Friday, November 1, 2013

The ABC’s of getting some Z’s

It’s time to "fall back" again and get that extra hour of sleep this weekend. Dr. Sonya Merrill, medical director of the Sleep Medicine Institute at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, says it’s also a good time to look at your current sleep routine to make sure you’re getting enough rest.

“Remember, most adults require 8 hours of sleep to function at their best, though there is some variability from person to person,” Dr. Merrill said.

A recent study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that the average American receives far less than eight hours of sleep, usually just over six hours on work nights. More than 50 percent of those surveyed stated they were getting less sleep than they needed on work nights, although 75 percent admitted that their schedules allowed for adequate sleep.

“This implies that although most of us have enough time available in our daily schedules to achieve an adequate amount of sleep, we don’t prioritize sleep and hence end up with less than we need,” Dr. Merrill said. “We sometimes forget that sleep is essential to life and health, just as much as food and water.”

She suggests the following tips to help you get a good night’s rest:

For you
  •  Avoid napping during the day
  • Stay away from stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol too close to bedtime
  • Exercise can promote good sleep. Vigorous exercise should be done in the morning or late afternoon. Consider a relaxing exercise, like yoga, before bed
  • Food can be disruptive right before sleep; stay away from large meals right before bedtime 
  • Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep. Don’t dwell on, or bring your problems to bed
  • Associate your bed with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio or read
  • Make sure that the sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing. The room should not be too hot or cold, or too bright
For kids
  • A consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine are important. Decide on a bed time and stick with it. 
  • Create a routine that involves activities that your child enjoys. For infants and toddlers this can be a bath, a song or a book followed by a goodnight kiss. A regular routine will signal to your child’s brain that it’s time for sleep.

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