If you already have difficulty getting enough sleep, the upcoming time change and the resultant loss of an hour will not help matters. Therefore, this is as good a time as any to address underlying factors that can have a detrimental impact on quality sleep.
According to Sleepmed:
- 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, 60% of those chronic
- Women are twice as likely as men to have sleep difficulties, with complicating factors including pregnancy and menopause.
- An estimated 30-40% of children do not get enough sleep, requiring 9-10 hours
- Sleep problems add an estimated $15.9 billion to national health care costs
If you know or suspect that you have sleep apnea, seek medical advice for this serious condition. We may visit this topic in the future, but this remains beyond the scope of this article. What we will be focusing on is three common, but very correctible mistakes that have a high potential to disrupt your quality of sleep as well as daytime energy levels.
Mistake 1: Hitting the Snooze Button
If you think hitting snooze twice to gain an extra 10-15 minutes of shut-eye is beneficial, guess again. Interrupted sleep has been shown to be harmful. The other major problem is that being jolted awake, especially multiple times, is sure to invoke our adrenalin-producing fight or flight response. This surge in energy may sound useful, but will inevitably result in an energy crash. Furthermore, the increase in stress hormones such as cortisol that comes from a flight or fight response has damaging effects on the body, creating internal inflammation, and taxing the adrenal glands.
Making the effort to not hit snooze is a good start. A better way to wake up is to use a gradual awake alarm clock. These may use a combination of gradually increasing light and sound to slowly rouse you from a deep slumber. An example of one can be found here.
Mistake 2: Too many stimulants close to bedtime
The effects of caffeine can last up to 8-10 hours, so avoid taking it in the afternoon and beyond. Eating sugar too close to bedtime can also disrupt the chemical balance your brain needs for restful sleep.
One stimulant you may not be aware of us is the increasing use of our phones and computers, on top of television use at night. These devices output a high degree of blue light, which disrupts our melatonin production more than even natural light. Communities that have switched to energy saving LED street lighting have seen obesity rates rise, along with impaired daytime functioning.
The best thing we can do is get away from using electronics close to bed time. Make it a habit to not check your phone in bed. There are also nighttime apps for smartphones that reduce blue light. Ideally, it’s best not to have a t.v. in the bedroom. Resorting to candle lighting when you’re nearing bed time can help your body unwind.
Mistake 3: Disorganized Night Routine
You have a morning sequence that best allows you to get ready for work, right? So you should for night time. Actually scheduling a consistent sleep time will cause minimal disruptions in your circadian cycle. Taking 10 minutes to write in your journal or planner will allow you to set your mind at ease without having to worry about the next day’s events. Make this a consistent thing, and you will see improvements in your sleep habits over time.
Bonus: One of the biggest benefits that chiropractic and massage have is that they tone down the flight or fight response. By allowing the nervous system to function more normally, we give the body’s systems a chance to heal and repair. One of the nice side effects of chiropractic care that patients have reported to me is that they are able to fall asleep much quicker. If you feel that stress, or ups and downs in energy levels are affecting your sleep or your lifestyle, let’s see how chiropractic can help. A thorough history and exam will determine if your nervous system is not in balance, or if your body is flight or fight dominant.