Still counting sheep after 100?

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With March designated as National Sleep Awareness Month, it’s all about raising awareness concerned with sleep, and making sure you’re getting enough of it.

Most Americans don’t know how much sleep they actually should be getting. Many experts say that between seven and eight hours of sleep each night is ideal; however, six hours of deep refreshing sleep is more beneficial than eight hours of light interrupted sleep.

Unfortunately, there are many factors that can lead to interrupted sleep, such as insomnia, stress, pain and snoring. In many cases, better sleep can be achieved through changes to our lifestyle and the way we think about things. To have a more restful sleep and to fall asleep faster, follow these tips:

  • Don’t drink caffeine
  • Stick to a sleep schedule—even on weekends
  • Don’t exercise at least three hours before bed
  • Take a warm bath
  • Create a bedtime ritual—this will tell your mind that it’s time to wind down for the day
  • Limit daytime naps
  • Include physical activities in your daily routine

It is typical for everyone to have a night of interrupted sleep here and there, but getting inadequate sleep on a regular basis can reduce concentration, cause mood swings, cause irritability, increase stress and weaken the immune system.

Many people don’t take sleep seriously, viewing it as just the body’s way of shutting off until morning. However, sleep is actually a complicated process that helps maintain your health and helps you feel rested for the following day.

Sleep is divided into four stages—with the amount of time spent in each stage of sleep varying by cycle, with a deeper sleep happening earlier in the night and a more dreaming sleep happening during the second half of the night.

  • Stage One: This is the earliest stage of sleep. It is easy for you to be awakened, muscles begin to relax and may twitch and you begin slow eye movements.
  • Stage Two: This stage is our “average” sleep. It isn’t too deep and not too light. It’s actually the stage where you spend about half of the night. During this stage your body temperature drops, breathing and heart rate regulate, you lose sense of your surroundings and your blood pressure slows down.
  • Stage Three: During this stage energy is restored, hormones are released, brain is actively dreaming and we have even slower brain waves. This is our deepest sleep for the night.
  • REM: We spend about 20 percent of the night in the stage. During this stage eyes dart rapidly, muscles are paralyzed and we have irregular breathing and heart rate. This stage is where we see vivid and imaginative dreams.

Just like most things, sleep cycles aren’t an exact science, and may vary from one person to the next. For more information about National Sleep Awareness month, or if you feel that you or someone you know isn’t getting a good night’s sleep, contact Dr. Schumacher, M.D., at (614) 299-9909 to set up an appointment.