Not Getting Enough Sleep Can Cause Serious Health Problems
By Beverly Matoney
Medically reviewed by Kyle Aldinger, M.D., Shelby Medical Associates
Are you getting enough sleep?
A good night’s sleep for an adult is considered to be 7-8 hours of uninterrupted slumber. The latest study by the Centers for Disease Control states that the average American adult gets much less sleep each night and as a result is chronically tired.
Not only does getting inadequate sleep leave you in a mental fog, both insomnia and interrupted sleep have been shown to cause many health problems, including heart disease, obesity, chronic pain, and depression.
- The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a study in January of 2019 showing how sleeping less than 6 hours per night can increase your risk for heart disease.
- A paper published in the American Journal of Human Biology investigates how not getting enough sleep can affect certain hunger hormones, increasing your risk for obesity.
- In 2014 the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology reported on the Keele University investigation on the relationship between lack of restful sleep and chronic joint and muscle pain.
- A 2017 study in Translational Psychiatry showed how artificial light can disrupt sleep cycles and cause depression.
To avoid these serious medical issues, there are several things you can try yourself in order to get your recommended 7-8 hours per night.
Create an ideal environment for restful sleep.
- Clear the clutter in your bedroom.
- When there are clutter and disorganization in your bedroom, your mind doesn’t get a chance to rest. Instead of just ignoring the mess, your brain continues to view the chaos as tasks to be completed, and your sleep suffers as a result. Move out items that don’t belong so your mind can rest and reset.
- Make your bed with comfortable fabrics and pillows.
- Try cotton, satin or bamboo for warmer temperatures and flannel or fleece on colder nights. Use pillows that are designed for your personal sleep position that will support your head and neck.
- Keep your cool.
- Temperature matters when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep. If your bedroom is too warm, you will have trouble sleeping, so lower the temperature or turn the ceiling fan on for some gentle air flow. The optimal room temperature for sleeping is 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Muffle sounds.
- If you are a light sleeper, even small sounds can rouse you from your sleep. Use carpeting to muffle sounds from underneath. Invest in window coverings that block sounds from outside. If these are not enough, use a white noise machine or a desk or box fan to drown out annoying sounds.
- You can even find comfortable earplugs to wear while you sleep, as long as you do not need to listen out for children or the elderly who may need your care during the night.
- Lights out.
- Lower the lights half an hour to an hour before bedtime to get your brain ready for sleep. Use dark shades or an eye mask to block out any ambient light from street lights, passing cars or natural light, such as the moon in order to keep your day-night circadian rhythm in balance.
Eliminate everything that could disrupt your slumber.
- Watch what you eat and drink.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal within two hours of bedtime to prevent gas, bloating or acid reflux from keeping you awake. Instead, keep any evening food selections light, such as a handful of nuts, a banana or a bit of cheese. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, as these have also been shown to interrupt sleep patterns.
- Nix the blue light devices.
- Move all electronics out of the bedroom to purge all blue light, which mimics sunlight and tells your brain to wake up instead of sleep. In addition, the mental alertness that comes from watching television, texting, posting or reading emails in bed can prevent your brain from slipping easily into slumber.
- Utilize the “do not disturb” feature on your cell phone so you don’t hear notification sounds from the other room while you sleep.
- Empty your mind.
- Write down everything that is on your mind that may worry you overnight. You can even use a voice recorder to talk out your concerns so they’re off your mind for the night.
- Ban the fur babies.
- Although your pets are adorable and part of your family, they can wreck your sleep. Give them their own comfy sleeping area away from your bedroom so they don’t disturb your human sleep.
Routines aren’t just for kids.
- Follow a nightly before bed routine.
- Plan to do the same things every night at the same time to alert your brain that it’s time for sleep.
- Take a warm bath an hour or so before you’re ready to snooze. As your body cools down, you’ll become drowsy.
- Sip a glass of something restful such as warm milk or calming herbal tea.
- Read a quiet book, and avoid any stories that will get your heart pumping or adrenaline flowing.
- Listen to soft music or nature sounds while you meditate just before you drift off.
Following these tips should have you catching the required number of zzzzs every night.
However, when you’ve exhausted all of these options without success, it’s time to talk to your doctor.
Are Over The Counter Sleep Aids Safe?
There are herbal supplements and over-the-counter medications designed to help you get a full night’s sleep but talk to your doctor before trying any of these to be sure you won’t experience any adverse reactions or negative interactions with your current medications.
What About Prescription Sleep Medications?
The next level of sleep aids is prescription medications that may give you restful sleep. Your doctor can suggest a formula that will work specifically for you and any medical conditions you may have.
Most importantly, realize that both kinds of sleep aids are only meant to be used temporarily.
What If None Of This Works?
Not getting enough sleep is a serious concern. If you or someone you know has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or feels tired all the time, there are measures you can take to change your sleep patterns on your own.
But if adjusting your bedtime routine doesn’t work,
when prescription or over-the-counter medications don’t help,
or when your lack of sleep is causing extensive medical issues,
then you should contact your physician to arrange for a sleep study to discover the underlying cause of your sleep issues.
For an evaluation by a certified sleep specialist, call Shelby Medical Associates today. We care about you and want to make sure you’re getting all the sleep you need for a healthy life.
Take care of you. Take care of yours. We’ll be here to help you with both.