Sleep isn’t just a "time out" for your body; it is necessary for you to function at your best and is essential for optimal mental and physical health.
How much sleep is needed?
Studies have shown that adults typically need seven to eight hours of sleep to function at their best. If you sleep less than your body requires, you pay a penalty throughout the day. Lack of sleep can result in trouble concentrating, irritable and sleepiness while driving. Drowsiness in non-stimulating situations may not be a sign of boredom, but rather a sign of insufficient sleep.
Trouble getting to sleep and waking up frequently
Everyone experiences temporary sleeplessness. More often than not it is related to something going on in our lives and gets better within two to three weeks. However, if you continue to have problems sleeping you should consult your doctor or a sleep specialist. If you experience temporary sleeplessness try to:
- Consolidate your sleep during normal sleep hours
- Avoid daytime napping
- Take time to relax in the late evening, before going to bed
- Go to bed at the same time each night. If you haven’t fallen asleep within 20 minutes, get up and move to a different location. Read or do an activity until you feel drowsy. Then try going back to bed again. This approach conditions your body to associate your bed with sleep.
- Set a consistent wake up time and get bright light exposure in the morning. Bright light first thing in the morning is a powerful stimulus to the internal clock.
- Exercise moderately late in the day or during early evening; but don’t exercise within one hour of your bedtime.
- Be sure you have comfortable sleeping conditions, including a quiet, dark room.
- Have an evening snack. This is not recommended if you suffer from heartburn or reflux.
- Avoid all caffeine for at least ten hours before bedtime. Coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate and certain medications contain caffeine that can have long-lasting effects.
- Avoid nicotine near bedtime
- Avoid sleeping pills, unless prescribed by your doctor. You can become dependent on prescription and over-the-counter sleep medications.
If disturbed sleep continues longer than three weeks, talk to your primary care doctor. A more significant problem may be present.
Tired during the day
If you are getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night and are still sleepy during the day, a more serious sleep problem may be present. Common sleep disorders such as, sleep apnea, periodic limb movements in sleep, sleep phase disorders and narcolepsy could be present. If you are tired during the day contact your primary care doctor, who may refer you to a sleep specialist.
Restless Legs Syndrome
RLS is a neurological condition that is characterized by the irresistible urge to move your legs. It can also interfere with sleep onset and can cause difficulty staying asleep. The urge to move the legs is often accompanied by repeated jerking and uncomfortable sensations that affects sleep continuity.
Snoring is typically a more of a social problem than a sleep disorder. But if you snore and are excessively tired during the day or have been told you stop breathing while sleeping, a more serious condition, such as sleep apnea, may be present.
To minimize snoring:
- Avoid alcohol for three hours before sleep
- Treat nasal congestion
- Try ear plugs, a fan or a noise machine for your bed partner
- Try not to sleep on your back. Propping yourself up with pillows or placing a tennis ball into a sock and pinning it to your pajamas between your shoulder blades will help prevent you from sleeping on your back.
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