Prioritize Sleep

An occasional sleepless night is common, but if you are regularly fatigued, prioritize getting more sleep for the sake of your physical, cognitive and emotional health.

Reports abound about the prevalence and dangers of sleep deprivation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite research showing that inadequate sleep is linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has concluded that one in five serious injuries from a motor vehicle crash is due to exhausted drivers. Fatigue also is detrimental to cognitive functioning and mood.

Give yourself the opportunity to sleep 7-8 hours per night. Create a routine to wind down at the end of your day. If you get caught up in evening activities, try setting an alarm to go to bed at a reasonable time. Light and temperature signal your body’s waking and sleep cycles, so avoid electronic screens (TV, computers and e-readers) an hour before going to sleep and make sure your bedroom is dark and cool.

If your sleep is disrupted or not restorative, investigate common sleep problems, including restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. If your partner complains that you snore or make snorting or gasping sounds during the night, this can be a sign of sleep apnea and should be discussed with a doctor.

Sleeping medications can be warranted if insomnia is causing dangerous or disruptive fatigue. However, keep in mind that the 7-8 hour recommendation doesn’t apply to everyone. Researchers have even found a rare genetic mutation that results in some people needing much less sleep. The amount of sleep that’s right for you can be determined by how you feel the next day. If you feel energetic throughout the day without needing caffeine, then you’re probably getting enough sleep.

Enjoy the extra hour of sleep offered by tonight’s shift to daylight savings time. And, let the dark evenings to come be a reminder to hit the sack earlier and take care of your body and brain by regularly getting enough sleep.

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