According to the CDC, 1 out of 3 Americans get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night, and 1 out of 20 have fallen asleep at the wheel within the last month! While our bodies can adapt to short-term sleep deprivation, after a few days, we begin to experience brain fog, poor performance, irritability, and sugar cravings. Good, restful sleep, however, improves overall health and mood and reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, stroke, and depression. Sleep is everything! This week on Fox 17, Dr. Bitner covers what causes poor sleep, good sleep hygiene practices, and how to stay asleep.
Getting enough sleep is a challenge for many people for a variety of reasons, including work, insomnia, sleep apnea, menopause, or stress. Other reasons for inadequate sleep include poor sleep hygiene, uncomfortable sleeping environments (i.e., the room is too hot or cold), restless leg syndrome, or chronic joint and back pain. Women are also more likely to have sleep issues than men, and hormone changes are often to blame.
Falling asleep is the first step to a good rest. Practicing sleep hygiene can help you to experience deep, restful sleep. These practices include:
- Writing out a list of potential worries. Physically writing out our anxieties helps to break thought spirals and calm the mind before bed.
- Turn off your screens 30 minutes before bedtime. The blue light emitted from computers, tablets, TVs, and phones tells our brains to stay awake and can inhibit sleep.
- Wash your face, brush your teeth, and get on the floor for five minutes of stretches. Stretching relaxes the body and signals that it is time to rest.
- Find a Zen spot in your house for a few minutes of alone time.
- Journal or mentally list the people, pets, events, or things you feel grateful for. Gratitude is the number one way to get your body out of flight or fight mode.
- Try Metered Breathing.
- Go to bed in a cool, dark, quiet room.
- If you wake up for over five minutes, leave your bed, return to your Zen spot, and repeat the gratitudes and breathing.
Establishing a sleep hygiene routine can also help you to feel safe, relaxed, and settled during the day. The importance of creating a nightly bedtime ritual cannot be emphasized enough!
To stay asleep, you must also understand why you are waking up in the first place. Many women wake up between 2-3 am due to a full bladder, snoring partner, hot flashes, or low blood sugar. For others, snoring and sleep apnea are the culprit. Sleep apnea not only interferes with being rested; it also lowers oxygen levels and can lead to heart disease and increased dementia risk. It is important to discuss your sleep issues with a healthcare provider to determine the cause of poor sleep and work on strategies to improve your rest.
Jane was 55 years old and in early menopause. She was gaining weight, tired, and stressed out at work because she always felt half asleep at her desk. Jane began craving sugary foods and was not motivated to keep up with exercise. She could fall asleep at night but would wake back up at 1:30 am with night sweats. Jane knew the rest of the night would be downhill and that her alarm would go off at 5:45 am, making her feel anxious and pressured to get back to sleep immediately (which, of course, had the opposite effect). Jane met with her healthcare provider to discuss options. She did not want to try medicine right away and instead started with a CGM to manage her blood sugar. Using data from the CGM, Jane was able to make changes to her diet to keep her blood sugar from dipping at night. She also decided to treat her perimenopause with estrogen, which significantly improved her night sweats. Lastly, Jane, feeling more rested, could get back to better eating, exercising, and living the way she wanted!
Health Tip of the Week:
If you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep, it can affect your quality of work and personal life and harm your health. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your healthcare provider should be able to pinpoint the reason for your lack of sleep and help you find solutions. You deserve to be well-rested!
Watch the full segment.