Is it a funny coincidence or a cruel joke that daylight savings time – the day when we set our clocks ahead and lose an hour of precious sleep – occurs during National Sleep Awareness Month?
March is a good time to remind ourselves of the importance of quality sleep and how to make it a nightly habit. Lack of sleep doesn’t just leave you feeling grumpy and groggy. Sleep deprivation has been associated with all sorts of problems.
Experts agree that adults need 7 to 9 hours of good sleep a night. Here’s why, along with some tips for how to do it.
Why is sleep so important?
- Lack of sleep can raise blood pressure and cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
- Balance is one of many things that can be affected by a lack of sleep. A senior who doesn’t get enough shut-eye may be at a higher risk of a life-altering fall.
- Depression and sleep deprivation are like the chicken and the egg. We’re not always sure which causes which, but the two often go together. Talk to your doctor if you experience either problem. He or she can help you sort out the issue and get back to a healthy sleep cycle and healthy state of mind.
- While we’re sleeping, our brains are hard at work creating links and locking in memories. By getting enough sleep, you might be helping to retain and improve your memory and cognitive function.
- While you are snoozing, your body is busy replenishing and repairing itself. Sleep fuels our cells, which are needed to repair not only injuries, but the normal wear and tear on the systems of our bodies.
What can I do to sleep better?
- Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as listening to soft music, reading a book or just sitting quietly to reflect on your day.
- If you nap, avoid sleeping too late in the day or for too long. 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 as you are able. Physical activity releases serotonin, which can help us relax and sleep.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment. Lower the room temperature to between 60 and 67 degrees, and be sure the room is dark and quiet. Blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices can help.
- Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
- 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.
- Is pain keeping you awake? Talk to your doctor about medications that can relieve pain without interfering with sleep.
- If frequent trips to the bathroom are interrupting your sleep, it might be time to talk to your doctor. Conditions such as enlarged prostate and diabetes can cause bathroom frequency.
- Spring is on its way, and so is the sun! Sunlight helps your body to produce melatonin, which helps our bodies to sleep.
- Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine all can interfere with a good night’s sleep. They also can cause health conditions that make it more difficult to get the rest you need. If you are having trouble sleeping, cut back on these substances, and never use them within three hours of bedtime.