In our sleep-deprived society, many people look forward to the end of Daylight Saving Time in the fall in order to “gain” an hour of precious shut-eye. But the fact is, this sudden time shift—even with the much-anticipated “extra” hour—can negatively disrupt our body’s sleep cycle for several days, as a recent New York Times article reminds us.
Lack of sleep is a major contributor to other health issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and erectile dysfunction. The effect on the immune system results in lower lymphocytes (whole blood cells), which protect us from catching a cold.
So, how can you ensure you’re getting the best quality sleep possible for your overall health? Here’s my advice based on years of experience as a sleep-medicine dentist:
Address sleep-disordered breathing issues
If you’re getting enough hours of sleep and you’re still sleepy, you should consider seeing your physician or even your dentist to ask about obstructive sleep apnea. OSA will rob you of oxygen during your sleep, resulting in fatigue and daytime sleepiness.
Ditch the bedside electronics
Tracking your sleep is a good plan so you get an idea of how well you’re sleeping, but I would not recommend that you use your phone to do this (as the aforementioned NYT article suggests). Sitting your phone next to your bed produces EMF’s (electromagnetic frequencies) that can severely affect your sleep. If you are experiencing daytime sleepiness, brain fog, or falling asleep while driving, you’ll know that lack of sleep or sleep deprivation is a definite cause.
Reset your internal clock
If you are traditionally not a “morning person” but need to wake early for work or to tend to family, there are ways to reset your circadian clock. Exposing yourself to bright lighting and using what’s known as a “retimer” could produce the results you’re looking for.
Naps are certainly a great way to rejuvenate yourself if you’re feeling sluggish in the afternoon. Be careful to keep it to a maximum of 20-30 minutes so you don’t fall into a deep sleep, or you’ll wake feeling more groggy than before your nap! Also, be sure not to nap too close to your normal bedtime as it will affect the quality of sleep you get that night.
Finally, don’t think you can make up sleep loss during the week by sleeping in on the weekend! It is not possible to regain that sleep debt; but the good new is, you will sleep deeper the next night after a poor night’s sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene every night for the kind of rejuvenating sleep your body and brain need to thrive.
Take the Quiz
If you or a loved one are struggling with unexplained daytime fatigue or snoring at night, I invite you to take one of my free quizzes to help determine if sleep-disordered breathing (such as sleep apnea) may be the culprit.
Fighting fatigue? Take my sleep-disordered breathing quiz for patients
Does your partner’s snoring keep you awake? Take my quiz for sleep partners
It only takes a few minutes and could be the first step to a better night’s rest and healthier life for you or a loved one!