ignoring your body you tell it that you are staying awake and to produce energy. This can make it difficult to fall asleep later on.
  10. LOWER YOUR BEDROOM TEMPERATURE: A lower bedroom temperature is conducive to sleep. A cooler temperature helps you fall asleep quicker.
  11. NO FOOD BEFORE BED: Eat a light dinner or eat at least two hours before you go to bed. Having food in our stomachs can make it hard to go to sleep because digestion does not work very well while we are sleeping and can lead to digestive problems.
  12. NIGHTTIME RITUAL: Having a routine is crucial in teaching your body when it’s time to go to sleep. If you have a nightly routine to wind down, you will teach your body to begin getting tired once you start that routine.
  13. USING NOISE MACHINES: Are you a light sleeper? Or do you find it hard to fall asleep because your mind is racing? Using white noises, ocean sounds, meditations, instrumental music, etc can help one settle their mind, allow them to fall asleep, and to block out other noises so they stay asleep.
  14. LIMIT TOSSING AND TURNING: It may seem counterintuitive, but if you are having a hard time falling asleep it is better to get up out of bed instead of tossing and turning for hours. The stress caused by not being able to fall asleep increases a stress hormone called cortisol. Once this is release it will become even harder to fall asleep. Instead, get up and do a repetitive action such as wash dishes, fold laundry, etc until you start to get sleepy and then go back to bed.

Get help

If after trying everything on your own and still not being able to go to sleep or wake up feeling refreshed, you should consult a physician. You may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as insomnia, sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome. A physician is trained to help you work with these disorders to get better sleep.

Your quality of life will greatly increase by bettering your sleep habits and seeking professional help if needed. Sweet dreams!

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