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Sleep: Tips for Getting Better Shut-Eye for Overall Health

Sunday, March 13, 2022

A darkened bedroom. March is National Sleep Awareness MonthThe chaos in the world today and the busyness in our own lives can take a toll on sleep. Toss in that snooze-stealer, daylight savings time, and mid-March has the makings for restless nights. 

Sleep deprivation can become serious, contributing to physical ailments and mental health problems. It can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression.

Anyone who’s had restless nights knows how awful they leave you feeling. Adults on average need seven to nine hours of shut-eye, while teenagers need eight to 10. When you don’t get enough, you can feel irritable and drowsy all day.

During National Sleep Awareness Month, NewBridge Services is sharing information about the mental health benefits of shut-eye, harm caused by deprivation, and ways to get a better night’s rest.

Benefits of Shut-Eye

According to healthfinder.gov, a website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, getting enough quality shut-eye can help:

  • Reduce how often you get sick
  • Maintain a health weight
  • Lower your risk for diabetes and heart disease
  • Improve your mood/reduce stress
  • Think more clearly
  • Make better decisions and avoid injuries
  • Improve relationships

Disorders

A third of American adults reported they don’t routinely get the recommended amount of shut-eye, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 70 million Americans suffer from the more than 70 identified sleep disorders, Insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy among them.

Insomnia

Insomnia is characterized by trouble falling or staying asleep, which can cause daytime drowsiness.

Sleep Apnea 

Apnea involves periods when breathing stops and starts during sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms include snoring or gasping, halts in breathing, and daytime sleepiness.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome causes aches and pains in the legs, and a compulsion to move your legs to relieve the discomfort.

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy affects the brain’s ability to control sleep-wake cycles and is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and bouts of sudden sleep. It involves irregular patterns in the rapid eye movement (REM).

Treatments suited for the different types of sleep disorders have proven effective, including medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, devices like that ensure air supply (continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP), and bright light therapy, which treats seasonal affective disorder, among others. 

The first-line treatment is maintaining good sleep habits, exercising regularly and practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

Tips for Better Snoozing

Set a schedule: go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This helps maintain your body’s circadian rhythm, balancing the sleep-wake cycle.

Exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes a day, but not within a few hours of going to bed.

Avoid caffeine/alcohol/nicotine late in the day. The Sleep Foundation recommends consuming no alcohol at least four hours before bedtime, and no caffeine within six hours of going to bed.

Relax before bed: try a warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine.

Make your bedroom conducive to sleep: the room should be quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature. Don’t watch TV or use electronic devices in your bedroom.

Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t get to sleep after 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing such as reading or listening to music until you feel tired. 

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