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Everyone likes that feeling of energy, alertness and happiness after a refreshing full night of sleep. Unfortunately, many of us underestimate how important sleep is to our overall wellbeing.
Poor sleep affects individuals across all age groups, and can manifest itself in multiple ways. Whether it’s a toddler throwing a tantrum, an adolescent with hyperactivity or other behavioral issues, or a high school or college student with poor academics– lack of sleep is often to blame.
In adults, lack of sleep can be linked to depression, diminished work performance, poor peer and family relationships and an increased risk for obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and adverse cardiovascular health.
In recent years, the surge in digital and social media activities and their corresponding “addictions” has resulted in more and more people suffering from poor sleep. With stress factors like shift work, rush hour traffic, job and academic stress, and unending social obligations, we’re more sleep deprived as a society than ever before. In fact, altered sleep habits and irregular sleep wake cycles have led to chronic sleep deprivation – less than six hours per night – for millions of Americans.
In general, if you’re sleep deprived, you’ll start to notice brain fogginess that results in unclear thinking and the inability to concentrate and remain in the moment. More specifically, poor sleep:
It’s important to understand that physical and brain functions are restored by sleep. Just like your cell phone, tablet or laptop need to be fully charged to function properly, so does your brain. And sleep is your brain’s charging device, which allows you to be fully present at work, with your family at home, or out with friends.
To improve your chances for a good night’s sleep there are some simple things you can do. Creating a routine that starts about an hour before bedtime to help you wind down can be very effective. To help create a sleep-friendly routine and environment:
If you’re expecting a sleep schedule change – for example, due to travel or annual time changes – start moving your bedtime routine up or back about 10 or 15 minutes per night at least one week in advance. These slow changes help your body adjust over time, which can make the final change less of a shock to your system.
If you’re not enjoying good sleep, consider talking with your doctor or a sleep specialist to help get you on track. It could create a needed boost to both your mental and physical health, as well as help ensure that you remain in the moment and get the most out of your life journey.
Dr. Nikhat Salamat is Medical Director of the SSM Health Sleep Center at SSM Health DePaul Hospital in St. Louis. For a referral to any SSM Health Medical Group physician, call 1-866-SSM-DOCS (1-866-776-3627).
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