A to Zzz: Sleep Tips for All
Whether you think you’re well-rested or not, you’ll benefit from the following guidance on how to make your snoozing really count. Read on as these local experts spill their A+ advice on getting your ZZZs.
Q: How many hours of sleep do we really need?
A: Generally, about seven to nine hours, or four to five full sleep cycles, which happen every 90-120 minutes depending on the individual. People who sleep less than the recommended hours per night are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, diabetes, and even dementia.
—European Sleep Design, sleepdesign.com
Q: Can people sleep too much?
A: If you’re sleeping longer [than the recommended sleep duration] and you feel unrefreshed upon awakening, it can signify that a potential underlying sleep disorder—such as sleep apnea—is impacting sleep quality.—Robert Dias, MD, neurologist and sleep medicine expert at Mercy Medical Group, dignityhealth.org
Q: How long should it take to fall asleep each night?
A: The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that the average sleep latency, or the time it takes to fall asleep after closing your eyes, is less than 30 minutes. It should also be noted that if it only takes you a few minutes or less to fall asleep, that’s not necessarily a good thing, as it could be a sign of sleep deprivation and should be addressed immediately.—Sherri Hanson, RPSGT, RST, CCSH, sleep care director at California Sleep Solutions, californiasleepsolutions.com
Q: What’s the optimal sleep temperature?
A: Keeping the room cool is key for a good night’s sleep, and many experts say the optimal sleeping temperature is around 65 degrees. Your body temperature fluctuates throughout the day but dips as you become drowsy, reaching its lowest level around 5 a.m. As the morning progresses, your temperature rises. A hot room may disrupt your body’s natural drop, making you more restless during the night. Of course, each of us has our own temperature preferences, so it’s important to experiment with different temperatures to optimize your sleeping environment.—Clarisse Glen, MD, Pulmonary Medicine, Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center, thrive.kaiserpermanente.org
Q: How dark should your bedroom be when you’re sleeping?
A: Your bedroom should be completely dark, which means turning off all electronics, including your phone (I recommend placing it in another room). When it comes to lights and television, a timer can be very helpful.—Chuck Tolbert, RPSGT, owner/operator at Specialized Sleep Diagnostics, specializedsleep.com
Q: How often should you replace your mattress and change your sheets?
A: As a good practice, [you should replace your mattress] about every 10 years or when you feel you’re regularly waking up stiff and sore. This does depend on the type of mattress you choose. If it’s memory foam, polyurethane, or gel foam, expect about three to five years before you start to see wear. Natural materials like latex, cotton, and wool will give you around 8-12 years of consistent performance before seeing comparable wear. As for your sheets, you should wash them as often as you deem necessary. If you sweat a lot, [then wash] more frequently; if not, bi-weekly or monthly, per your preference.—European Sleep Design, sleepdesign.com
Q: How do you keep a person from tossing and turning all night?
A: Tossing and turning in sleep indicates frequent awakening, whether the person is aware of waking up or not. Addressing the underlying cause is the answer. In order to go to sleep and stay asleep, there are two primary requirements: The mind has to switch off and one has to be breathing freely through the nose. Problems with either one of these issues will cause frequent tossing and turning. A busy mind, rumination, anticipation, problem-solving, clock-watching, thinking, and worrying will also result in frequent awakenings. Aside from these, there are other common issues leading to tossing and turning: being too hot or too cold, aches and pains, and the need for frequent urination.—Amer Khan, MD, Sutter Neurologist and Sleep Expert, Medical Director of Clinical Quality for Sutter Independent Physicians (sutterhealth.org) and Founder of Sehatu Sleep, sehatusleep.com
Q: What is an effective nap and how long should it be?
A: Naps can be a great way of renewing and recharging your energy, allowing you to enjoy the latter part of your day and be more efficient and productive. Unfortunately, our work culture doesn’t support the ability to nap. The best nap is taken about eight hours after waking up in the morning, which for most people falls in the middle or late afternoon. Naps should never be longer than 30 minutes in duration, as those can result in grogginess and feeling sluggish rather than energized.—Amer Khan, MD, Sutter Neurologist and Sleep Expert, Medical Director of Clinical Quality for Sutter Independent Physicians (sutterhealth.org) and Founder of Sehatu Sleep, sehatusleep.com
Q: What are some indicators that I might have a sleeping disorder and what do I do about it?
A: Sleeping disorders come in a variety of forms, but typically, you’ll know if you have one if you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or wake up feeling tired despite thinking you had a good night’s rest.
The first thing you should do about this is to talk with a doctor since sleep disorders can be caused by medical issues. They can also be caused by, or exacerbated by, psychological issues like anxiety, depression, and trauma.
If you have trouble with sleep, at the very least you should work on practicing good “sleep hygiene.” Collectively, “sleep hygiene” refers to things you can do to structure better sleep for yourself. There are lots of things you can do to better your sleep, but many of us neglect this part of our health.
Some key aspects of good sleep hygiene are:
-Establishing a consistent sleep schedule.
-Avoiding caffeine after morning.
-Avoiding artificial lights one to two hours before bed.
-Only using your bed for sleep.
—Joe Borders, MFT, is a therapist with offices in Roseville and Sacramento. joeborders.com
By Kourtney Jason
Unusual Tips to Fall Asleep
Tighten those muscles.
While laying in bed, begin to squeeze your toes tight and then relax. Work your way up your calves, thighs, etc. until your scalp.
Warm feet (and hands) will enable you to fall asleep faster due to the shift in blood flow to your extremities, cooling your body down and lulling it into sleep.
Wash your face.
Washing your face with cold water lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn—you guessed it—helps you relax and fall asleep.
Rewind your day.
Go through all of the day’s events backwards, starting with the last thing you did before getting into bed all the way to the first thing that morning. This form of “storytelling” is relaxing for the brain.
Listen to white noise.
Use a white noise machine or app to drown out any ambient sounds that might disturb your sleep, such as traffic sounds, snoring, barking dogs, etc.