Are You Getting Enough zzz's?

Northwestern Medicine
Health and Wellness December 12, 2011

According to the National Institute of Health, 50 to 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders and irregular sleep problems that can significantly diminish health, alertness and safety. Many people ignore their sleep problems and don’t realize the consequences. Numerous medical issues have been linked to sleep deprivation such as obesity, trouble with memory and learning and a higher incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure.

Do you think you might suffer from a sleep disorder? If so, fill out the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.* A score of 10 or greater indicates a possible sleep disorder. If sleep doesn’t come naturally or you experience excessive sleepiness during the day despite a good sleep regimen, speak with your physician to determine the cause of sleep loss and regain control over your ability to be well-rested.

Dr. Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD, director of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Sleep Disorder Center, offers the following tips on proper sleep habits to help you get a good night’s sleep throughout the year:

  • Consistency is key – Go to bed when you are sleepy and stick to a set rise time. You cannot force yourself to fall asleep, but you can always get up when you need to. Not sleeping in may help consolidate your sleep at night.
  • Bedroom boundaries – Make sure the bedroom is only for going to sleep. It shouldn’t be a place to watch TV, do work, surf the internet or eat. That way your body knows that when you get into bed, it’s time to go to sleep.
  • Work up a sweat – Exercise can give your body something to rest from and help you stay asleep at night. To allow enough wind-down time, it’s best to complete exercise at least two to three hours before going to bed.
  • Set the stage – Take a hot shower then get into a cool bed. The drop in your body’s temperature after taking a hot shower and entering a cooler room is a process that naturally mimics day and night, and may help guide you to sleep.
  • Put your thoughts to bed – Jot down your to-do list for the next day and put it aside so you feel organized and can avoid racing thoughts that may prevent you from falling and staying asleep.
  • Relax - Avoid activities such as going online or watching TV that will hold your interest and keep you engaged. Listening to music or reading something that you find mindless in a dimly lit area may help you feel sleepy.

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