With more and more demands placed on us more than ever before and with seemingly less hours in the day to meet those demands, sleep is slowly losing priority in our lives. We try to adapt to the loss of sleep by using modern conveniences and quick-fixes such as sleep aids, morning coffee laced with high amounts of sugar and early to mid-afternoon energy drinks that produce a misleading high very often followed by a significant crash. Taken on a consistent basis, these quick-fixes can create major issues. In fact, your brain can become so dependent on these stimulants and sleep aids that you may actually find yourself being unable to function without them.
Appearance and Aging
Your appearance and aging is directly linked to your sleep pattern. Did you know that in just one week of decreased sleep you can start to create hormonal imbalances in the body that can contribute to increasing inflammation? Current research is pointing to inflammation as a primary contributor to many chronic conditions such as heart disease and dementia. Of course many experience the more immediate effects of sleep deprivation such as decrease productivity, alertness and weight gain. Did you know that studies involving shift workers who worked the graveyard, overnight shift, showed that not only was there an increase in cortisol, but a higher instance of dehydration, adult acne and premature wrinkling?
While lifestyle, work, family obligations and other stressors can cause you to lose sleep, there is actually a much more concerning cause of sleep deprivation. Are you waking up tired, or always feeling fatigued even after a full night’s rest or have been told you snore loudly? If you answered yes to these questions then you may be suffering from sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing stops intermittent during sleep. The main types of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form. This is caused by conditions that causes the throat muscles to relax or fold in on the airway. Contributing factors can be excessive body weight, redundant tissue in the back of the throat, use of alcohol and other sedatives, nasal congestion and smoking. Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain miscommunicates with the muscles that control your ability to take a breath so you simply stop breathing for a period of time. Sleep apnea causes you to feel tired because there is not enough oxygen traveling to your brain as well as other parts of the body. This can lead to elevated blood pressure, diabetes type 2 and other heart complications. Sleep apnea can be exacerbated by sleep medications so it is important to discuss your fatigue and insomnia with your physician.
Here are some general tips for improved sleep hygiene:
Sleep to reduce stress, anxiety and anger
- Avoid sleeping pills if possible. This includes over-the-counter pills.
- Don’t go to bed until you’re sleepy. If you have trouble sleeping, try going to bed later or getting up earlier.
- Get up at the same time every morning, even after a bad night’s sleep. The next night, you’ll be sleepy at bedtime.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep, get out of bed and return only when you are sleepy.
- Avoid worrying, watching TV, reading scary books, and doing other things in bed besides sleeping and sex. If yyou read thrillers or watch TV, do that in a chair that’s not in the bedroom. If to do list keep racing through your head then get up and write them down in a notebook so you can look at it the next day.
- Do not drink or eat anything caffeinated within six hours of bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol. It’s relaxing at first but can lead to insomnia when it clears your system.
- Spend time outdoors. People exposed to daylight or bright light therapy sleep better.
The studies and evidence prove that when you make sleep a priority your body regulates vital hormones and other chemicals in your body. Be sure to catch those eight hours of sleep each night so you can look AND feel your very best! If you feel that sleep apnea may be an issue, speak with your doctor. Sleep apnea can made worse with sleeping aids so it needs to be treated appropriately.