You may think that the few hours of sleep you are getting is plenty. You may be fully aware that the lack of sleep is beginning to impact your life, your health, your mood, your family life, and your work. Maybe it has been such a long time that you had a good night sleep, that you have come to terms with that. Now you are trying to make life work without it. Not addressing this life-changing and health-altering issue is not an option and I will explain why.
How much sleep is enough?
According to mayoclinic.org, adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Some people may go to bed on time, but take a very long time to fall asleep. Others may fall asleep without any trouble, but wake up several times during the night, having trouble falling asleep again. In this case, a person may have a very hard time getting up in the morning because he or she may have fallen into a deep sleep right before it is time to get up again.
Another interference with a good night sleep can be snoring or even sleep apnea, where a person is not breathing for several seconds, even minutes, up to one hundred times during the night. Sleep apnea has to be diagnosed by a doctor and treated accordingly, as it causes many health problems such as, but not limited to, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other ailments. In my personal experience, it may interfere with your ability to lose weight and improve your health.
Let's Talk About Stress!
I wonder what stress may have to do with it?
I will write a whole new blog on stress and how it affects your body but for now, I will limit the information to the fact that stress is a major factor in the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep and even for the severity of sleep apnea and effectiveness of treatment for the condition. Sleep deprivation also causes stress, so that stress is caused by sleeplessness and sleeplessness causes more stress. Stress interferes with the quality of sleep, even if you are getting enough sleep in terms of time. Below is a diagram of the 4 stages of sleep. In a healthy sleep pattern, we go through all four stages about six times per night. Take some time to look at the different stages and the purpose they serve. If the body is missing any of those stages for an extended period of time, negative health effects are imminent.
It is also true, that improving and rebalancing the sleep cycle will have a positive effect on your health.
How are we going to do that?
I found a lot of helpful information that is based on valuable research ninds.nih.gov.
Most important is that you will seek medical attention if you know or have been told by loved ones, that you are snoring loudly or and are ceasing to breathe for periods regularly. I urge you to get help. Leaving sleep apnea undiagnosed and untreated, will have negative health effects. How could it not, you are not breathing for seconds or even minutes several times during the night. If nothing else you have ruled it out.
8 Tips to Improve Your Sleep:
# 1 Use a sleep tracker:
Use a sleep tracker on your phone or fitness watch to track how many hours you are sleeping, as well as the quality of your sleep. Remember the goal is 7 to 9 hours. Your sleep tracker can give you feedback on the sleep quality so that you can see which phases of sleep you are not fully getting. Many health insurances now even give incentives on healthy sleep patterns, so you may check with your health insurance carrier for benefits you may receive.
#2 Establish a set bedtime:
Establish a set bedtime based on the time you are getting up. For example; If you are getting up at 6 am and you need to get at least 7 hours of sleep, try to go to bed at 11 pm.
#3 Know your obstacles:
Knowing your obstacles is key to making it to bed on time! What is hindering you to go to sleep on time? Maybe the habit of watching television, social media, or youtube too long. Think of a way to substitute this behavior for something less stimulating and time-consuming.
Of course, some of the biggest obstacles are always family, social, and work-related obligations. I challenge you to work hard on limiting those to regular business hours.
The children's homework is another major obstacle, I find. Please remember, your children need more sleep than you. How can you and your family become more productive in completing these tasks? Teamwork bonds families.
# 4 Exercise can have both effects:
Exercise is a great way to release stress and help greatly to improve your sleep patterns. Exercising most days of the week, preferably in the morning can help improve energy and drain the body of negative, pent up energy.
Exercising too much, especially too close to bedtime may excite the muscles and leave you restless.
Finding a balance is key and it will take some trial and error.
# 5 Create a soothing atmosphere around bedtime
If you had a rough day, a warm bath, a cup of soothing camomile tea, some soft music, and dim light may be just what you need. If your stress level is high enough to keep you restless anyway, think of some ways you can remove additional stress. Additional stress may come from sources that are always present such as an overall restless environment. It will take some time to establish a different atmosphere. Sometimes it can be useful to recruit professional help from a sleep professional.
Think about adding a gentle stretching or breathing activity into your daily night time routine.
# 6 Remove stimulating foods and beverages
Some foods and drinks may seem obvious, such as coffee and other caffeinated drinks, and sugary foods.
Spicy foods and foods high in saturated fat for dinner can keep you up as well. We often don't eat enough protein or the balance between protein, fat, and carbohydrates is off. When nutrition is missing or imbalanced in our diet, we often resort to late-night eating. The body does not know what is missing and tends to crave sugar, which in turn will stimulate. Other cravings may include chips or crackers, which are high in fat and salt.
If you find yourself hungry at night, try some almonds and banana for example. Almonds are loaded with magnesium and protein. Bananas have potassium but will also satisfy your sugar craving without a sugar high.
Tart cherry juice and pistachios are loaded with melatonin (a hormone that signals the body to prepare for sleep), which calms and reduces stress. Kiwi fruits contain serotonin, which is a "happy hormone" as well as vitamins C, K, and E and other important nutrients. Kiwis also have anti-inflammatory properties which might help over time with digestion (reducing intestinal inflammation, which reduces the ability to absorb nutrients) and pain management.
Warm milk and natural honey are a great bedtime drink as well as chamomile tea.
You can see with these few examples that your diet may have a lot to do with your imbalanced sleep patters.
#7 Don't eat so late.
Try not to eat a heavy meal less than 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. Your digestive system is still working on that meal. You may struggle with acid reflux, especially if your food was spicy and high in fat. I strongly believe that a light dinner helps the body best to prepare for the night. Snacks should be bedtime friendly as mentioned above.
#8 Remove stimulation from your bedroom.
Of course, I understand that you can't remove your spouse or your baby monitor or things like that. An easy thing to remove and shut off is your cell phone or the television. If you need the phone nearby because your teenagers are out driving, you can make an exception, but your boss, your aunt, your best friend, your social media, and your Pinterest can wait until you have slept.
I hope that this information is helpful to you or in the least has sparked some thinking and brainstorming to help this situation in your life. Maybe you have some awesome suggestions you want to share. I welcome that.