Written by SMH Digital Content Editor Ann Key
Studies have shown that most adults in the US do not get enough sleep—and the problem is becoming more common among children as well. Continued sleep loss or getting poor-quality sleep can take a serious toll on your physical, mental and emotional health. In addition to the obvious fatigue, it can lead to weakened immunity, hormone imbalances, depression, a higher risk for heart problems and diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
If you’re among the thousands of people seeking more shuteye, try these tips from Sarasota Memorial’s Sleep Disorder Clinic.
- Stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at consistent times each day. Most adults should spend no more than eight hours in bed each night; excessive time in bed can cause fragmented sleep. Get out of bed at your regular wakeup time, even if you didn’t sleep well the night before; “sleeping in” can actually disturb sleep patterns, making it difficult to sleep the following night.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine and environment in preparation for sleep. Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom, and keep it dark and quiet. Screen out disturbing noise and light; invest in blackout curtains and download a white-noise phone app, if you need to.
- Avoid engaging in frustrating activities or excessive worry close to bedtime, both of which can result in arousal and prevent sleep. To help quiet a busy mind, try yoga, breath exercises, journal writing or reading.
- Cut the caffeine, which will disturb sleep. Limit daily caffeine consumption to two beverages, and be sure to enjoy them before noontime.
- Get moving! Regular exercise supports healthy sleep habits and can also keep those sleep-thieves, worry and stress, at bay. Schedule your workouts during the daytime or early evening; exercising within three hours of bedtime can interfere with your sleep.
- Skip the daytime naps, which can limit night-time sleep quality. However, people like shift workers or the elderly may benefit from regularly scheduled afternoon naps.
- Designate the bedroom as your oasis of calm. Don’t balance your checkbook, pay bills or watch TV in bed, otherwise your brain will associate the bedroom with alertness or stressful tasks. Save the bedroom for sleep and other relaxing activities.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking in the evenings. Both can disturb night-time sleep.
- Put down your smartphone or digital tablet! Studies have shown that browsing social media, checking email, watching videos, etc., on a digital device at bedtime will greatly decrease sleep quality. Power down at least an hour before bedtime.
Sometimes, the usual tips and tricks just can’t fix fatigue or fitful sleep. If getting enough sleep isn’t enough, you might be suffering from sleep apnea or another sleep disorder. Talk to your doctor about a referral to a Sleep Medicine physician for testing.
As Sarasota Memorial's digital content editor, Ann Key manages the health care system's Healthe-Matters blog and its Ask An Expert and TopTips video series, as well as other social media and wellness content channels. If you have a health question you need answered or a wellness topic you'd like a local expert to weigh in on, please email Ann at firstname.lastname@example.org.