Better Sleep, Better Health

As a physician specializing in weight management, I always take a sleep history from my new patients.

The quality and amount of daily sleep have emerged as major factors in health and weight management.

In fact, a new research study found that increasing the number of hours slept could help decrease food intake and weight.

Sleep deprivation, defined as not getting adequate sleep (less than 7 hours per night for adults), may lead to fatigue, poor concentration, lack of energy and weight gain.

Insufficient sleep is also a risk factor for several medical problems, including heart disease and diabetes.

Poor sleep can quickly sap your energy the next day, making it harder to follow healthy self-care practices like boosting one’s activity level and choosing healthy foods.

If you’re struggling with poor sleep and the low energy it causes, here are some National Sleep Foundation tips to help you:

1-Improve Your Sleep Environment

People sleep best in a place that is cool, between 60-67 degrees.

Blackout shades on your windows, eye masks, ear plugs or using white noise appliances can also keep your room dark and drown out noises.

2-Establish a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Try following a calming routine before bed such as taking a warm bath or shower, doing stretches, practicing meditation or reading a book.

It’s also helpful not to have emotionally-charged conversations in the hours leading up to bedtime.

3-Avoid Stimulants

Avoid stimulants, such as alcohol and nicotine, close to bedtime.

Caffeine-containing foods, beverages and medications found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, some sodas and cold or pain medications, can also disrupt sleep.

If heavy, spicy meals or rich desserts trigger indigestion or heartburn, avoid these as they can also disrupt sleep.

4-Create a Healthier Napping Habit

If you have trouble sleeping, avoid napping later in the day.

Though taking a short, power nap for 20-30 minutes can be restorative, taking naps closer to bedtime can do the opposite and interrupt sleep.

5-Get Expert Help

If you are still having trouble getting enough hours of restful sleep or have symptoms of a sleep disorder (snoring, gasping, difficulty breathing, leg cramps, excessive sleepiness), talk to your primary care provider or a sleep specialist.

Some sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, can affect people who are overweight.

If my patients have signs or symptoms of a sleep disorder, I often refer them to a sleep specialist for further investigation which may involve a sleep study.

Remember that sleep is restorative, especially during stressful times.

Improving your sleep habits can help you better manage stress also.


Robert Kushner, MD


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