By David Goldstein, MD
We all lost an hour of sleep when daylight savings time began March 10; making it a good time to think about our sleeping habits. Just like any traits you are born with, the amount of sleep needed to optimally function may be different for you than for someone of the same age and gender. But, studies suggest that healthy adults have a sleep need of seven to eight hours every night, even more for adolescents – at least nine hours every night.
Sleeping too little can not only inhibit your productivity and ability to remember and consolidate information, but also can also lead to serious health consequences and jeopardize your safety and the safety of those around you. In fact, short sleep duration is linked with increased risk of car accidents and greater likelihood of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse have also been linked to lack of sleep.
Recent studies have pointed to regular exercise to improve the amount of healthy sleep you get each night. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Be sure to avoid exercise within 3 to 4 hours of bedtime, since this may disrupt sleep and check with your healthcare provider first to see if you are healthy enough for exercise. The following tips can also improve sleep:
- Create an environment that is conducive to sleep that is quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath or listening to calming music.
- Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, and avoid spending more time in bed than needed.
- Use bright light to help manage your “body clock.” Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.
- Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, computers and televisions from your bedroom.
- Save your worries for the daytime. If concerns come to mind, write them in a “worry book” so you can address those issues the next day.
- If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
However, if you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring or “stop breathing” episodes in your sleep, contact your healthcare provider for a sleep apnea screening.
Dr. Goldstein is medical director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Raritan Bay Medical Center’s Old Bridge location. The state-of-the-art diagnostic Center provides the highest quality care for adults and children under the direction of board-certified sleep physicians. To schedule a consultation, call 1-732-360-4255, or take the sleep quiz at www.rbmcsleepcenter.org to see if you could benefit from a sleep study.