BE Savvy

Don’t Sleep on Getting Good Sleep

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Do you ever feel like you’re being punked when the alarm clock goes off to wake you up when it seems like you just closed your eyes?

When it comes to sleep, this is one tired nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 35%–45% of Americans unintentionally fell asleep during the day at least once and nearly 5% fell asleep while driving during the past month. And these are just the ones who admitted it. In addition to that, take into consideration that there are 50 to 70 million American adults who have sleep or wakefulness disorders. Polls by the National Sleep Foundation also show that 48% of Americans report insomnia occasionally and 22% experience insomnia just about every night. And as a result, a quarter of Americans are taking a sleep aid to help them nod off. Are you one of them?

Studies show that the average number of hours of sleep that Americans get in a 24-hour period has not changed significantly over the past 40 years; however, due to the demands of work, social activities, and the availability of 24-hour home entertainment and internet access, the quality of sleep has been greatly impacted. We work and play until we drop.

Unbeknownst to many, a lack of sleep is a much bigger problem than just being tired. People with insomnia are four times as likely to suffer from depression and are at a greater risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. It also increases the risk of substance abuse and decreases one’s ability to pay attention, react to signals, or remember new information. No bueno!

It’s time to make sleep a priority. You must schedule rest like any other daily activity, so put that on your “to-do list” and cross it off every night. But most importantly, don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is done—stop doing other things so you get the shut-eye you need. Sleep is a beautiful thing. This is a time for the body to rest, repair, and rebuild.

Good sleep checklist:

1. Take a warm shower before bed.

We begin to feel sleepy when our body temperature drops. You can enhance this effect by taking a warm bath or shower prior to bed. The contrast between warm shower and cool bed will help you doze off.

2. Lighting is everything.

Exposure to bright light during the daytime helps to regulate our sleep/wake cycle. Nighttime light exposure, however, can be disruptive to sleep. Limit outdoor light by covering windows with curtains and avoid the use of electronic devices in the bedroom. Even the dimmest light can interfere with sleep.

3. Avoid heavy meals before bedtime.

The body’s digestive system works hard to break down food and that can impact your body’s ability to turn down. Not to mention that after eating there is the potential experience of indigestion, nausea, or diarrhea, which can also disrupt sleep. Avoid this by passing on light snacks and heavy meals at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.

But if you do have hunger pains close to bed time, opt for foods rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin and melatonin that slows us down and makes us crave a nap.

4. Exercise daily.

Exercise at any time of the day can improve sleep. It provides numerous health benefits and burns energy that prompts the body to “want” to rest.

5. Improve your sleep surface.

An uncomfortable sleep surface can greatly impact one’s quality and ability to rest. The average life span of a “good” mattress is 10 years and even less for others. If you can feel the springs when you lay on your mattress then Houston, you have a problem.


nurse_alice Nurse Alice Benjamin

Nurse Alice is a nationally board certified and award-winning cardiac clinical nurse specialist with nearly two decades of experience in cardiovascular health. She is a community health activist and freelance media health expert. She has appeared on various national radio and TV shows including Dr. Oz, The Doctors, Dr. Drew, News One with Roland Martin, Tom Joyner Morning Show and more. She is also the author of “Curb Your Cravings: 31 Foods to Fool Your Appetite.” You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @AskNurseAlice