Authored by Nelli Gluzman, DO, Pediatric Hospitalist with Orange Regional Medical Group
Our change to daylight saving time provides the perfect opportunity to examine our habits when it comes to getting enough rest. To better understand how bad sleep habits can affect our health, it is important to know something about the natural process when we go to bed each night.
- Body temperature drops slightly, which helps to synchronize our circadian clocks.
- Melatonin, a hormone which signals to the brain that it is time to quiet down, also begins to course through our bodies.
- Heart rate and blood pressure slow down, our breathing becomes more even and we drift off to sleep.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the things they do that interrupt those important biological patterns.
Listen in to Dr. Nelli Gluzman discuss sleep tips on the radio:
Are Your Bad Habits Preventing You From Getting Sleep?
Bad habits prevent us from falling asleep and staying asleep, and the result is that more and more people are getting less and less sleep every year. Over the past five decades in America, sleep duration for adults during the work week has decreased by an hour and a half, from eight and a half to just under seven hours a night. Children have lost an average of nearly a minute of sleep a year. Teens should be getting eight to ten hours of sleep every night for optimal health. How much sleep are they actually getting?
Some bad sleep habits that negatively impact our health are:
- Inconsistent sleep schedules
- Late bedtimes
- Too much exposure to bright lights before bed
- Consuming large meals
- Caffeine or alcohol too close to bedtime
- Not getting enough exercise
- Perhaps the most familiar culprit, spending time on our electronic devices
Here are three tips that I recommend, which can help you get more sleep, starting tonight.
Tip 1) Establish a regular bedtime routine.
What works for my five- year-old, can work for all of us. It is a routine established by the American Academy of Pediatrics and you can remember it by the “Four B’s”:
Set a regular bedtime each night, then begin your routine a good hour and a half before that. A predictable nighttime routine helps you, and your kids, learn to expect what’s coming next, can relieve stress and helps the day wind down naturally.
Tip 2) Create an environment where sleep can flourish.
Just like good oral hygiene habits lead to healthy teeth, good bedtime habits lead to healthy sleep. Contrary to what many believe, alcohol has a pronounced negative impact on sound sleep. It should never be relied upon as a sleep-aid. Obviously, caffeine should also be avoided. Our bodies also fall asleep faster when we commit to regular exercise and regular meal times. Again, we see the important influence of routine on well-being.
After setting your uniform bedtime, consider the impact of light exposure. Photoreceptors in our eyes respond specifically to changes in light and dark and are used almost exclusively to regulate our circadian rhythms. Light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, and blue light – like that emitted by electronic devices – has an even greater impact. Our smartphones, computers, tablets, televisions, e-readers all postpone the signals to our brain that it’s time to sleep.
I suggest to my patients that all screens be turned off at least thirty minutes before bedtime. The bottom line is that you and only you are responsible for creating an environment that allows you to get the sleep you need. And that leads me to Tip #3.
Tip 3) Value the importance sleep.
I urge my patients to keep in mind just how important sleep is to our health. If you value your health, you must focus on the importance of rest. Like air, food and water, it is essential. Unrested, we cannot perform to our fullest capabilities and our bodies cannot repair and replenish themselves.
Rest allows us to remain physically active and mentally alert. In a day and age when over-scheduling seems to have become the norm, we must treasure sleep for the vital aspect of life that it is. We must be focused and dedicated to avoid letting sleep suffer due to our lifestyle choices. So, use these tips to examine your own choices. You may find it is high time you pay greater attention to bedtime.
Nelli Gluzman, DO
Dr. Gluzman is a Pediatric Hospitalist with Orange Regional Medical Group. She received her medical degree from New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, in Old Westbury and completed her Pediatrics Residency at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, in New Jersey.
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