Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

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Getting a good night’s sleep can sometimes be quite a challenge for many. Research shows that as many as one in three adults in the US are not getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

We all know that we’re grumpy, irritable, tired, and less productive when we don’t get enough sleep, but there is a growing body of evidence that the lack of sleep can lead to many health problems. Poor sleep can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks, increased blood pressure, stroke, and anxiety. Getting more sleep also helps to improve our body’s immunity against viruses and bacteria–something we’re all concerned about these days.

I think it’s interesting that sleep can also affect the calories we eat, obesity, and being overweight. A research study showed that not getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night led to increased consumption of 385 calories more the day after. They link this to hormones that control appetite.

The folks at Eat Smart Move More Weigh Less (ESMMWL) have written several
blog posts about sleep and offer these ideas on how to get a better night’s sleep:

Put all screens away. This includes phones, TVs, and computers. The light-emitting from these types of screens disrupts the body’s natural production of melatonin which can make it harder to fall asleep. Avoid screen times at least 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. Sleep experts say don’t use your phone as an alarm
clock, they recommend leaving it in another room overnight.
Keep the bedroom quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature. Use blackout
curtains or eye masks to ward off light if needed.

Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime. Avoid eating
inflammatory foods that are high in added sugar or gluten right before bed.
Stick to a regular sleeping schedule. Falling asleep and waking at the same time
each day allows your body’s natural wake/sleep cycles to be more in sync. Do this
even on weekends and days off.

Be physically active during the day to help you fall asleep at night. CDC
recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days a week or
15 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise 5 days a week. It is best is to exercise in
the mornings or afternoon, but if you have to exercise in the evening do it at least
3 hours before your bedtime. Doing some of this activity outside because direct
sunlight helps sleep, too.

Create a bedtime routine. An hour before bedtime, enjoy a calming herbal tea,
just make sure the tea is caffeine-free. It can also be a good idea to engage in a
relaxing activity like reading a book to induce drowsiness. (Note: reading a “real”
book is recommended, not one on an electronic device.)
Practice relaxing and calming activity before bedtime such as meditation, deep
breathing or even taking a warm shower.

Meditation or journaling can be part of this quiet routine. In a recent post,
ESMMWL folks reviewed several health and wellness apps in their online blog.
You might want to check them out. These apps can help you live mindfully
through meditation, good habits, and better sleep. In earlier blogs, they also
suggested some exercise and nutrition apps. But, use these devices earlier in the
day, not at bedtime.

If you try some of these suggestions and still have trouble with sleeping restfully
you may want to talk with your doctor as you may have a medical reason for your
lack of sleep. These may include snoring, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and
insomnia.

Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less is a 15-week evidence-based weight
management program that is available online. It has been developed by our
colleagues at N.C. Cooperative Extension and the North Carolina Department of Public Health. You can subscribe and read the ESMMWL blog, even if you are not taking part in the program.

Cheryle Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and writes for the Brunswick Beacon each week. She can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-2610 or by email at Cheryle_Syracuse@ncsu.edu.