Many people have trouble sleeping. Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or we do not wake up feeling rested. Our sleep hygiene as Americans is often less than desirable. Sleep hygiene is the variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness.
Do we value sleep enough? When the demands of a busy life get the best of us, sleep is often the first things to get pushed to the bottom of our priority lists. No problem, I will just go to bed later or get up earlier. Actually, this is a problem because habits like this are just not sustainable. We cannot keep making withdrawals from the bank and never put in any deposits!
So how then do we raise sleep on our priority list and allow it to be a foundation for a healthy lifestyle?
First, we should ask how much sleep do we desire to get each night? General guidelines suggest that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
In addition to age, other factors can affect how many hours of sleep you need.
-Pregnancy. Changes in a woman’s body during early pregnancy can increase the need for sleep.
-Aging. Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults. As you get older, however, your sleeping patterns might change. Older adults tend to sleep more lightly and for shorter time spans than do younger adults. This might create a need for spending more time in bed to get enough sleep, or a tendency toward daytime napping.
-Previous sleep deprivation. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.
-Sleep quality. If your sleep is frequently interrupted or cut short, you’re not getting quality sleep. The quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity. –mayoclinic.com
We all may have a bag of tricks for drifting off to dreamland, but sometimes those tricks can lead to bad habits that again, are not sustainable for the long haul. Many over-the-counter sleep aids contain antihistamines. If these drugs are taken over a long period of time, your body will get used to it and the aid will lose its power over you. The best approach to winding down and getting cozy for the night are lifestyle changes. Good sleep habitudes include:
–Stick to a sleep schedule. Even on the weekends and holidays, stay committed to your routine. If you lay in bed for more than 15 minutes, try getting up and doing something relaxing. Come back to bed when you feel tired. Try not to lay in bed and fret about not being able to fall asleep.
–Be mindful of what you are eating. It is unwise to go to bed hungry or overly full. Staying away from alcohol and caffeine is a great idea to achieve an optimal night’s sleep. These things can take time to wear off and greatly effect your sleep quality.
–Create bedtime rituals. I love this idea and what a good habitude to adopt! Creating a routine at night will signal your body that it is time to wind down. Many nights of the week look different as we all have things going on that can throw us off. However, I encourage you to think about some rituals; a hot shower, some reading, a cup of tea, or simply changing into your pajamas. These and other restful habits can assist your body and mind to wind down.
–Make your bedroom comfortable. Think about the darkness, noise level, and temperature. Also note if your mattress and pillow are in good shape. All of these factors can and will effect your night’s rest. (Looking for a new pillow that will may keep you in proper posture throughout the night, and hopefully help decrease morning stiffness? Check out the Tri-Core Pillow recommended by The Mayo Clinic. Mine is on its way!)
–Move it! Include regular physical activity into your day. Even with my busy fitness class schedule, I have been known to take a rest day-and that is good! However, with the cold weather approaching, I have also been known to rest too much. Sitting around on a Sunday afternoon and not moving much definitely effects how I sleep at night. Even if its a few shorts walks with the dog, I have noted a much better nights sleep!
–Let go and manage stress. Easier said than done, but if we do not get organized, set goals, have tough conversations, meditate, rest, or pray, our minds will have trouble letting go at night. Keep a notebook by your bed or download a Task Manager app on your phone. If things are keeping your mind busy when you crawl into bed, jot them down and leave them to deal with in the morning. You know you won’t forget them because you have created your list; now you can rest easy!
–Never be afraid to contact your doctor. If restless nights are a part of your routine, and not feeling refreshed in the morning is normal for you-it’s not normal. Partner with your healthcare provider to make a plan to get the rest you not only deserve, but need.
Sometimes we have no problem going to sleep, but it can be our partner that keeps us up at night! As many as half of adults snore sometimes. Snoring occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat, causing the tissues to vibrate as you breathe, which creates those irritating sounds. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime or sleeping on your side, can help stop snoring. In addition, medical devices and surgery are available that may reduce disruptive snoring. However, these aren’t suitable or necessary for everyone who snores. –mayoclinic.com
As a respiratory therapist, I have had many patients come to me after their doctor has recommended a sleep study. Snoring is not the only indication to seek advice from your doctor to see if you may benefit from a polysomnogram. Other issues to consider are:
-Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
-Loud snoring, which is usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea
-Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep witnessed by another person
-Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, which more likely indicates central sleep apnea
-Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
-Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
If sleep apnea goes untreated, it can cause major health and lifestyle problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, fatigue, irritability, liver problems, and irritated partners. Treatments for sleep apnea include CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure provided to the airway via nasal or full face mask), surgery, implants onto the soft palate, oxygen, mouth guards, and even more forms of noninvasive positive pressure therapies. You may hesitate to get this issue checked out because of the seemingly cumbersome or invasive treatment options. However, I urge you to take that next step to get evaluated. Sleep apnea is very serious and has even been responsible for sudden death.
Claiming only to need 4-5 hours of sleep per night does not make us any sort of tough guy. However, the desire to have a recommended, full, restful nights sleep does give us power and make us healthier. See if there are some things you can change in your routine to adopt better sleep hygiene. The benefits of good sleep hygiene are many. I encourage you to move sleep up on your priority list!
“National Sleep Foundation.” National Sleep Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.
Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Sleep Tips: 7 Steps to Better Sleep.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 07 July 2011. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.