When you think of good sleep, you probably think about how many HOURS of sleep you're getting. And while sleeping for eight to 10 hours a night is great, like most things, it's not about quantity. It's about quality.
What Is a Good Night's Sleep?
Like we said, many textbooks will say that eight to 10 hours a night is great for waking up refreshed and ready to go. But what does "good" really mean when talking about your sleep? What are the best ways to get a better night's rest? How do you know if you're getting enough or too much? Let's take a look at some tips on how to improve your sleep!
How Do You Know If You're Sleeping Well Enough?
The first thing you should ask yourself: Am I tired during the day? Are my eyes heavy? Does my body feel sluggish? Am I waking up exhausted even though I just had the textbook definition of a "good night's sleep"?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then chances are you may be having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Or it could mean that you are waking up frequently during the night and not even know it due to a sleep breathing disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea. All of these things mean you're not getting quality sleep.
Tips to Get Better Sleep
So now let’s talk about some simple steps and healthy habits that can help ensure you have a more restful night’s sleep.
Keep a regular sleep schedule: Going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time can help you get the rest your body needs and establish a good sleep cycle.
Watch what you drink: The key here is to avoid caffeine after 3 p.m. because this stimulant has been shown to keep people awake. Also try avoiding alcohol in the evening. Avoiding both of those substances around bedtime helps ensure you don't wake up feeling groggy and foggy headed.
Avoid naps: Naps are fine but only if you need them. Don't nap every day unless you absolutely must. This habit makes it harder to fall asleep later at night. Instead, plan ahead so you aren't caught off guard by an afternoon snooze.
Get regular exercise: Exercise releases endorphins, which naturally reduce stress levels and increase energy. Plus physical activity increases blood flow throughout the body, helping with circulation and keeping muscles warm. So if you want to stay alert all day long without coffee, consider doing something active such as walking, running, swimming, biking or dancing.
Get plenty of light exposure: Exposure to bright lights stimulates production of melatonin, a hormone produced by our bodies that promotes sleep. In fact, studies show that exposing ourselves to natural daylight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. reduces daytime fatigue and helps you sleep at night.
Skip screens: While we just mentioned that light exposure can help you sleep better at night, not all light helps. We recommend avoiding blue light from screens like tablets, TVs and phones because they suppress the release of melatonin. Blue light also affects our levels of cortisol, which keeps us awake.
Try meditation: Meditation is another way to relax and unwind. Studies suggest that practicing mindfulness techniques can actually change brain chemistry, making it easier to fall asleep. Try meditating right before bed or listening to soothing music instead of watching TV.
Try these tips and sleep well knowing that you've done everything possible to give yourself the best chance of a sound night's sleep.
What if Something Else is Preventing You From Getting a Good Night's Sleep?
Something like the sleep breathing disorder obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is an obstruction in the airway that prevents airflow from entering into the lungs, causing shallow breaths throughout the night.
Breathing interruptions with obstructive sleep apnea can happen a dozen times a night or up to a hundred or more in severe cases.
The Effects of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can cause excessive daytime drowsiness, fatigue, headaches, irritability and poor concentration.
OSA affects approximately 2 percent of men and 4 percent of women over 40 years old. The symptoms usually start between 30 and 50 years old but can occur earlier than this age.
It is often caused by the throat muscles relaxing and falling into the throat, cutting off air during sleep.
Signs of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
There are several signs that indicate whether someone has obstructive sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea often have signs such as snoring, gasping/choking sounds, feeling sleepy all day long, difficulty concentrating and unexplained weight gain. Yes! All of these things can happen as a result of poor sleep quality. A lack of sleep can also cause:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- High blood pressure
- Difficulty staying awake despite getting several hours of sleep
- High blood sugar or problems controlling your blood sugar
- Waking frequently during the night due to choking or gagging noises
- Morning headaches
- Irritable mood swings
- Poor memory recall
- Lack of interest in sex
- Unusual sleeping positions
- Snorting while sleeping
- Sleeping on your side rather than your back
Are you seeing the signs of sleep apnea or concerned about sleep breathing disorders in yourself or a loved one? Do you feel as if your sleep quality is poor? Call us today to schedule a consultation.