By: Dr. Don McCarren
Picking up where we left off in our last article, Dr. Don explains further benefits of proper sleep and the cause and treatment for common sleep disturbances.
Sleep is vital for overall health. Poor sleep can cause:
☞ Daytime sleepiness and fatigue often lead to a loss of productivity and social availability.
☞ Mood deterioration — there is a significant association between poor sleep and depression.
☞ Weight gain — individuals who do not get enough sleep have an increased appetite due to decreased leptin levels. Leptin is an appetite-regulating hormone that is released during sleep.
☞ Poor coordination, reaction time and judgment.
☞ Physical illnesses and conditions — poor sleep weakens the immune system and increases the risk of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease.
☞ Get your zeitgebers! Zeitgebers are environmental cues that synchronize our body rhythms to the earth’s 24-hour light/dark cycle and 12-month cycle. The onset of darkness signals the release of melatonin and sleepiness.
☞ Visual and light stimulation — viewing the television or computer prior to bedtime may delay sleep onset and disrupt sleep.
☞ Napping — longer naps (60–90 minutes) may cause awakenings during the night and/or early waking but have been known to improve memory capacity. If you are experiencing daytime fatigue and nighttime sleep disturbance, try a nap about one or two hours after lunch with a duration of 10-30 minutes.
☞ Sleep disturbances may be due to life stressors, muscular pain, medications, or the sleep environment being too hot or cold, noisy or light.
Exercise has a positive influence on sleep. As little as 10 minutes of daily, moderate, aerobic exercise improves many aspects of sleep quality. The best time to exercise is in the afternoon. This allows the body temperature to drop which helps with the onset of sleep. Also, the reduction of weight associated with exercise increases the body’s metabolism and decreases obstructive sleep apnea.
☞ Stay away from caffeine — caffeinated foods and beverages can delay sleep onset and adversely affect the depth of sleep.
☞ Reduce alcohol intake — alcohol can delay rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and cause sleep disruptions.
☞ Try some tryptophan or melatonin — if you need a little bedtime snack, research has shown that foods that contain high levels of tryptophan and/or melatonin, may be effective in promoting sleep. Some sleep-promoting foods include whey proteins, milk, yogurt, pumpkin seeds, turkey, cheese and tart cherry juice.
☞ Try some tea — be careful not to pick the caffeinated type! Chamomile, peppermint, and ginger are soothing choices for a healthy bedtime routine.
☞ Keep it cool. For an ideal sleep environment, your bedroom should be between 60 and 67 degrees.
☞ Reduce noise. Try “white” or “pink” noise machines, ear plugs and fans.
☞ Make it dark. Try blackout curtains or eye shades.
☞ Do you regularly have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep?
☞ Does daytime sleepiness and fatigue persist for more than two to three weeks?
☞ Do you have a problem with snoring? Has anyone ever told you that you have a pause while breathing or that you gasp for breath when you sleep?
☞ Are your legs restless or bothersome at night?
☞ Do you take sleep-aid medication (including over-the-counter)? These medications can impair balance and therefore increase the risk fall-related injuries.
By Sarah McCarren, RN, MSN, CPNP
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