For most people, a good night’s sleep is the first thing they give up when life gets too demanding. But according to experts, sacrificing a restful sleep not only sabotages your performance the next day, it’s also harmful to your health.
“You have to pay as much attention to your sleep as you do to eating a nutritious diet,” says Joyce Walsleben, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine. “Sleep deprivation is a serious medical risk, but few people are aware of that.”
A wave of studies have shown the undeniable links between insufficient sleep and obesity, as well as other related conditions like hypertension, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, experts say that these conditions can be reversed with adequate restful sleep. Taking cues from studies about what factors deprive us of quality shut-eye, they have come up with methods that can help you get the rest you need. Below you’ll find a lineup of the most sneaky sleep robbers and what you can about them.
3) Thinking too much.
According to assistant professor of psychiatry at the Insomnia and Sleep Research program at Duke University Medical Center Colleen E. Carney, PhD, the main reason you sometimes obsess over an argument with your significant other or your tricky work project while you’re trying to fall asleep is that you’re unable to refocus your thinking at the edge of slumber the same way you can when you’re alert. “People have little control over their thoughts, because they may be going in and out of a light stage of sleep, even though they think they’re awake,” Carney says.
How to fix it: When you’re feeling edgy, get out of bed and go to another part of your house (leave the lights off, though). Doing this will help you get rid of anxious thoughts.
Called stimulus control, this well-studied strategy prevents you from associating your bedroom with anxiety. Another thing you can do is to set a “worry time” early in the evening. You can spend this time thinking only of your pressing concerns along with possible solutions for each. Make sure that you do this a few hours before going to bed.
2) Sleeping in.
Staying up late on some nights then making up for it the next day by having extra sleeping time throws off your internal body clock, which is controlled by a cluster of nerve cells inside the brain that also manage body temperature and appetite, says medical director of Sleep Health Centers in Brighton, MA, and author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep Lawrence Epstein, MD. By the time Sunday comes around, your body’s already been reprogrammed to stay up past your sleeping time, resulting in you feeling like a zombie on Monday morning.
How to fix it: In case you’ve been up late, never sleep in more than an hour longer than usual, Epstein advises. If you want to make up for lost sleep time, you can take an afternoon nap. Just make sure that your daytime snooze doesn’t take more than 30 minutes as extended naps during the day can keep you awake at night.
1) A snoring spouse.
Some people’s snores can reach up to 90 decibels (about as loud as a running blender). Even if you somehow manage to sleep, the snoring sounds will likely come and go throughout the night, causing you to wake up during your REM sleep, the most restful sleep.
How to fix it: You can ask your partner to sleep on his/her side instead of his/her back as this reduces snoring. You can also ask him/her to try the FDA-approved Sona pillow, a specially designed pillow which tilts your head and open your airways during sleep. You can also try wearing earplugs if the Sona pillow doesn’t do it for you.