National Sleep Awareness Week
National Sleep Awareness Week
“..to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub..” — Hamlet
Everybody loves the way they feel after a good night’s sleep or a power nap, but our sleep patterns can change as we get older. March 11 – 17 is National Sleep Awareness Week, with March 15th designated as World Sleep Day. When we don’t get enough sleep, it can impact our health in a myriad of ways, including weight gain, respiratory issues, stress, and more. It’s obvious that making sure you get your z’s is vitally important, but it isn’t always as easy as just laying your head on the pillow.
There are certain health issues that can impair your ability to sleep. The most common sleep disorders are:
- Sleep Apnea: Usually impacting those who are overweight or snore excessively, sleep apnea occurs when breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep, causing a breathing pause that lasts at least ten seconds
- Narcolepsy: A sleep disorder that is characterized by excessive sleepiness, sleep attacks, sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and for some, a sudden loss of muscle control (cataplexy). Narcolepsy affects roughly 1 in 2,000 to 3,000 people and often can go undiagnosed for many years. Its cause is related to a loss of cells in the brain that secrete hypocretin, a chemical in the brain that is important for regulating wakefulness. While there’s currently no cure for narcolepsy, there are treatments and lifestyle changes that greatly improve the symptoms
- The most common of all sleep disorders, insomnia can be caused by psychiatric and/or medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and/or certain biological factors. Think of insomnia as a problem where your brain is simply unable to stop being awake
Once you have your diagnosis, it’s important to first understand what could be causing your sleep difficulties. Changes to your immediate environment as well as altering your diet often contribute to sleeping issues. Stress is an obvious contributor to keeping your brain overly active at bedtime. But there are ways to get yourself back on track to help you feel more energized and productive throughout your days:
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Keep the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. It may be tempting to “sleep in” on a Sunday, but getting up at the same time every day will help regulate your body clock, and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A warm bath with lavender oil will do wonders to not just clear your mind, but soothe your body as well. A lavender sachet under your pillow may also help. Deep, slow breaths will aid in the relaxation.
- Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
- Exercise daily. Even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
- Design your bedroom to be a perfect sleep environment. The room should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Bamboo sheets offer temperature control so you won’t sweat throughout the night, and there are now pillows that stay cool all night as well without your having to wake up and flip it to the cool side. Make sure that whatever you wear to bed is made of breathable fabrics that will allow you to stay at a comfortable temperature.
- Your bedroom should be free from any noise or light that can disturb your sleep. Most people find sleeping with eye shades and earplugs uncomfortable, so consider using blackout curtains and “white noise” machines, or humidifier or fan. Blocking outside noise and light is essential for true deep sleep.
- Sleep on a comfortable supportive mattress and make sure you have the correct pillows.
- Expose yourself to sunlight in the morning and avoid bright light in the evening. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals later in the evening as they can disrupt sleep. Plan your evening meal so that it ends at least three to four hours before your standard bedtime; eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep.
- Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop or watching TV can make it hard to fall asleep, because the light emanating from the screens is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
- If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.
- If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.
At Greystone Health, we are committed to giving the highest quality care possible. For more information about our services and more, please visit us at https://www.greystonehealth.com.