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Can’t stay asleep? Try avoiding these missteps

By Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren

Waking up groggy in the morning is more common than you may realize, as many Americans have trouble nodding off and getting quality sleep each night.

Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, told CNN “the novel coronavirus is making sleep more difficult for much of the world.”

Although the coronavirus pandemic seems to have worsened snoozing habits, we’ve had poor sleeping patterns well before its emergence.

A 2016 Consumer Reports survey revealed that on most nights, 27% of more than 4,000 U.S. adults admitted to having trouble falling or staying asleep. The survey also showed that 68% — which is around 164 million Americans — grappled with sleep at least once weekly.

Whether your sleeping recently became inconsistent or you’ve been struggling with getting a good night’s rest for years, here are some mistakes CNN reports you can try to avoid when getting and staying asleep.

Becoming a night owl

If you’ve been burning the midnight oil working on a project or getting things done around the house because there’s just too little time during the day, it could be affecting your sleeping habits.

Being a night owl isn’t always bad, but issues can arise when it starts to be considered a circadian rhythm disorder, according to Verywelll Health.

At nighttime, the circadian rhythm gets in sync with the body, which includes feeling sleepy and awake. For night owls, there is a delay in the timing of this after the sun goes down. This results in delayed sleep phase syndrome, which can lead to chronic insufficient sleep. According to the Keck Medicine of USC, this is linked to cardiovascular disease and poor mental health.

Aside from melatonin, Dasgupta suggested on the school blog that people “do things that are relaxing, like reading a book” to induce sleep on a regular cycle.

“You want to gradually transition into sleep; you don’t want your mind to be stimulated,” he said.

Taking naps

While power naps are good, napping too much can have the opposite of their intended effect which is to help make you more alert.

“Napping for an hour or longer increases your risk of falling into the deep stages of sleep. When this happens, you’ll wake up with something we call ‘sleep inertia’ (that groggy feeling where you don’t even know where you are),” Dr. Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer, a Cleveland, Ohio-based neurologist told Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials. “Then your nap may not even be refreshing. Worse yet, you’ve probably slept off some of your ‘sleep debt.’”

Sleep Foundation says sleep debt is also known as sleep deficit and is the amount of sleep you need and what you actually get. So if you need eight hours of sleep, but only got five, you have a three-hour sleep deficit.

Hitting the snooze button

Although it’s tempting to extend your sleep time a little while longer by hitting “snooze,” doing so can negatively affect how you feel once you’re up and at ‘em.

“The extra sleep that you can get by hitting snooze comes in small chunks and isn’t good quality — and it can actually do you some harm,” the National Sleep Foundation said on Sleep.org. “Since the snooze session doesn’t last long enough for you to finish a complete sleep cycle, you could end up feeling super groggy for the first hour and a half of your day.”