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Getting enough good sleep?

Sleep is as essential to your well-being as healthy diet and exercise. Chronic lack of sleep can increase blood pressure, contribute to stress and weight gain, and affect your judgment, leading to car accidents and poor work performance.

How much sleep do I need?

Sleep researchers have found that people who regularly sleep less than six or more than nine hours a night don't live as long as those who get closer to eight hours of solid rest on most nights. To determine if you're getting enough rest, answer the following questions:

  • Do you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up on time or feeling refreshed after sleeping?
  • Do you have at least one of the following problems:
    • Low energy?
    • Attention, concentration or memory problems?
    • Poor work performance?
    • Daytime sleepiness?
    • Making errors at work or while driving?
    • Frustration or worry about your sleep?

If you answered yes to several of these questions, it's likely you're not getting adequate sleep and could benefit from improving your sleep hygiene.

Tips for better sleep

There are several self-care steps to get a better night's sleep. It may take a few weeks to establish a new, natural sleeping routine. If unable to make progress after trying the following steps, call your doctor for advice.

  • Avoid drinking alcohol in the evening. Although alcohol is a short-term sedative and may quickly bring on sleep, it interferes with deep sleep. You may wake up suddenly after its effects have worn off.
  • Don't smoke, especially at bedtime. Nicotine is a stimulant, which can keep people awake or disrupt sleep.
  • Avoid or reduce your intake of caffeine. Caffeine stays in the system for as long as 12 to 24 hours. Remember that in addition to coffee, caffeine is present in chocolate and many colas and teas. If you suspect caffeine is contributing to sleeplessness, try avoiding any caffeinated products for at least 12 hours before bedtime.
  • Medications may affect sleeping patterns. Many over-the-counter decongestants and products with pseudoephedrine can be as stimulating as caffeine.
  • Take a warm bath an hour or two before bedtime. This can soothe tense muscles and help induce sleep. However, taking a bath immediately before going to bed may be too stimulating. Experiment with the timing to see what works best.
  • Get regular physical activity. This will help relieve tension or tire you out to sleep more soundly. Avoid strenuous physical activity for several hours before going to bed.
  • Keep the bedroom quiet and dark. If noise is a problem, try ear plugs or "white noise." Many people like the sound of a fan or air conditioner as they drift off to sleep.
  • A cool room temperature (between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit) is best for sleeping. A firm, comfortable mattress is also important for a good night's sleep.
  • Avoid long, late afternoon naps. Short "catnaps," lasting no more than 20 minutes, can be surprisingly refreshing. Longer naps and those taken later than 4 p.m. may disrupt normal sleep patterns and contribute to insomnia.
  • Read in bed for a few minutes before turning out the light. This helps to relax and increase feelings of drowsiness.
  • Reserve the bed for pleasurable, restful activities. Avoid doing activities in bed that can cause stress or anxiety, such as watching horror movies or balancing your checkbook.

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With locations across California, Dignity Health Medical Foundation is just right around the corner. Schedule an appointment today.


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