Daylight saving time, or “summer time” as it is known in English, officially ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday. An extra hour of sleep can be a healthy thing for most of us. But it may not be of much help to those who regularly suffer from sleep disorders and disrupted sleep cycles.
New research continues to confirm what sleep experts already know: Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can contribute to obesity and worsen chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and depression. Lack of sleep has short-term effects on alertness and cognitive function. But in the long run, lack of sleep can lead to significant health problems. It’s important to talk to your doctor about any sleep problems you may be having so they can help you find a solution.
“A lot of times you have to probe the patient and ask them what time they go to bed on weekdays and weekends, how long they sleep, and ask questions about the quality of their sleep,” explains Harneet Walia, MD, director of sleep medicine and continuing education at Miami Cardiac. & Vascular Institute. “So basically the symptoms to recognize are daytime sleepiness, fatigue, reduced concentration, inability to work well and so on.”
How can diet and exercise improve sleep habits?
“The first thing we talk about is maintaining good sleep hygiene,” said Dr. Walia. “And a big part of that is diet and exercise. So we often tell people not to eat a heavy dinner too close to bedtime, to avoid alcohol before bed. Because it can interrupt sleep in the second part of the night. Avoid caffeine after a meal because it has a long half-life and can disrupt sleep.”
“Exercise is also beneficial in promoting good sleep. Studies show that people who exercise, especially aerobic exercise, can fall asleep faster and have better sleep quality. We do not advise exercising before going to bed as it can disturb sleep. But diet and exercise can play a good role.”
Tips for healthy sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), taking the following steps can lead to a better night’s sleep and improve your overall health:
- keep a schedule. Maintain the same bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends if possible. This routine will help regulate your internal clock and can help you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.
- Practice a relaxing ritual before bed. A quiet, calming activity such as reading before bed is best if you move away from bright lights to separate your sleep time from activities that may cause you excitement, stress or anxiety. For this reason, computer screens or devices of any size should be avoided immediately before bed.
- disconnect. Turn off TVs and computers, and put away tablets and cell phones two hours before bedtime.
- Avoid napping in the middle of the day, especially in the afternoon. So-called short naps can help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep before bed, cutting out those short naps can help.
- exercise daily. Moderate-intensity exercise is best, according to the American Heart Association, and light exercise is better than no exercise. However, don’t exercise four hours before bed. The first sign that the body is ready for sleep is a drop in body temperature. Exercise increases body temperature.
- Assess your bedroom. Design your sleeping environment so that you can establish the best conditions for sound sleep. Your bedroom should be comfortably cool and free of noise or light that could disturb your sleep.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress with comfortable pillows. This may sound obvious, but it is of the utmost importance. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supports your body. A mattress you may have used for years may have exceeded its useful life – around 9 or 10 years for most high-quality mattresses. Sleeping on comfortable pillows is also very important.
How much should you sleep?
The NSF also provides the following widely accepted recommendations for getting the right amount of sleep:
Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14-17 hours a day.
Babies (4 to 11 months): 12-3 p.m.
Small children (1 to 2 years): 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years old): 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Children of school age (6 to 13): 9-11 am.
Teenagers (14 to 17): 8-10 hours.
Young adults (18 to 25): 7-9 hours.
Adults (26 to 64): 7-9 hours.
Seniors (65 and older): 7-8 hours.