Trouble sleeping? Why counting sheep doesn’t always work

Losing out on healthy sleep results in more than tiredness

Trouble sleeping? Why counting sheep doesn’t always work

Only 10 percent of Americans prioritize a good night’s rest. Experts say this leads to trouble sleeping for many people which, studies show, results in reduced productivity and declining health.

Inadequate sleep and untreated sleep disorders are associated with an increased risk of:

  • Memory loss
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Other life-altering conditions

What about a sleep study? Learn more and find a Sanford location

Sleep is more than a period of unconsciousness. It’s a complex biological process that helps you process new information, stay healthy and feel rested, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

How to overcome trouble sleeping

Basic practices can help you improve your sleep quality. Try:

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
  • Avoiding caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening.
  • Avoiding nicotine.
  • Exercising regularly, but avoiding it late in the day.
  • Avoiding alcoholic drinks before bed.
  • Avoiding large meals and beverages late at night.
  • Relaxing before bed.
  • Keeping the temperature in your bedroom cool.
  • Eliminating distractions such as noises, bright lights, and a TV, computer or phone in the bedroom.
  • Getting enough sunlight exposure during the day.

Experts also advise avoiding naps after 3 p.m. At night, if you find yourself unable to sleep for 20 minutes, don’t just stay there counting sheep — get up and do something relaxing.

Continued trouble sleeping might indicate something more serious such as insomnia or sleep apnea.

Does trouble sleeping affect your appetite?

Science shows that a loss of sleep can make you eat more. And that doesn’t mean healthful salads and green veggies.

Studies indicate that total sleep deprivation can trigger a reward system in the brain in response to food stimuli. But until recently researchers didn’t know if there was a similar relationship between everyday sleep loss and the brain’s reaction to food.

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For a study published in the journal Sleep, researchers looked at volunteers who entered a nine-day study period with a built-up sleep debt. Under ideal sleep conditions, scientists were able to show two things:

  • Even small amounts of sleep loss can put the “brain at risk for hyperactivation to food triggers in everyday life, which could be a risk factor for obesity and lifestyle diseases.” These include metabolic disorder, the first step toward diabetes.
  • On the flip side, getting the right amount of sleep appears to reduce this hypersensitivity to food stimuli.

Another study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, added work stress to the mix. Researchers found that when people came home after a hard day at work, they were more likely to eat their feelings if they were also sleep-deprived. Simply put, if you don’t get enough sleep, unhealthy food choices may look pretty good to your brain.

No matter how you cut it, getting enough z’s is not only better for focus, but for your waistline, too. What’s considered enough sleep? For most people that’s between seven and eight hours every night.

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Posted In Healthy Living, Pulmonology, Sleep Medicine