‘Fall Back’ to Healthier Sleep Habits

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November 2, 2017

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“Daylight saving time” (DST) ends Sunday at 2 a.m., officially. That’s when you “fall back” by turning your clocks back one hour. An extra hour of sleep can be a healthy thing for many, including those who have sleep disorders.

The effects of ending DST can be felt for weeks as darkness hits by dinnertime, restricting outdoor activities for many. For early risers, it’s brighter sooner.

Nonetheless, for those suffering some degree of a sleep disorder, the one-hour shift is only a reminder of an everyday struggle. Disrupted sleep cycles can contribute to being overweight and worsen chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and depression, says Jeremy Tabak, M.D., medical director of Baptist Sleep Center at Galloway and Baptist Hospital’s Sleep Diagnostic Center.

“Most people can judge by how they feel if they are getting enough sleep,” said Dr. Tabak. “The big problem is that they try to push themselves by cutting back on sleep. They have busy jobs or need to spend more time with families. The one thing that they think they can give up is a little sleep. But there is a price to pay for trying to get by on 6 hours of sleep or less. This is not healthy.”

One third of U.S. adults report that they usually get less than the recommended amount of sleep, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The recommended sleep time for most adults is 7 to 9 hours.

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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