Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
Sleep loss is such a common problem that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared it a public health epidemic. It can be the result of insomnia, when you can’t fall asleep despite having the chance to do so, or sleep deprivation, when your schedule robs you of the opportunity. Since the pandemic began, researchers around the world have documented a surge in sleep disorders, with 2 in 3 Americans reporting they are now sleeping either more or less than desired.
According to Athena Adrami, PhD, a neuroscientist at University College London who is studying cognitive dysfunction in COVID-19, including sleep disturbances, “Once sleep is disrupted, it can impact mental and physical health, which may in turn cause further sleep disruption,” she says. “A vicious cycle may form that is very difficult to diagnose and treat properly.”
Additionally, upended routines, more screen time, increased alcohol consumption, and dissolving boundaries between work and private life are just a few of the factors contributing to problems with sleep. And given the crucial role sleep plays in both physical and mental health, psychologists say it’s important to be proactive in addressing any issues. A good night’s rest is important for brain health, energy, focus, replenishing and restoring the cells and organs in our bodies.
The National Institutes of Health Offers the following suggestions to Getting a Better Night’s Sleep
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
- Get some exercise every day. But not close to bedtime.
- Go outside. Try to get natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Avoid nicotine and caffeine. Both are stimulants that keep you awake. Caffeine can take 6–8 hours to wear off completely.
- Don’t take naps after mid-afternoon. And keep them short.
- Avoid alcohol and large meals before bedtime. Both can prevent deep, restorative sleep.
- Limit electronics before bed. Try reading a book, listening to soothing music, or another relaxing activity instead.
- Create a good sleeping environment. Keep the temperature cool if possible. Get rid of sound and light distractions. Make it dark. Silence your cell phone.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and do a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy again.
- See your health care provider if nothing you try helps. They can determine if you need further testing. They can also help you learn new ways to manage stress.
- Q&A: Dr. Chandra Jackson on COVID-19 and Sleep
- Q&A: Dr. Kenneth Wright on Shift Work and Sleep
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