Sleep often overlooked in health
“Sleep is very important to our overall wellbeing,” says Laurie Stewart-Hanson, a registered sleep technologist at the Winmar Sleep Wellness Center in Grand Forks. “It can affect our mental health, it can affect our immune systems, it can cause problems with the heart and high blood pressure. Every area of your health, sleep does have a part in.”
Many people take for granted the importance of sleep and assume they can make up for the lack of it at a later time. But buckling down and planning a routine for every day would ensure that every night will be as restful as the last. rather than taking anap here and there. For many people, finding the time to sleep is not a problem, but the inability to get to sleep is cause for concern. Various diseases and sleep disorders can be the culprit.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, attention deficit disorder isa common factor in sleep deprivation, affecting children and adults. For someone with ADHD, sitting still is nearly impossible, and with an overactive brain it’s difficult to calm down enough to prepare the mind for rest.
Alzheimer’s disease also affects sleep. “With AD, the loss of brain tissue that leads to loss of mental abilities may also disrupt the sleep/wake
Stewart-Hanson says adults should aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, keeping those hours consolidated cycle, which may cause sleep problems, nighttime wandering and agitation,” the NSF says.
Additional serious diseases and disorders such as dementia, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and depression can all be causes of interruption in sleep, all increasing the likelihood of additional health issues.
Nonlife-threatening nuisances such as restless leg syndrome and nightmares and terrors can also inhibit sleep but, with the help of various therapies and remedies, can be cured or subdued.
Stewart-Hanson says the Winmar Center sees sleep apnea as the most common cause of restless nights in the region. She says snoring and heavy breathing might be a sign of a disorder, and if someone notices a change in another’s sleep pattern — especially if it’s an intermittent stop in breathing — it’s time to call the doctor.
“It’s a big misconception that we see, that weight sometimes does play a part in apnea, but not always,” she cautions. “If you’re tired or have any symptoms, talk to your doctor and get tested.”
What to do
By improving your sleep health, you can improve your overall well-being. Keeping the recommended hours of sleep per night and performing a nightly routine is particularly important in preparing the body for sleep.
Stewart-Hanson says weekdays and weekends should maintain the same schedule to continue the sleep routine and guarantee a healthy dose of Zs.
She says keeping a room quiet and at a cool 65 degrees or so is the start to a comfortable environment. She says fans and noise conditioners are helpful in blocking out neighborhood noise and interruptions.
In addition, both Stewart-Hanson and the NSF recommend keeping light out of the room to maintain the right mental clock so the brain understands it’s time for bed while the room is dark.
It’s also important to keep a clean, clutterfree bed, the NSF says. “Give yourself enough space to sleep. If you share a bed with a partner, make sure it is large enough to give both of you room to move around.” The foundation also recognizes the importance of a comfortable and supportive mattress, which can be tested and discussed with mattress professionals.
The most effective and important recipe for sound sleep is creating a routine before bed so the body can unwind from the day and recognize it’s time to settle in.
“Just a series of about four or five things that you do every night before you go to bed,” Stewart-Hanson says. “Your body will go to sleep faster.” She suggests trying herbal teas, a good book and sitting in a quiet space to unwind. And remember to put away the computers, TVs and iPads.
A common problem in the world today is the availability of screens before bed,” Stewart-Hason cautions. Television screens, computer screens, iPad screens are all inhibitors for a good night’s sleep. “The best thing to do is to stay away from them 30 minutes or more before bed,” she says.
Think again before taking a relaxing bath at night.
“If you do a bath before bed, it should be about 30 minutes before bedtime,” she recommends. “A bath increases body temp and that tells your body it’s time to wake up.”
Caffeine is also a culprit in sleep deprivation.
“Avoid caffeine,” Stewart-Hanson says. “A lot of people think caffeine doesn’t affect them, but it’s going to play a part in their sleep patterns. It’s going to delay their deep sleep, so they might not feel as rested.”
Every healthy routine is individualized and some activities will not work for everyone. But improving sleep hygiene is beneficial for everyone. Including children.
“For kids, the routine is probably even more important,” Stewart-Hanson says. A good routine would be reading a couple of stories, brushing teeth and then putting on pajamas, she says. “In keeping the same routine every night, every one- and two-year-old will realize that it’s bed time.”
Teenagers should be getting the recommended eight to nine hours of sleep, while younger children should take in 10 hours or more.
If a tested routine does not seem to make a difference in the sleep schedule, it’s time to find out the root cause of sleepless nights.
“Even by improving hygiene, (people) may get quantity sleep, but not quality sleep,” Stewart-Hanson says, encouraging those who need help to reach out to their doctor.
After speaking with a physician, a sleep study might be needed to diagnose the issue and make nighttime a welcome visitor.
Rethink the midnight snacks and late-night study sessions. Get to bed earlier, recharge the body and brain and get the needed beauty sleep or get help.
For more information on sleep health, visit www.sleepfoundation.org or talk to your physician.