April 1st, 2023
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to good health. If you don’t sleep well, or get enough shut-eye, it can affect how you feel the next day. You may be tired, cranky, unproductive and miserable. If poor sleep is more the norm than the exception, not sleeping enough can also wreak havoc on your health. Poor sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and depression, among other chronic conditions. Pulmonologist Marcella Frank, DO, says “It is estimated people should sleep between seven and a half to eight hours for good health. Five hours of sleep or less per night can put you at risk for multiple diseases. Sleep is very important as it has restorative powers that reduces inflammation, which contributes to disease.”
Some people label themselves as “bad” sleepers and simply accept that they don’t sleep well. But in many cases, there are underlying causes that affect a person’s sleep. If the cause is treated, often the quality or quantity of sleep improves.
Here are some of the most common causes of sleep problems:
- Medications – Some over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications can interfere with sleep. If you’ve recently started a new medication and notice that you’re having sleep difficulties, ask a doctor or pharmacist if the medication may be to blame. Blood pressure medications and anti-depressants, as well as OTC medications containing caffeine or stimulants, are some of the most common sleep-disrupting culprits.
- Medical conditions – Some chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, GERD, asthma, cancer, arthritis, Parkinson’s and others, can interfere with your sleep.
- Sleep disorders – Sleep-specific health conditions, such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, can affect sleep quality. Treating the sleep disorder can help you enjoy more restful sleep. Since sleep apnea causes you to periodically stop breathing through the night, it is especially important to treat sleep apnea if you have it because it can contribute to other serious health issues. If you suspect you have this condition, see a doctor and get tested.
- Stress – Stress can keep your mind active at night and is one of the leading causes of sleep issues. Left unchecked, stress can lead to temporary or chronic insomnia. Find ways to better manage stress during the day and you may find you sleep better at night. A mental health professional may help you get sleep-disturbing stress under control.
- Evening habits – What you do before you get into bed can have a major effect on your sleep. Try not to eat too much late in the evening or exercise too close to bedtime or it may keep you up at night. Create a relaxing pre-bedtime routine that doesn’t include screen time (blue light can mess with your sleep) and a comfortable environment that encourages restful sleep (not too warm/hot, quiet, etc.)
- Schedule changes – Your circadian rhythm is like a natural internal clock that tells your body when to sleep and when to wake. When you travel, have changing work shifts or stay up late/sleep in on the weekends, disruptions to your circadian rhythm may make it hard to fall or stay asleep, leading to insomnia.
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