WHY IS SLEEP SO IMPORTANT? A SLEEP EXPERT EXPLAINS
There are many consequences of not getting enough sleep.
That big work deadline, the kids’ schedule, catching up with friends: Sometimes it seems like a good night’s sleep winds up last on your priority list. But there are some good reasons to make it a priority – especially if you’re a headache sufferer. Irregular sleep patterns and changes in sleep patterns are headache and migraine triggers for some. 1
The consequences of a poor night’s sleep are more than just a groggy morning after — research shows that too little sleep can contribute to reduced cognitive performance. 2 Poor sleep can also impact your romantic relationships. One study showed that lack of shut-eye can lead to arguments with your significant other. 3
So how do you stop the bad sleep cycle? Creating good habits — what experts call sleep hygiene — requires a bit of commitment, and, yes, a bedtime, but it’s worth it in the long run. “Healthy sleep habits make a huge difference in maximizing sleep’s effectiveness. Good sleep hygiene helps getting to sleep and staying asleep by decreasing arousal stimuli. Quality sleep improves cognitive performance” explains sleep medicine specialist Steven Zorn, MD.
Dr. Zorn suggests his top three tips to get a good night’s sleep.
Set and stick to a bedtime. Every individual needs a different amount of sleep to function at her best; 7 to 9 hours a night is recommended for adults.4. Have a pre-bedtime plan in place starting at whatever time you find works for you. Maybe you read for 30 minutes on the couch, or you meditate for five minutes, whatever cues your body that it’s time for sleep.
And avoid anything that’ll rev your adrenaline: Try to go to the gym at least two to three hours before bedtime and consider waiting until the weekend to catch up on your favorite thrill-a-minute TV show — even those can amp you up in a way that can disrupt sleep, says Dr. Zorn.
Think cool. “In general, people sleep best in slightly cool temperatures,” says Dr. Zorn, so set the thermostat a few degrees below the usual number. If your bed partner likes a different sleep temperature, have your own blanket system. “Having your own blanket not only helps you regulate your own optimal body temperature, but it’ll reduce distraction and sleep disruption from your bed partner,” says Dr. Zorn.
Don’t sleep in. Waking up at a set time is important. Sleeping in resets the body clock and can make it harder to fall asleep at night, warns Dr. Zorn, so set your alarm for the time you actually have to get up and put it across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.
1. Jeanetta C. Rains, J. Steven Poceta, Sleep-Related Headaches, Neurologic Clinics, Volume 30, Issue 4, November 2012, Pages 1285-1298, ISSN 0733-8619, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ncl.2012.08.014 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0733861912000552)
2. Durmer, Jeffrey S. and Dinges, David F. Neurocognitive Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. Seminars in Neurology, Volume 25, Number 1, 2005, pages 117-129.
3. Gordon, Amie M., Chen, Serena. The Role of Sleep in Interpersonal Conflict. Social Psychological and Personality Science, May 2013, doi: 10.1177/1948550613488952(http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/05/13/1948550613488952.full)