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Posts Tagged ‘better sleep’

a person in bed

The coronavirus pandemic challenged our mental and physical health in a multitude of ways. Over the past two years, authors on our blog have addressed impacts of the pandemic such as grief and loss, anxiety and depression, pandemic paralysis, languishing, isolation and even weight gain (#quarantine15). One health effect we have yet to explore is the “tandemic” of Coronasomnia. Coronasomnia is insomnia that has been exacerbated or caused by the grief, stress and anxiety associated with living in a global pandemic. Dr. Abinav Singh, a sleep medicine physician, calls Coronasomnia a “tandemic”, which he defines as “an epidemic caused by, made worse by, and running in tandem with the pandemic.”

Prior to the pandemic, about one-third of Americans experienced regular sleep deprivation. That number jumped to about 40% during the pandemic. Regardless of whether you have a history of insomnia or whether you experienced sleep troubles for the first time during the pandemic, the good news is that there are steps you can take to improve your sleep.

If you have trouble falling asleep, start by working to improve your sleep hygiene with the following healthy habits that promote sleep:

Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Keep the same bedtimes and waketimes that allow for 7-9 hours of sleep each night and follow them every day, even on weekends.

Avoid long naps. If you take a nap to refresh and re-energize, limit it to no more than 20 or 30 minutes. Anything longer than that could make it harder to fall asleep at night.  

Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, cool and comfortable. A thick blanket, fan or noise machine may help provide comfort, depending on your preferences.

Clear your bedroom of clutter and anything that reminds you of work or that induces stress (a computer, work papers, bills, etc.). Experts recommend we reserve our bedrooms for sleep and sex.

Limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption. Alcohol is a sedative, but it can disrupt sleep and may cause you to wake up early or sleep less restfully. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults of legal drinking age chose not to drink or limit their alcohol intake to one drink a day for women or two per day for men. Similarly, caffeine can disrupt sleep, so make sure to limit caffeine consumption in the afternoon and evening.

Follow a bedtime routine to unwind from the day. Performing the same set of activities at night signals to your brain that it’s time to sleep.

Limit your use of electronics before bed. The blue light from cellphones, tablets and computers can disrupt melatonin, a hormone that is part of our natural sleep cycle. Instead of watching TV or using an electronic device before bed, enjoy an activity like reading, practicing mindfulness, listening to music or a guided meditation.

In addition to the habits above, establishing daily routines and getting outside at least once each day, ideally in the morning, can help reinforce your natural sleep-wake cycle. Finding ways to cope with stress is also important, as stress makes sleep difficult. Exercise, mindfulness practice and taking breaks from the news are all ways to reduce and manage stress. If you have particular trouble clearing your mind before bed, sleep medicine physician Dr. Ilene Rosen recommends trying a ritual where you take 10 minutes an hour or two before bed to write down all the worries on your mind. If desired, you could tear up the paper and throw it away as a symbolic act of dumping the thoughts.

Sources:

American Academy of Sleep Education (2020). Healthy Sleep Habits. https://sleepeducation.org/healthy-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits/

American Medical Association (2020). 6 things doctors wish patients knew about Coronasomnia. https://sleepeducation.org/healthy-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits/

Sleep Foundation (2021). Coronasomnia: Definitions, Symptoms, and Solutions. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/covid-19-and-sleep/coronasomnia

UC Davis Health (2020). COVID-19 is wrecking our sleep with Coronasomnia – tips to fight back. https://health.ucdavis.edu/health-news/newsroom/covid-19-is-wrecking-our-sleep-with-coronasomnia–tips-to-fight-back-/2020/09

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by: Kathy Tutt, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County 

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cartoon image of sleeping moon

I have always struggled with getting enough sleep. I feel like there is so much I want to get done in a day, but I don’t really have the time for. As I become busier with my work schedule, wedding planning, and wanting to spend time with family and friends, I am learning just how important sleep really is.

Sleep helps recharge your body and mind. When you get enough sleep, you should wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day. When there is an inadequate amount of sleep, it causes your brain to function improperly. This will make it more difficult to concentrate and think clearly. When someone is getting less then the amount of sleep needed, it is called sleep deprivation.

Stages of Sleep

It is important to remember that there are four stages of sleep. The first three are NREM (non-rapid eye movement). The final stage is REM sleep( rapid-eye movement).

  • State 1 NREM: This stage marks the transition from wakefulness to sleep and consists of light sleep. This typically lasts several minutes
  • Stage 2 NREM: This stage is considered a deep sleep. This is the longest of the four stages of sleep.
  • Stage 3 NREM: This is the stage that helps you wake up feeling refreshed. Stage 3 NREM is longer at first but decreases through the night.
  • REM: This stage begins 90 minutes after you fall asleep. The duration of the REM stage decreases the older you get. You will eventually spend more time in the NREM stages.

The four stages repeat, in order, throughout the night with each stage lasting around 90-120 minutes. That means you will spend roughly 75%-80% of your sleep in the NREM stages.

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

Different age groups require different amounts of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation provides a chart with the recommended amount of sleep for different ages per day.

Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

Lack of sleep can affect how someone feels and acts. Symptoms vary depending on the person and the seriousness of their sleep deprivation.  Some of the symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • Slowed thinking
  • Reduced attention span
  • Worsened memory
  • Poor/risky decision making
  • Lack of energy
  • Mood changes

Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep

If you have trouble sleeping, try these tips:

  • Get up at the same time each day, even on the weekends
  • Go to bed when you are sleepy
  • Put away electronics 2 hours before bed
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment
  • Limit caffeine
  • Avoid or limit alcohol
  • Stick to a routine with meals, exercise, and other activities

Additional habits that can interfere with your sleep are smoking and naps. Naps interfere with a good night’s sleep if they are longer than 30 minutes. Avoid taking naps in the late afternoon. In some cases, you may want to avoid naps all together.

Resources

Pacheco, D. (2022, March 11). Why Do We Need Sleep?. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/why-do-we-need-sleep

Suni, E. (2022, March 11). Healthy Sleep Tips. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/healthy-sleep-tips

Suni, E. (2022, March 18). Sleep Deprivation . Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-deprivation

Bertisch, S. (2018, November 5). No More Counting Sheep: Proven Behaviors to Help you Sleep. Harvard Healthy Publising. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/no-more-counting-sheep-proven-behaviors-to-help-you-sleep-2018110515313

Written by: Megan Zwick, Program Assistant, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County.

Reviewed by: Amanda Bohlen, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County.

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Does that question cause you some anxiety? Even thinking about it may feel impossible!
Our phones are used for so much these days; banking, shopping, entertainment, keeping in touch, navigating and more. Even my kids share ways their teachers incorporate their phones into their school day with quizzes and classroom research. 

cell phone

As our use of our phones has grown, so has the research suggesting that our phones can impact our health: physically, mentally and emotionally. With this in mind, taking a break from your phone can be a powerful way to improve your health and well-being. The benefits of taking a break from screens are vast and impact many areas of our daily life. Improved mood, better sleep, a healthier work/life balance, being more present in everyday moments and even a more focused driver are all positive benefits from a break. 

Putting down your phone can be easier said than done.  It doesn’t have to be permanently. Just a few small changes in the way phones are used in your daily life can have a big impact. Here are a few to consider:

Remove phones for transitional moments in your day: walking, getting ready in the morning, driving etc.  Instead of allowing your phone to distract you focus on walking from your car into the grocery store.  Be present in the moment. Pay attention to your breathing, what you see, what you smell.

Consider other ways to fill down time: We haven’t always had our phones. What did you do with your downtime before?  Our phones often control or take over our downtime with checking on social media or playing a game.  Think about what you used that downtime for before you started crushing all that candy and try to implement some of those activities or hobbies.  

Put your phone away before bed: The blue light emitted from our phones can impact sleep, making it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep. Our mind needs time to unwind after technology use throughout the day.   Shutting off your phone 30 minutes before bed can help you achieve more restful sleep and help your brain produce the melatonin it needs to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

Find opportunities to explore the real world: Get outside, spend some time in nature.  Focus on building real relationships.  Walk over and have a conversation with a neighbor face to face instead of texting.  Call a friend or make plans that don’t include screens or your phone. 

Put your phone away during conversations:  Studies show that people feel less connected to conversation partners, and found their partners less empathically attuned, when a cell phone was present during the conversation. Having a phone present can be a barrier to a deeper or meaningful conversation. These conversations require trust and undivided attention.   Putting your phone away shows your loved ones that you are listening and focused on them. 

Whether as a temporary breather or an opportunity to create enduring change, there is much to be gained from taking a break from your phone. Screen-Free Week is April 29- May 5. Take the online pledge and you’ll receive support and tips for going screen free.
There is no need to go it alone- consider getting close friends, family, and household members to join you in this effort.

 

Resources:

Commercial-Free Childhood. (2019). Rediscover the joys of life away from screens. Retrieved from https://www.screenfree.org/

Gomes, M. (2018, April). Five Reasons to Take a Break from Screens. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_reasons_to_take_a_break_from_screens

The National Sleep Foundation. (2019). Three ways gadgets are keeping you awake. Retrieved from https://www.sleep.org/articles/ways-technology-affects-sleep/

Written by: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County

Reviewed by: Amanda Bohlen, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County

 

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