There’s nothing quite as sweet as crawling into bed at the end of a long day, pulling up cool, crisp sheets and drifting off for a blissful eight hours.
A good night’s sleep is like a reset for your body and brain. It flushes out toxins that build up during waking hours and restores your energy for a new day. Unfortunately, many of us don’t get the sleep we need. We may suffer from not enough sleep or not enough quality sleep — either problem is bad news for your health.
Over time, sleep loss can:
Make it difficult to perform tasks, concentrate or think clearly
Make you forgetful
Negatively affect your mood
Prematurely age your skin
Contribute to weight gain
Lower your immune system, putting you at risk for more illnesses
Increase your risk for chronic conditions like heart disease and depression
Did you know? Averaging four hours of sleep a night for five nights is like staying awake for 24 hours. Do this for 10 nights and it’s like going 48 hours without sleep. Imagine trying to function after being awake for 48 straight hours!
Causes of sleep loss
A variety of things can cause insomnia (the inability to sleep):
Physical conditions, like pain or upset stomach
Medical conditions, like sleep apnea (which can cause snoring), menopause or hyperthyroidism
Behavioral health conditions, like depression or anxiety
Environmental factors, like life stress (e.g, job loss, losing of a loved one), alcohol use or drug side effects, or conditions like room temperature or noise
Insomnia generally falls into two categories: acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). Likewise, some sleep problems are fairly easily resolved. Others are more difficult and may require your doctor’s help.
Often, short-term or occasional insomnia can be resolved by making a few lifestyle changes. Here are some sleep-friendly habits to try:
Avoid caffeine after noon. Caffeine remains in your body 10-12 hours. So even an early afternoon pick-me-up can disrupt your sleep.
Avoid heavy meals late in the day. A body that’s trying to digest a big meal does not rest easily.
Create a sleep-friendly environment. This may include room-darkening shades, a fan or white noise machine, earplugs, lowering the temperature in your room, or purchasing a better mattress.
Drink more water. A well-hydrated body sleeps better. But instead of downing a glassful before bed, which can result in trips to the bathroom, sip it throughout the day.
Get on a consistent sleep schedule. That means rising and going to bed at the same times each day, even on weekends. Sleeping in on weekends does not make up for lost sleep during the week.
Get some exercise every day. It can dramatically improve the quality of your sleep. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
Get a wind-down routine that tells your body it’s almost time for bed. This may include turning off computer and television screens, dimming the lights, taking a warm bath and/or getting into bed with a book.
If your sleeplessness occurs at least three nights a week for a month or longer and the above tips don’t help, it may be time to ask for help. Chronic sleeplessness can be characterized by any of these:
Trouble fall asleep, staying asleep or getting back to sleep
Not getting enough sleep
Not getting restful sleep
Because chronic insomnia can negatively affect both your physical and mental health, it’s important to get to the bottom of the problem with the help of your doctor. We invite you to visit the ParTNers Center so we can look for the underlying reasons and help get you on the road to better sleep.
If you do decide to seek help, consider keeping a sleep diary before your appointment. This will help your provider better understand your situation so he or she can help you find the right solution.