Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
When it comes to shut-eye, seven or eight (hours) is your lucky number. Nighttime stretches of sleep falling into this range help you stay healthy—and feeling good during the day.
In fact, sleep and mental health go hand in hand. Lack of quality sleep can make people feel irritable, fatigued, and forgetful. It can even lead to anxiety and feeling depressed. But depression and anxiety can also result in sleep disturbances. It’s important to talk about your overall health when discussing sleep problems—and how to address them—with your health care provider.
The ‘Rule’ of Three
Most people have trouble sleeping at some point. With the sleep disorder insomnia, however, one or more of the following symptoms last at least three months and occur at least three nights a week:
You may also wake up during the night and have trouble falling back to sleep. Older adults, women, and people with depression or other conditions, like sleep apnea and asthma, have a higher risk for insomnia.
A variety of medicines can influence how you sleep. For example, insomnia can result from taking beta-blockers used to manage high blood pressure. High stress and time changes during travel can also increase your risk.
Move More, Sleep More
Brisk walking and other moderate-to-vigorous physical activities can boost the quality and length of your sleep at night.
Both early morning and afternoon workouts can improve your nighttime sleep. Evening exercise is a little trickier. Some people may be able to work out at night without problems. If that’s you, don’t change your routine. For most people though, strenuous workouts late in the evening are likely to delay falling asleep. Replace evening exercise with simple stretches or yoga to relax and prepare for bed.
Fuel Your Slumber
Having caffeine and foods that cause heartburn at night can hurt your efforts to sleep. So can sugary treats and white bread. Instead, try oatmeal or nut-butter on whole-wheat crackers. The National Sleep Foundation also suggests these snacks:
Almonds or walnuts: Eating these nuts can help you sleep more soundly thanks to the hormone melatonin.
Cottage cheese with fresh raspberries: Ward off low serotonin levels with the amino acid in this lean protein. The berries offer another dose of melatonin.
Kiwi fruit: Two of these little guys before bed can increase how long you sleep by an hour over the course of the month if you have insomnia.
Small changes to your habits can help with many sleep problems. But reach out to your provider if you continue to struggle. Share your symptoms and past efforts to sleep better. Bring your current medications to your visit. Together, you can find and treat the cause.