Sleep hy­giene: Here’s how to stay on top of those cru­cial, health-help­ing ZZZs.

If you don’t snooze, you lose.

Milwaukee Health - - DEPARTMENTS - By MATT HRODEY

Sleep re­mains a mys­te­ri­ous, poorly un­der­stood process. Is it there to en­er­gize the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem, de-en­er­gize it or al­low a sort of “wash cy­cle” in­volv­ing cere­brospinal fluid to take place? There’s ev­i­dence to sup­port all three of these hy­pothe­ses. What­ever’s hap­pen­ing, it’s im­por­tant, judg­ing not only by how mis­er­able and im­paired a sleep-de­prived per­son rapidly be­comes, but also by sci­en­tific re­search: Peo­ple with sleep dis­or­ders, such as in­som­nia and sleep ap­nea, are more likely to de­velop Alzheimer’s dis­ease, heart dis­ease and di­a­betes.

Per­haps most frus­trat­ing is how lit­tle con­trol we have over sleep. The best one can do is set the stage each night, and hope the sand­man shows up. To get some tips on im­prov­ing your sleep, we talked to a cou­ple lo­cal sleep re­searchers: Christine Ko­vach, a UW-Mil­wau­kee nurs­ing pro­fes­sor and ex­pert in sleep for the el­derly, and Jen­nifer Do­er­ing, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of nurs­ing at UWM who has stud­ied the sleep of post­par­tum moth­ers.

SHOOT FOR STAGE FOUR Dur­ing a typ­i­cal eight-hour slum­ber, the body will cy­cle through four or five sleep cy­cles, and at the end of each is a short span of stage-four sleep, aka “rapid eye move­ment sleep,” where the most vivid dream­ing usu­ally oc­curs. Most sci­en­tists be­lieve that this stage is im­por­tant to brain func­tion. Small in­ter­rup­tions, Do­er­ing says, such as a phone buzzing next to your bed, can in­ter­fere.

LET THERE BE NO LIGHT Bright LCD screens have only got­ten eas­ier and more tempt­ing to carry with you into bed. They can also fore­stall sleep through light exposure, keep­ing parts of your brain tick­ing away. “We're so used to keep­ing our­selves stim­u­lated,” Ko­vach says. She recommends re­duc­ing light 90 min­utes to two hours be­fore ly­ing down to en­cour­age the re­lease of mela­tonin, the sleep hor­mone, in your brain.

DON'T BE­COME A VAM­PIRE Healthy cir­ca­dian rhythms, which un­der­lie sleep, re­quire both exposure to plenty of light dur­ing the day and dark­ness at night. This means that go­ing for a walk dur­ing the af­ter­noon re­ally will help you to sleep later on. Ex­er­cise also helps, but Do­er­ing warns against ex­er­cis­ing too late, be­cause it raises your body tem­per­a­ture, and your body needs to cool it­self when fall­ing asleep.

CRE­ATE THE RIGHT EN­VI­RON­MENT A cool, dark room with a mat­tress in good con­di­tion is all you need. And don't use your bed for non-sleep ac­tiv­i­ties, such as work or eat­ing. “You want your be­d­room to be a sanc­tu­ary for fall­ing asleep,” Do­er­ing says. Ko­vach says that read­ing in bed is OK, us­ing a soft light, as is lis­ten­ing to a book on tape be­fore try­ing to fall asleep.

LIMIT NAP TIME Even when sleep-de­prived, take short naps and try to stick rel­a­tively close to your nor­mal sleep sched­ule, says Ko­vach. This also goes for the el­derly, who tend to rise ear­lier and nap more dur­ing the day. Train­ing the body to fol­low the same sched­ule, day af­ter day, can help tremen­dously. Ko­vach does this so well in her own life that when she trav­els abroad, she finds it hard to ad­just to a dif­fer­ent time zone.

BAN THE BOOZE While a few drinks may help you doze off, al­co­hol is flushed from the body rather quickly, lead­ing to a re­bound of wake­ful­ness and worse sleep. Ko­vach says this has been con­firmed by re­search again and again. To­bacco can have a sim­i­lar ef­fect, as with­drawal kicks in mid­way through a night's snooze.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.