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Monday, March 12, 2018

3 Surprising Reasons You’re Getting a Bad Night’s Sleep

When it comes to predicting positive health outcomes, few factors play as important of a role as regular, quality sleep. Not only do your body and brain need the frequent rest to re-energize for the following day, but the hours in which you sleep are actually full of all types of functions - your hormone levels are regulated, your brain cells go on a clean-up duty eliminating toxins, and your muscles and other soft tissues repair themselves.

If you’re not having so much trouble falling asleep, but rather noticing that you wake up frequently during the night or experience daytime sleepiness the next day, you may not be getting the high-quality sleep you need. Check out these 3 surprising potential reasons you’re getting a bad night’s sleep (and what to do about it):

Acid Reflux
Are you eating late meals and experiencing heartburn when you head to bed? If you are one of the millions living with frequent acid reflux flare-ups (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD), getting quality sleep each night could be a tough uphill battle. In addition to heartburn, you may experience chest pain, the feeling you have a lump in your throat, food or sour liquid regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, and even chronic cough.

The bad news? A 2012 study found that it’s not just GERD that contributes to poor sleep, but vice versa too; poor sleep is a contributing risk factor for GERD. While this vicious cycle might seem endless, there are a few ways to improve your sleep quality and duration. If you have trouble sleeping because of heartburn:
  • Use a wedge pillow or place bed risers under the head of your bed to raise your head and chest above stomach level
  • Avoiding eating 2 to 3 hours before you go to sleep
  • Don’t lie down right after a meal
  • Take helpful medicines like antacids or doctor-prescribed H-2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors as directed
Smartphone Use
You’ve likely heard the term “blue light” thrown around when referring to digital device exposure. Light from the blue side of the spectrum is what most digital devices emit because it keeps your screen the most visible in both dark and super sunny environments. That blue light, however, has been linked in multiple studies to a reduction in melatonin production in the brain.

Melatonin is a hormone responsible for maintaining your body’s sleep and wake cycles, and it’s what your body releases to tell you it is time to go to sleep at night. Exposure to blue light via constant smartphone, laptop, and tablet use can actually suppress that release of melatonin and shift your circadian rhythm according to Harvard researchers. Experts recommend reducing your risk for this digital use side effect by:
  • Avoiding looking at bright screens 2 to 3 hours before bedtime
  • Switching your digital device to “Night shift” mode in the settings
  • Using eyewear with blue-blocking technology during the day (or if you work at night)
  • Exposing yourself to lots of sunlight through the day to keep your natural body clock in check
Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders
Did you know that your risk for sleep-related breathing disorders (SRBD) goes up as you age? In fact, one 2010 study even found that over 50% of participating seniors (healthy 68-year-old adults) showed signs of SRBD. As an umbrella term, SRBD covers everything from chronic snoring to sleep apnea, or frequent pauses in breathing during sleep.

Even if you don’t feel excessively tired following a night’s sleep, you may still be increasing your risk for long-term complications due to breathing abnormalities while you sleep. Sleep apnea has been linked to higher mortality, stroke, and cancer rates.

If you are concerned about your sleep quality, or your spouse or partner has pointed out your chronic snoring or witnessed your breathing stopping and starting while you sleep, schedule an appointment with your doctor. They may recommend you take an objective sleep test (either at home with a test kit or in a lab), or start you off with basic lifestyle changes like avoiding alcohol or sedatives before bed.

The quality of sleep you get during the night impacts everything from your energy levels to your memory and even your ability to learn new information the following day. Don’t let a preventable or treatable condition negatively influence your sleep - your very health relies on it!

This is a guest blog entry.

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