We all occasionally rely on a third cup of coffee (or even a cat nap) to get through a long day after little sleep the previous night.
But for over 50 million Americans, sleep deprivation is a daily occurrence with serious health consequences. A lack of restful sleep can increase the odds of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, mental health problems, and also the likelihood of falling asleep at the wheel.
Improve Your Sleep With These Tips
Sleep disorders affect men and women across all age ranges and socioeconomic classes, making sleep deficiency one of the most prevalent adverse health conditions in the United States. March is National Sleep Awareness Month, and doctors and researchers aim to use this program to call attention to the dangers of sleep problems and how to develop better sleep habits.
There are many ways to improve the quality of your sleep, including:
- Shut off electronics. It's important to make your bedroom a relaxing environment that prompts deep rest. Avoid reading on electronic screens before bed and shut off the television. Digital devices emit a blue light that hampers the production of melatonin, which is an important hormone that controls circadian rhythm, or your wake/sleep cycle. Shut off all devices 30 minutes before bedtime. If you must use your phone as an alarm, be sure to dim the screen light as much as possible.
- Drink more water. Dehydration is a major cause of fatigue, as it impairs cell function and places a greater strain on the heart. Drink at least 64 ounces of water each day, and more on hot days or after a workout.
- Check your thyroid. Thyroid gland malfunction can cause hormonal changes that prevent patients from sleeping well or cause persistent fatigue. If you're constantly tired or have difficulty falling asleep, ask your doctor to check your thyroid levels.
- Stay on schedule. Your internal body clock functions best when it stays on the same sleep schedule. Resist the urge to sleep in for more than an hour on days off, unless you want to have trouble going to bed that night.
- Control the climate. Forced-air heating systems and air conditioners can both dry out the air, causing dry sinuses and breathing problems during sleep. Researchers recommend sleeping at a cooler temperature, such as 62 degrees, and allowing at least some moisture to remain in the air.
- Stop the snore. Snoring is not just disruptive to your sleep partner; it could be disrupting your own rest. The most common cause of snoring is sleep apnea, a condition that stops a person's breath many times during the night, preventing deep sleep. Even if snoring is caused by allergies or a deviated nasal septum rather than apnea, the snorer will still suffer sleep interruptions as well as sleep deprivation symptoms the following day. If you have been told that you snore, talk to your doctor about undergoing a sleep study to ease the symptoms and get your best night’s rest.
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