Springfield sleep expert: 6 ways to improve your sleep

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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How much sleep do you need each night? Here are the recommended guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your overall short-term and long-term health and the health of your child or adolescent. Although most of us enjoy sleeping — or at least not being tired — we don’t always set ourselves up to sleep well. Here are a few simple things that can significantly increase sleep time and sleep quality.

1. Make sleep a priority. Make time for the recommended amount of sleep and keep to a routine sleep schedule with the same bedtime and wake time as much as possible throughout the week. Create a bedtime ritual to help you wind down an hour prior to attempting to sleep. Taking a warm shower or bath, having a warm glass of milk, journaling, meditation, stretching, listening to calming music — any activity that helps you separate sleep from other things that cause stress, anxiety or excitement, which can prolong falling asleep or sleeping soundly.

2. Create a space for sleep. Make your bedroom as favorable to sleep as possible. A comfortable, allergen-free mattress and pillows in a cool, dark and quiet room encourage falling and staying sleep. Limit activities in your bed to sleep, relaxation, or cuddle time. Ban electronics such as TVs, cell phones, computers, iPods and e-readers or establish a cut off for use of electronic devices at least one hour prior to bedtime as research shows they delay falling asleep and can wake you repeatedly during the night. Keep pets and noisy bed partners out of the bed when sleeping; they can create significant sleep disruption, too.

3. Avoid alcohol, smoking, caffeine and heavy meals before bed. While all of these may initially help you relax or ease stress and anxiety, the way your body processes them can cause discomfort, increase sleep disruption and shorten sleep times later in your sleep cycle.

4. Don't rely on weekends or days off to catch up sleep. Many people mistakenly believe they can "make up" for not sleeping well for several days by sleeping in on Saturday or Sunday. However, this isn't usually realistic for actually catching up on sleep loss. For example, if you only get 6 hours of sleep per night during the work week, you will have 10 hours of sleep debt at the end of the week. In order to truly catch up on sleep, you would have to sleep 18 hours on Saturday just to achieve minimum sleep recommendations.

5. See a sleep professional. If your attempts to sleep often fail, your sleep is consistently limited and fragmented, you sleep much less or much more than the recommended amount, or you have behaviors in your sleep such as snoring, stopping breathing, gasping, kicking or flailing, sleep eating, sleep walking, bed-wetting or any other unusual sleep behavior, consult your physician and request to see a sleep specialist. There are currently more than 80 classified sleep disorders and you may be one of the millions of Americans who have one.

6. Seek more information from qualified sources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov), the National Sleep Foundation (www.sleepfoundation.org) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (healthychildren.org) provide a wealth of information about the importance of healthy sleep, tips for better sleep and sleep disorders online.

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