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National Sleep Week

This week is Sleep Awareness Week which spotlights the importance of sleep in our daily lives and encourages everyone to learn about habits, practices, and routines that improve our sleep quality and overall health. It probably won’t come as a surprise that the average U.S. adult feels tired during the day at least 3 out of 7 days each week. More than a 25% of us feel tired 5-7 days a week. Some attribute their drowsiness to not getting enough sleep, while others claim poor sleep quality is to blame. And stress, even when you are sleeping enough, can contribute to fatigue as well. As a physician, there are tons of reasons to be tired!


Even though you may not be able to add another 2-3 hours in your day, you can make an effort to prioritize sleep over social media, scrolling through the internet, or watching TV. Here are some important principles of sleep hygiene to keep in mind:


–              Tryptophan which is built from dietary proteins aids sleepiness. Best nighttime snacks are ones that contain both a carbohydrate and protein (like cereal and milk).

–              A diet low in fiber and high in saturated fats decrease the amount of deep, slow-wave sleep. Too much sugar results in more midnight wake-ups. Alcohol disrupts sleep architecture so, even if you go to bed quicker, there are more nighttime arousals and less total sleep. A diet high in fiber and low in added sugars help you drift off fast and you may sleep as many 2 extra hours of sleep per week by decreasing sleep onset.

–              Caffeine lasts 5-6 hours so CUT OUT the early afternoon coffee or try going decaf.

–              Maintain a comfortable bedroom temperature

–              Minimize exposure to noise and natural light while you sleep (consider white noise makers and blackout curtains/eye covers)

–              Use a comfortable mattress, supportive pillow, and breathable sheets

–              Melatonin helps circadian rhythm regulation which can be used as a nighttime sleep aid on occasion. Daily light exposure also modulates circadian rhythm. When you are post-call or going home from night float, WEAR SUNGLASSES. Even brief exposure to bright sunlight will make it hard to take that morning nap.

–              Blue light from tablets, computers, phones, and TV reset your melatonin levels. WEAR ORANGE GLASSES if using computers at night. Here is a cheap (but not so attractive) pair:

–              Sleep improves your cognitive ability. For example, sleep improves split second decisions by 4%. Napping after learning a new task or content facilitates transfer of new skills to more permanent regions of the brain. It also helps clear out amyloid plaques!

–              Good sleep makes you less hungry. Sleeping regulates ghrelin (makes you hungry) and leptin (makes you feel full). You also end up craving more carbohydrates. This is part of the reason people who are sleep-deprived often gain weight.

–              It doesn’t matter when you hit the gym. People who work out regularly sleep better and longer than those who don’t.

–              You will be happier!!!

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