Can’t sleep? Try this.

October 31, 2018 | by Priya Jimmy, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Falling back, or setting the clocks back an hour in the fall, has its pros and cons.

The promise of an extra hour of sleep can be glorious. The earlier sunset — sometimes before you even get home from work — can be depressing.

Sometimes fall and winter bring more than increased hours of darkness. People with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which peaks in the fall and winter months, experience symptoms of depression, anxiety and other struggles connected with a possible imbalance of melatonin and serotonin — two chemicals that regulate a person's sleep cycle, energy level and mood.

As for the fall time change — who’s looked forward to the extra hour of sleep only to wake up automatically at your usual time and not spend the extra hour resting?

The spring time change is often viewed as a more difficult adjustment, but a lot of people wake up early and have trouble going to sleep for about a week after the fall time change.

Is skimping on the recommended amount of sleep for adults each night (7-9 hours) even a big deal? Well, these are some of the things that can happen when you don’t get enough sleep:

  • Your brain isn’t recharged. Without enough sleep, it’s harder to concentrate. You feel irritable, tired and forgetful.
  • You’re at a higher risk of heart disease. When you don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis, it increases your chances of stroke and heart disease.
  • It contributes to weight gain. Midnight snacks add up.
  • You’re more likely to get sick. Lack of sleep weakens your immune system.

If sleep is a nightly struggle, try these tips to improve your sleep:

  • Stick to your schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (even on weekends).
  • Work out every day. 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day will help you sleep at night. Just avoid working out a few hours before going to bed.
  • Hands off the caffeine after lunch. Avoid caffeine and nicotine late in the day and alcoholic drinks before bed.
  • Relax. Wind down with a warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine.
  • Make your bedroom sleep-friendly. Avoid bright lights and loud sounds, keep the room cool, and don’t watch TV or have a computer in your bedroom.
  • Sleep in the red spectrum. Just as exposure to blue light (from a smartphone, tablet or television screen) can keep you awake, red spectrum light can help you fall asleep. Install red spectrum lightbulbs in your bedroom.
  • Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t get to sleep, do something else, like reading or listening to music, until you feel tired.

If changes to your routine or environment don’t help, or if you feel unusually tired during the day, see a doctor. Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively.

Priya Jimmy, M.D. is an internal medicine physician with Elmhurst Memorial Elmhurst Clinic. Dr. Jimmy is accepting new patients in Elmhurst! View her profile and schedule your appointment online.

At Edward-Elmhurst Health’s sleep centers, we’re here to help you enjoy peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. Learn how we can help.

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