I have been amazed at how many of my patients regularly take something for sleep, depression, or anxiety. Not getting a good night sleep can lead to many medical problems. With today’s practice of medicine, it is much easier for a practitioner to write a prescription than it is to talk with the patient and see what is causing the problem. It turns out that 50 percent of adults report occasional insomnia and nearly 20 percent have chronic sleep problems. The prevalence of sleeplessness increases with age, and adult women report sleep problems about 50 percent more often than men.
When you don’t rest at night, your days are less productive and your health suffers. Many who have trouble sleeping experience irritability, anxiety, low energy, poor judgment and a decreased sex drive. Long-term sleep problems are also linked to a greater risk for high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. A recent study found that those who were sleep deprived ate about 200 more calories than those who got more than seven hours a night, a major issue with obesity.
How much Sleep is enough? Sleep needs vary from person to person, and they change throughout one’s lifecycle. Most adults, including older adults, need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Not only does the quantity of your sleep matter, but the quality as well. How well rested you are and how well you function the next day depend on your total sleep time and how much of the various stages of sleep you get each night.
One tip to get more sleep is to stop hitting the snooze button. The average snooze button gives you 7 to 9 minutes of sleep, which is not enough for the body to return to deep sleep. It takes 25 minutes to arrive at stage 3 or stage 4 sleep, which is the restorative sleep. The takeaway: Set your alarm to go off at the last possible moment to maximize your minutes of high-quality sleep.
Other tips for a good night’s sleep:
· Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
· Avoid caffeine and nicotine, especially in the evening.
· Don’t exercise too late in the day.
· Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. (Your blood sugar drops in the middle of the night and you wake up.)
· Avoid large meals and beverages late at night.
· Don’t take a nap after 3 pm.
· Relax before bed; for example, take a hot bath (not too hot right before bed or you will be too hot to sleep)
· Create a good sleeping environment. Get rid of distractions such as noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or a TV or computer in the bedroom. (Bright light can keep your body from forming the melatonin it needs for good sleep)
See a doctor if you think you have sleep apnea. It can have many impacts on your health. If you are doing all the above and still not sleeping, it is time for further exploration. I am running some fun tests on neurotransmitters and can also check your Cortisol and Melatonin levels. There are many natural supplements that can help you sleep without the need for sleeping pills that make you sleep without addressing your problem. I hope you are seeing a health care provider that will explore your personal issues rather than writing a prescription. If not, I am happy to help you achieve a good night’s sleep.