Relax, eat light, and empty your bedroom of all technology devices in order to encourage a good night’s rest.
Everyone knows that a good night’s rest is essential to feeling ready for the following day. Yet 30 to 40 percent of adults have some symptoms of insomnia during their lifetime. In an interview with sleep expert Dr. Mia Zaharna, learn her advice for getting your best night’s rest.
Interview by Lynn Mundell
Talking with Mia Zaharna, MD, MPH, about insomnia is anything but sleep-inducing. Dr. Zaharna, who completed a Stanford University sleep medicine fellowship before joining Kaiser Permanente two years ago, gives practical sleep advice on everything from napping to that bedtime glass of wine. Dr. Zaharna is a staff physician at the San Jose Regional Sleep Medicine Laboratory, improving the health of Northern California KP members needing help with chronic sleep issues ranging from sleep apnea to restless leg syndrome.
Tune in at 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 1 for the Health Talks Online webinar “Getting Good Sleep.” To hear from Dr. Zaharna: https://www.signup4.net/public/ap.aspx?EID=20111274E&OID=162
Why does good sleep matter?
Sleep has an impact on your personal and physical well-being. If you are not well rested, you may be less alert and less efficient at work. You can suffer from poor memory, moodiness, irritability, and reduced cognitive abilities. Sleep studies have shown that lack of sleep results in lowered immune function, worse appetite control, and even a rise in traffic accidents. I feel that poor sleep makes it difficult to actively engage in relationships, too.
How much sleep do we really need?
It’s very individualized, depending on factors such as your age and your basal sleep need, the amount of sleep each individual requires to function optimally. Keep a record of when you have felt well rested and then see how much you slept the nights prior in order to determine how much sleep you need. Generally speaking, the average adult needs 7 to 8 hours, but some need as much as 10 and others as little as 5.
What is the difference between insomnia and chronic insomnia?
Most insomnia is short term; 30 to 40 percent of adults report some symptoms of insomnia at some point during their life. Chronic insomnia lasts months to years. It usually starts with an acute stressor or event that leads to acute insomnia initially. Then the body can develop a ‘habit’ of sleeping poorly. If that isn’t addressed immediately, it can lead to chronic insomnia.
What are the causes of insomnia?
There are many. Caffeine, stress, anxiety, and nicotine can all be associated with insomnia. Half of all people who have trouble sleeping attribute their insomnia to stress. Other, less obvious issues include underlying medical disorders such as hyperthyroidism or psychiatric issues such as depression or bipolar disorder. Certain medications can contribute to insomnia, so check the fine print on your prescriptions.
What do we do if we have insomnia?
If you find yourself awake in bed for longer than an estimated 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room, and do something relaxing such as reading until you feel sleepy. Then go back to bed. Try and estimate the 20 minutes rather than watching the clock. And don’t try too hard to sleep. The worst thing that can happen is you are tired the next day, but most likely you will sleep better that next night.
Should adults nap?
If you are prone to insomnia, avoid napping. It can make your nighttime sleep less efficient. If you must nap, limit it to 15 to 30 minutes a day.
How can one encourage a good night’s rest?
People in today’s society do a lot of stimulating activities in the evening, from being on their smartphones to working on the computer. “Unplug” at least one to two hours before bed. Also, avoid doing non-sleep activities in bed, such as homework or watching TV. Don’t go to bed on an empty or full stomach and avoid alcohol at night. Alcohol often helps people fall asleep but it can cause nighttime awakenings once the effect wears off. Finally, daily exercise during the day or earlier in the evening can be an effective way to get a good night’s rest.
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