Don’t Forget to ‘Fall Back’ and Stay Sleep-Healthy Every Night
3 min. read
“Daylight saving time” officially ends Sunday at 2 a.m. That’s when you “fall back” by turning your clocks back one hour. An extra hour of sleep can be a healthy thing for most of us. But it may not be of much help for those who suffer from sleep disorders and disrupted sleep cycles on a regular basis.
New research keeps reaffirming what sleep experts already know: Not getting enough sleep regularly can contribute to being overweight and worsen chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and depression. Not getting enough sleep has short-term effects on alertness and cognitive function. But over a long period of time, sleep deprivation can lead to significant health issues. It’s important to discuss sleep issues you may be having with your doctor, who can help you find a solution.
“Many times, you have to really hone in with a patient and ask what time they’re going to bed during the weekdays and during the weekends, how much sleep they’re getting, and ask questions about their quality of sleep,” explains Harneet Walia, M.D., director of sleep medicine and continuous improvement at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “So, essentially the symptoms to recognize include daytime sleepiness, fatigue, impaired concentration, not able to work well, and so forth.”
How can nutrition and exercise improve sleep habits?
“First thing we talk about is maintaining a very good sleep hygiene,” said Dr. Walia. “And a big part of it is diet and exercise. So, we often tell folks not to have a heavy meal too close to the bedtime, and avoid alcohol close to the bedtime. Because it can disrupt your sleep at the later part of the night. Avoid caffeine after lunch hours because it has long half-life and can disrupt the sleep.
“And exercise is also helpful in promoting good sleep. There are studies to show that folks who exercise, and particularly do aerobic exercise, are able to fall asleep quickly, and have a better sleep quality. We do discourage them from exercising close to bedtime because that can disrupt sleep. But diet and exercise can play a good role.”
Healthy Sleep Tips
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), taking the following steps can lead to a better night’s sleep and improve overall health:
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Keep the same bedtime and wake-up time, even on the weekends if possible. This routine helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A quiet and calming activity, such as reading, right before bedtime is best achieved away from bright lights to help separate sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety. For this reason, computer screens of any size should be avoided just before going to sleep.
- Disconnect. Turn off TVs and computers, and put down tablets and cell phones, two hours prior to going to bed.
- Avoid mid-day naps, especially in the afternoon. So-called power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short naps can help.
- Exercise daily. Moderately intense exercise is best, according to the American Heart Association, and light exercise is better than no activity, but refrain from exercising in the four hours before going to sleep. The first signal that the body is ready to go to sleep is body temperature. Exercise raises body temperature.
- Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the best conditions for sound sleep. Your bedroom should be comfortably cool and free from any noise or light that can disturb your sleep.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. This may sound obvious, but it’s important. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Comfortable pillows are also important.
How Much Sleep is Best?
The NSF also makes the following widely accepted recommendations for getting the adequate amount of sleep:
Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day.
Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours.
Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours.
Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours.
School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours.
Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours.
Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours.
Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours.
Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours.
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