The new year is a time to look inward and make resolutions to become healthier and happier. Most of our resolutions revolve around diet or exercise, but one area of health that is often overlooked – and contributes greatly to our overall health and happiness – is sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America ® 2022 poll, many Americans need to do more to improve their sleep, which affects every aspect of how they function and feel during the day. Here are a few factors that impact your quality and amount of sleep that you have direct control over.
Light Exposure and Screen Use
Research has shown that our exposure to light plays an important role in how our bodies regulate our circadian rhythm, which is our natural cycle of sleep and awake time. Bright outdoor light during the day signals to your body that it’s time to be awake and contributes to better sleep and brighter moods.
Most people report looking at a screen during the day and 58% of respondents to the survey reported screen use within an hour of bedtime. Sleep research suggests that light exposure within two hours of bedtime can be disruptive to one’s sleep cycle.
Keep a Consistent Schedule
Most Americans report eating a typical breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, but four out of ten Americans don’t eat meals at the same time each day. It is important for your digestive system to have a regular work schedule. In addition, keeping a consistent wake-up and bedtime schedule can keep your body in tune with its regular cycles of sleep and help you have more energy during the day, even on the weekends.
Staying active is essential to catch better zzz’s. Not only does it make you feel better overall and prevent diseases, but it also helps you fall asleep faster and easier at night and helps your body know when to expect to be awake. It is recommended to get up and walk around at least every hour and participate in thirty minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous activity every day. Short breaks of activity throughout the day can help you think better and feel whole.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, around 90 million adult Americans snore. Of those, approximately 18 million suffer from the serious sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea. Knowing the difference between the two could save your life. Snoring is a sound that happens when your upper airway gets partially blocked when you’re asleep. Certain lifestyle factors, like elevated body weight and alcohol consumption, can make the vibrations louder.
Snoring can also occur from a combination of additional factors – muscles becoming relaxed during sleep, a structurally narrow airway and increase in neck size and or fatty tissue. As you age, your neck muscles relax, and the airway will close off more easily.
In sleep apnea, the airway becomes fully or partially obstructed, causing your body to have shallow respiratory or event to stop breathing for short periods. When air isn't moving in and out of the lungs, oxygen levels can fall in the blood. Over time, drops in oxygen can lead to serious, even deadly consequences.
Not only that, but your healthy sleep cycle can be disrupted. Your brain triggers you to wake up so you can breathe better resulting in interrupted sleep.
When left untreated, sleep apnea can cause:
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Daytime sleepiness
- Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents.
Sleep apnea can afflict both genders and any age group, but it's more common in men. There are a few other factors that raise a person's risk of having sleep apnea. If you have an elevated body mass index (BMI), large neck, narrow airway or large tonsils, you are at increased risk. Additionally, certain substances such as alcohol, opiate pain medications and other sedatives can increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea. There are a few red flags to look for, but the only way to truly diagnose sleep apnea is by undergoing a sleep study at the AdventHealth Gordon Sleep Center.
Find Help to Sleep Better
If you are having trouble sleeping or feel drowsy or tired throughout the day, talk to your primary care provider about your lifestyle and whether you qualify for a visit with a sleep specialist. Advent Health Gordon is here for you and wish you a restful new year.