Posted on March 02, 2015
National Sleep Awareness Week is March 2-8
Most Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. Why? Life just seems too busy: We wake up early to get the kids off to school (all while drinking copious amounts of coffee); drive them to school; drive another 30 minutes to work; work a full eight- or nine-hour day (while drinking even more coffee); fly home to provide dinner (or, more likely, stop for fast food); drop off little Jenny to gymnastics practice so that you can rush little Jacob to his T-ball game; leave the game to pick up Jenny; head home; help with homework and baths; and, with luck, get the kids in bed before 10:00.
With the kids in bed, we finally have time to do other things for ourselves. Instead of winding down and preparing for bed like we should, we end up answering a few e-mails from the boss; finishing that load of laundry we should have done yesterday; and watching a show we DVRed last week—soon it’s 12:30 a.m. and the bedroom is calling. But, once in bed, most of us can’t resist checking our phone one last time. You never know…something big might be happening on Twitter or Facebook. It’s 1:00 a.m. and, if we’re lucky, we’ll get a solid five hours of sleep before the alarm goes off at 6:00.
Are you tired after reading that? Millions of us live this situation every day…and millions of us are suffering because we get much less sleep per night than recommended. To top it off, many of us still wake up exhausted because we didn’t have a “good” sleep. Did you know most sleep experts say we should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night? That amount may seem impossible to achieve, but it can be done.
Develop a routine: Sleep experts say we should go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to get a better night’s sleep. Once a routine is developed the body can effectively “reset” its internal clock and naturally wind down for sleep and ease into wakefulness each day, ensuring a deeper, more refreshing rest.
Create a bedroom oasis: The bedroom should be a place of ultimate relaxation. Do you have a TV in the bedroom? Remove it! No TV means no temptation to turn it on before bed and get hooked on a show or movie. Before you head to the bedroom to turn in for the night, turn off your cellphone. Again, this removes the temptation to check e-mails or social media sites at a time your body should be powering down for sleep. Decorate your bedroom in calming hues (blue is often said to be the most calming), invest in quality sheets and bedding for ultimate comfort, and keep the room free of clutter.
Ban the light: A dark room is best for good sleep. You may think your bedroom is dark enough, but even the light from an alarm clock can disrupt sleep. Buy clocks with a dimmer or simply turn the clock to face the wall away from you. Night lights are also a no-no. The body can still detect light through closed eyes which can prevent the production of melatonin, a hormone that naturally promotes sleep.
Chill out: Studies show that a cool bedroom, 65 degrees Fahrenheit, is best for sleeping. A room that’s too warm or too cool can disrupt comfortable sleep. Couples should compromise—if one person is too hot at night the other should compensate with his or her own blanket to regulate temperature. Remember: If one of you has problems sleeping it will definitely impact both of you.
Dampen sounds: Does a neighbor have a dog that likes to bark at random times during the night? Do you live near a busy road and deal with traffic noise? Sudden, loud noises from outside can interrupt sleep. Consider employing the use of low, steady sounds to improve sleep quality: The white noise produced by a fan, humidifier, or fountain can help block such noises and help you sleep through the night. If your partner snores, earplugs are a good option.
Implementing these tips can help, but may not solve sleep issues.
If you still aren’t feeling rested, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.
The most common are: Sleep apnea, when a person stops breathing or doesn’t breathe as deeply while sleeping; insomnia, trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or not getting enough sleep; and parasomnia, when a person sleep walks or experiences night terrors, for example.
Dr. David B. Maybee and the staff at the CCHC Sleep Lab can diagnose and offer solutions to improve your quality of sleep. Often just one night at the hotel-like Sleep Lab can target a specific sleep disorder. The process is painless and easy—check in with your favorite pajamas and pillow, get settled into your private room (which is better than most hotels!), relax while a few electrodes are attached to monitor your brain activity, and settle in for the night. The Sleep Lab staff records your activity throughout the night to assess your sleeping patterns. If a problem is found, Dr. Maybee can provide solutions to guarantee improved sleep and overall improvements to your quality of life.