Sleep: It Matters More Than You Might Think
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Published on December 22, 2015

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Sleep: It Matters More Than You Might Think

Life gets busy — especially around the holidays — and there are times when something has to give.

For many, it’s sleep.

While you might think you can make it up on the weekends, or that you’ll just “get by,” a lack of quality sleep can have far-reaching effects. It can negatively impact everything from your mood to your weight.

“It can really affect you head to toe,” said Janell Powell, MD, at Avera Medical Group Internal Medicine Women’s.

“So many people have so much stress — job stress, working full time, parenting. Sleep, exercise and taking care of yourself get sacrificed. But that’s the last thing you should sacrifice,” Powell said.

If you’ve ever been shortchanged on sleep — and really, who hasn’t — the short-term problems will probably sound familiar. Those symptoms include feeling tired and having less energy, not feeling as mentally sharp, and experiencing relationship stress because you may be irritated or anxious.

And if the sleep deficit becomes a habit, you may run into more serious health problems. The list might be enough to make you turn in an hour earlier — or at list skip that additional episode on Netflix.

Long term, you may develop depression or anxiety, or be chronically fatigued. Since your whole body isn’t resting, you may notice more physical complaints, like muscle aches. Your blood pressure also may be higher, and you may become constipated.

If you’re trying to lose weight, a sleep shortage may challenge those efforts. “If you’re tired, you’re not as apt to exercise. It affects your metabolism. It snowballs,” Powell said.

Are you convinced yet? Aim for a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep, which is a good baseline for adults. You may find that you need more sleep as you age. “You maybe were able to get by with five hours. But your body will say, that’s not working any more. That changes with time,” Powell said.

Tips for Better Sleep

  1. First, work on having healthy sleep habits, or “sleep hygiene.” Have a regular sleep pattern for when you go to bed and get up. Make sure the room temperature is not too hot or too cold.
  2. Limit your caffeine use and TV viewing before bed.
  3. Cut off social media and electronics before bed. Turn off your phone or silence the notifications at night.
  4. If you’ve worked on your sleep hygiene and are still having problems falling asleep, there are some over-the-counter options. Melatonin is a natural herb that is safe. Benadryl is also an option; take 1-2 at bedtime. “If those don’t work, talk with your provider about getting a prescription sleep medication,” Powell said.

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