According to new studies, insomnia has soared in this past year and almost 60% of Americans are now experiencing COVID-related insomnia. It’s no surprise that one of the studies from the American Academy of Sleep Science reveals online searches for “insomnia” has spiked. People are seeking to understand how lack of sleep or interrupted sleep is impacting their health and wellbeing as they also look for healthy, practical solutions.
Insomnia is defined as an inadequate quantity or quality of sleep that interferes with normal daytime functioning. For some, insomnia means difficulty in falling asleep, for others it’s difficulty in maintaining sleep, and for still others, it’s early awakening. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. The rate of insomnia in the U.S. has more than doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic began, in all age groups.
There’s no substitute for sufficient sleep. It’s foundational to your health and well-being. The lack of sleep undermines the quality of your life, making you more vulnerable to illness and other significant health concerns. Here are good expert tips on actions you can take to gain control of your sleep patterns for the recuperative — and redemptive — quality sleep you need.
ABOUT RESTORING RESTFUL SLEEP
Quality sleep is important for everyone (no exclusions), benefitting your heart, brain, immune system, hormones, weight, daily output, balance, mood, focus, relationships and more. Sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, memory loss and increased weight, just to mention a few.
Establish and Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene
• Power-down electronic devices at least 30 minutes before sleep time. Electronics emit light that can impair the production of your body’s sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. Make efforts to curb emails/texts before getting in bed, turn down the brightness and position screens at least 12-inches from your eyes.
• Be cautious of caffeinated drinks and food items. Caffeine is a stimulant and can be a culprit for sleep disturbances. Drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks such as tea and soda or consuming chocolate as the day progresses can contribute to difficulty falling asleep. It takes your liver approximately eight to 10 hours to clear out 75% of caffeine from your body. Caffeine consumed at noon lingers in your system at 8 to 10 p.m.
• If you choose to have an alcoholic beverage near bedtime, try limiting it to one drink as alcohol can be disruptive to deeper, restorative stages of your sleep.
• Feast smart. It’s important to balance silencing hunger without the ill-effects of a late-night snack/meal. The key is to choose foods with vitamins, minerals, and other contents that can aid your sleep while keeping it less than 200 calories (i.e., lean proteins, nuts, cheese, glass of milk, and foods with complex carbohydrates).
• Routine is key. Along with keeping healthy, regular sleep and wake times, establishing a soothing, pre-sleep routine will help you achieve a smooth transition to sleep (e.g., dimming the lights, playing soft music, reading, audiobooks, calm apps, warm baths).
• Engage in enjoyable, relaxing activities the hour before sleep time. Spend that hour relaxing, unwinding. Avoid activities that stimulate you (e.g., work, heavy exercise or discussing complex or heated issues) prior to bedtime.
• Prepare a restful environment. Is your sleep area comfortable? Good pillow? Temperature cool but not cold? Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable.
• Put worries to rest. Worries can race through your head, preventing you from getting a good night of sleep. Some experts recommend addressing worries or stressors by taking time and writing the concerns down. It can help process emotions, solve problems, mentally prepare for the next day, plan, and help remove negative thoughts. And, too, sleep can affect managing stress and stress can affect sleep. The lack of sleep can also make you more impatient and more stressed.
• Deviations from your sleep routine can confuse your body’s internal clock. Any shifts with the regular time you go to sleep, wake-up or nap can confuse your body’s internal clock. Avoid sleeping in or staying up too late any day of the week — and avoid long naps (particularly late in the day).
• Sleep about eight hours. Bodies need sleep and lots of it. On average, Americans get about 6.5 and now, even less with interruptions.
• Get lots of daylight. But avoid bright light before bedtime.
• To sleep better at night, get moving during the day. Sleep pressure — or the body’s hunger for sleep — accumulates with increasing time spent awake and moving. It dissipates with the opportunity to sleep.
Sleep is the bedrock of your life. With adjustments to prioritize sleep and practice good sleep hygiene, you can achieve restoring, restful sleep even during challenging times.
Dr. Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions for Dr. Nina to email@example.com with “Dr. Nina” in the subject line. This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional.