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Get to Know How Important Healthy Sleep Is

November 21, 2023
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We’ve all experienced it. You’re in bed, tossing and turning for what seems like hours. Or you ate ice cream or pizza too close to bedtime, and now you’re awake and uncomfortable. Or maybe you’re drifting in and out of sleep, restless.

Whatever the cause, the lack of healthy sleep has an impact on how you feel and how you function.

“People talk about nutrition and exercise, but they don’t talk enough about healthy sleep,” says Jisu Han, DO, MSc, a Family Medicine Physician at Ryan Health | Wadsworth. “Sleep and health are intricately related.”

The impact of not getting quality sleep can be severe. You may have a poor attention span, be inefficient throughout the day, or feel your creativity is dampened. This is because the brain’s processing skills and emotional capacity are affected. The connection between lack of sleep and accidents on the job is strong.

Lack of sleep even impacts your immune system. Poor sleep dampens your immune system. It can also lead to an inability to regulate sugar, affect our metabolism, and cause hormonal changes.

While everyone’s needs are different, there are general guidelines for achieving quality sleep. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Those over 65 years of age are recommended seven to eight hours of sleep.

There are several stages of sleep that we all experience every night: light, deep, and dream sleep. These cycles each last from 90 to 120 minutes. Those using sleep apps on their devices may see the different cycles and the amount of time you’ve spent in them. The metrics can help make you aware of the various stages, but it’s more important to focus on whether or not you’re getting healthy sleep. Ideally, you will feel refreshed when you wake from sleep.

There are a number of factors that can inhibit quality sleep:

Screen Time. Screen time is a huge factor, whether it’s with a TV, tablet, or phone or if you’re playing games or scrolling social media. Your brain is engaged even if you’re mindlessly scrolling. It’s best to unplug and unwind at least an hour before bedtime. And regardless of the comfort of watching TV in bed, you should strive to make your bed a sacred place for sleep and intimacy only. Strive to create a subconscious connection between the bed and sleep that should be protected.

Exercise. Keep your exercise routine a few hours away from your bedtime. It’s best to sleep in a cool environment, and exercise heats up the body, which will impact your sleep.

Food and Drink. Keep a consistent time for meals, and don’t eat too close to bedtime, even snacking. Your metabolism slows down while you’re sleeping, and sleep impacts digestion and sugar metabolism. It’s best to stop caffeine by 3:00 pm in the afternoon if your bedtime is 10:00 pm. Alcohol might help you fall asleep initially but will actually interrupt the quality of sleep all night.

Shift Work. Many Ryan Health patients work shifts at different times. Those rotating shifts are difficult because they cause the body to change continually. It’s like being jet lagged every weekend. If you are working an overnight shift, try to mimic the evening hours as much as you can in the morning. Wear sunglasses when you’re coming home so the sun doesn’t stimulate you, and take time to wind down before going to bed. For instance, let others handle the kids in the morning if that’s part of your routine.

We’ve all heard of insomnia, but did you know there are different types of insomnia? Acute insomnia lasts up to three months. After three months, it is called chronic insomnia. But you can bounce back from insomnia.

“You need to fall back into good habits,” says Dr. Han. “Lifestyle changes are the most difficult to make, and long-term change is difficult. If you have tried various methods to improve your sleep but are still having trouble improving your sleep, you may need to see a physician. You could have a medical condition like sleep apnea, a mental health issue, or a side effect from medications you’re taking.

“Sleep is on the back burner in modern society,” she continued. “We don’t hear enough about it, and we should.”

5 Tips For Better Sleep. Source: National Sleep Foundation