Getting a good night's rest is essential for your health. If you sleep less than seven hours per night regularly, you're putting every system in your body at risk. For instance, you may face brain fog, anxiety, depression, obesity and high blood pressure. Tossing and turning for prolonged periods of time can lead to more severe issues, including sleep apnea, diabetes or heart disease.
So, are there things you can do to improve your sleep quality and quantity? Luckily, you can do a lot to help yourself. Here are five habits to break if you want to sleep better at night.
Eating Sugary Foods
People who eat diets high in sucrose tend to take longer to fall asleep and wake up more often throughout the night. So, what is sucrose? Essentially, it's table sugar. It's also added to several foods and drinks to make them sweeter. Too much sugar will affect your sleep pattern, leaving you tired and cranky in the morning. Your body needs uninterrupted sleep to thrive.
Sleep, inflammation and sugar are all related. Getting too little sleep increases inflammation, which can cause disease. In turn, this swelling can cause body pain or stiffness, making it harder to sleep. Eating foods high in sugar increases inflammation, making the ability to get restful sleep nearly impossible. To avoid this three-sided issue, you should consider cutting back on sugar.
Taking a Catnap
If you don't have problems sleeping at night, taking a short nap in the afternoon shouldn't be an issue. However, if your desire to nap during the day is due to poor sleep at night, you should avoid taking that extra daytime snooze. Taking a nap will only make it harder to sleep at night.
Having a glass of wine to unwind before bed seems like an effective way to sleep. While it may put you to sleep quicker, it doesn't help you stay asleep. Your body metabolizes the alcohol for the first half of the night, allowing you to sleep soundly. However, the second half of the night is a different story. Your ability to sleep becomes interrupted, causing you to wake up frequently. Even though you may not recall waking up, your sleep is still being disturbed.
There are other problems associated with drinking before bed. Alcohol consumption causes frequent urination, which can wake you up periodically. It causes snoring and can interfere with normal breathing. Additionally, it can lead to more serious health concerns such as sleep apnea.
Since caffeine is a stimulant, it will keep you awake at night. If you're a coffee drinker, it's best to have your last cup at least six hours before your bedtime. However, if you already have sleep problems, you might want to stop ingesting caffeine as early as lunchtime and limit your overall daily intake.
Caffeine can interfere with sleep in several ways. It can make it difficult to fall asleep. Once you finally do fall asleep, you won't be able to get into a deep slumber. Also, much like alcohol, caffeine causes frequent urination, so you'll be getting up for bathroom visits pretty often. These effects vary based on individual sensitivities and genetics.
Using Your Phone
While you may think lying in bed and scrolling through social media posts and playing games on your phone are ways to wind down, they actually keep your brain on high alert. Additionally, the blue light emitted from the screen hinders the production of melatonin in your brain. Melatonin is the sleep hormone, and when your body isn't producing this hormone as it should be, your ability to sleep is negatively impacted. Blue light can also damage your retinas.
Instead of relying on your phone, read a book or watch a relaxing show. Consider putting your phone on silent and keeping it out of reach so you won't be tempted to check it throughout the night.
Many of your habits contribute to your ability to sleep. Making changes to your routine may help you get the restful sleep your body desperately needs.
Starting with these 7 tips can lead you to healthier sleep patterns and a sleep diary or journal can keep track of changed habits. Quite often patients have a sleep study without adequate information into their nightly habits and get diagnosed with Insufficient Sleep Syndrome, which is basically having terrible sleep as a result of voluntary (albeit unintentional) behaviors that impact their sleep negatively.
If you start to notice a negative pattern that could be corrected by your own choices, make changes after a week and see how your next week goes. If there is a vast improvement to your sleep, you may be able to correct the behavior yourself and avoid having an unnecessary sleep study.
A sleep study may still be the best choice though the type of sleep study varies by a patient’s symptoms. Healthcare providers will monitor your sleep either in a lab or at your home using portable home sleep apnea testing equipment.
If you live in Alaska and are ready to take back your sleep, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic and receive a free 10-minute phone consultation with a sleep educator who can help you determine if a sleep study is right for you.