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Sleeping better to live better
Getting enough sleep is important. Yet, getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep isn’t an easy feat. Too often people don’t realize how harmful lack of sleep can be for the body, or that there’s help available. Bayhealth Primary Care Physician Anita Bapat, MD, explains what causes sleepless nights and what lack of sleep does to the body, and offers tips for getting a good night’s sleep.
"I can't fall asleep.”
The inability to fall asleep is the top complaint of Dr. Bapat’s patients. These patients are typically suffering from anxiety. The stress could stem from a family member falling ill, juggling your children’s school and extracurricular activities, or issues at work, and can be a trigger for long, sleepless nights.
“I can't stay asleep.”
Sometimes staying asleep is the problem. “This too can be driven by anxiety or depression. Something bothering a person during the day could come back at night, making for restless slumber,” she said.
“What can I do to sleep better?”
Lack of sleep can lead to feeling sluggish and an inability to focus. It can also cause poor judgment, including making mistakes at work or falling asleep while driving. If your sleeping pattern is hindering your life, it may be time to consult your primary care physician. “A lot of times people don’t see their doctor because they believe lack of sleeping is a part of their lifestyle and is a passing phase. If it’s hurting your life, don’t wait to get help,” Dr. Bapat says.
While there are sleeping medications available, Dr. Bapat recommends taking the non-pharmaceutical road first. Her tips for sleeping better include:
- Have good sleep hygiene. Fall asleep at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning.
- Cut out stimulation before bed. This includes not watching emotionally charged television shows or movies. Instead listen to calming music or read a book to put your body at ease.
- Exercise at least three hours before bedtime. Waiting until bed to exercise pumps up your body, making it hard to fall asleep.
- Avoid coffee before sleep. An alternative is drinking a warm glass of milk, which Dr. Bapat says will have a calming and soothing effect on your stomach.
Making sleep a priority can lead to a healthier and happier you, but don’t stress over it. “It’s important to put your body at ease, but stressing about not sleeping can make it worse,” Dr. Bapat said. “Learn to let it go if you can’t sleep one night. Your body will compensate for it by making you fall asleep early another night.”
To talk to someone about your sleeping concerns, visit Bayhealth's Find a Physician page or call 1-866-BAY-DOCS.