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Routine Sleep Hygiene

09:00 October 21, 2022
By: Emily Hingle

I thought it was normal waking up between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. every morning and staying awake for a few hours before getting one more hour of sleep before the alarm went off.

I would get very sleepy around 8 p.m., unlike my peers, but I just dealt with feeling tired and irritable every night. I would also feel so exhausted during the afternoon that I could barely function, but everyone gets that "midday slump," right?

I finally decided to see if there was in fact something wrong with the way that I was sleeping because I felt like I had far less energy than most people. After undergoing a sleep study, I was diagnosed with mild/moderate obstructive sleep apnea; I was waking up an average of 12 times an hour while sleeping. I then sought out a special sleep dentist who fitted me with an oral orthotic that keeps my lower jaw in place so it doesn't fall back and close my airway, and I had a turbinate reduction surgery to allow more air to go through my nose.

After a short adjustment period, I had the first truly good night of sleep I've ever had. And I've had good sleep nearly every night since. I sleep soundly throughout the night, my dreams aren't as vivid and tiring, and I don't have energy crashes during the day. This journey to good sleep led me to understand the immense importance of sleep hygiene for my own health and how bad sleep patterns can negatively affect people.

In a study entitled, "Why Sleep Matters—The Economic Costs of Insufficient Sleep," by Marco Hafner, Martin Stepanek, Jirka Taylor, Wendy M. Troxel, and Christian van Stolk, it was concluded that poor sleep can lead to severe consequences. "The CDC in the United States has declared insufficient sleep a 'public health problem.' Sleep loss and sleep-related disorders have been linked to a number of accidents and catastrophes including the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the Three Mile Island nuclear incident, the Exxon Valdez spill, and the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy. The findings of the economic analysis in this report suggest, lower productivity levels and higher mortality risks related to insufficient sleep can result in substantial economic losses to modern economies. Our economic predictions indicate that in absolute terms, the U.S. sustains by far the highest annual economic loss (between $280 billion and $411 billion currently, depending on the scenario)."

If you find that you're not getting at least seven restful hours of sleep each night, you may benefit from increasing your sleep hygiene. In order to start getting healthy sleep, you have to unplug, literally. We are so attached to our phones and TVs that our brains are often over-stimulated, and that can lead to overactive brains that aren't able to properly rest. To begin a good night of sleep, break away from your electronics. Don't bring your phone to bed and scroll through social media or watch videos, and don't fall asleep with the TV on (even if you're used to it). For at least one hour before getting into bed, do something that does not include a screen. Reading books, taking a hot shower or bath, or listening to soothing, light music can shift you into relaxation mode. Your phone may have a "do not disturb" feature that stops it from ringing or lighting up, which can help limit distractions.

Along with not bringing technology into your bed, keep the entire bedroom dark, cool, and quiet. If you find that you need some sort of sound to sleep, a white noise machine can offer cover noise without being distracting.

Don't eat or drink immediately before bedtime. Large meals in particular can upset your digestive system, and regularly having a meal before bed slows down your metabolism. Obviously, caffeinated beverages before bed are a bad idea since they can keep you awake. Drinking any liquids within an hour before sleeping may make you need to wake up and go to the bathroom during the night.

Your sleep should be part of your daily routine, so try to go to bed at the same time every night. Your body's natural rhythm will be more in sync overall if you allow yourself to sleep on a schedule. This also includes waking up at the same time every morning. You shouldn't totally change your lifestyle, like not going to late-night concerts, so that you can hit the sack at 8 p.m. every night, but be aware of your habits and try to include good sleep as much as possible.

Getting your body to start sleeping better takes time. Allow your body and brain to adjust to all these changes. If you find that you just can't go to sleep when you've set your bedtime, try out some relaxation techniques. You can do breathing exercises, meditation, and muscle relaxation to help you unwind. You should ask your doctor about sleep disorders (narcolepsy, sleep apnea, insomnia, etc.) if you feel that you just can't get proper sleep.

Having a good night's sleep absolutely depends on what you do in your waking hours. Living a sedentary lifestyle can affect your sleep negatively since you aren't expelling enough energy. Getting in exercise during the day can help you sleep better at night. Naps can be refreshing at times, but too much napping is not good when you can't go back to sleep at night.

I hope you have a good night's sleep tonight.

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