Sabrina Magid-Katz, DMD
We all know that sleep is important, but do you know why? And did you know that not all sleep qualifies as “restful”? Quality, restful sleep — in the right conditions and in the right amounts — is not just important, it’s crucial to good health. Since March is National Sleep Awareness Month, we think this is a good time to give you a sleep primer.
“Sleep is key for overall health and well-being,” says Sabrina Magid-Katz, DMD, a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine who practices general dentistry, and also screens for and treats obstructive sleep apnea, at Advanced Dentistry of Westchester in Harrison. “Sleep is a time for your body to heal and repair itself, both physically and mentally. The long-term consequences of inefficient or poor-quality sleep can be serious. Health effects can include heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, poor memory, and stroke.”
Here, Magid-Katz, who also lectures to dental societies about screening for sleep apnea, shares some of her tips for getting a restful, productive sleep.
1. Nix the Bright Electronics.
Dim your cell phone and turn it over on your night table, particularly if you frequently get texts and alerts that light up your phone throughout the night. The light from your cell phone, laptop, tablet, and other electronics can disrupt sleep.
2. Don’t Eat Too Much Right Before Bedtime.
A full stomach keeps your body working instead of sleeping. Try not to eat, especially sugar and dairy, right before bed. Carbohydrates can cause spikes in blood sugar, change the release of sleep-inducing hormones, and cause more arousals that inhibit deep sleep. Dairy makes many people produce more mucous and get congested, which gives them less space to breathe, also interrupting the sleep pattern.
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3. Skip the Nightcap.
Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it will be an unproductive sleep and leave you tired in the morning. “Among other things, alcohol can worsen sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where the jaw and soft tissue block the airway. Breathing stops for a period of time until the person wakes up just enough to move the muscles and breath again. This may happen every other minute without a person remembering in the morning. These mini-arousals disrupt the sleep cycle so that the deep and reparative stages are not reached.
4. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule.
Create a sleep routine that will help your body adapt to knowing when it is time for sleep. Don’t think you can catch up on weekends; your body needs a certain amount of sleep per night, not in total.
5. Check Your Bedroom Temperature.
The ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 68 degrees. Any less and you’ll be chilled. Any more and you’ll be hot.
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Exercise is crucial in helping your body get a good night’s rest, but no sooner than two hours before going to bed.
7. Sleep in the Proper Position.
Finding a comfortable sleep position is important. But if you are prone to sleep apnea, you may find that your condition is worse when lying on your back. This is because the jaw and soft tissue falls to the back of the throat, cutting off the airway. At-home sleep tests can be done to determine if your condition worsened by your sleep position. If so, a device can be worn (or a tennis ball sewed into pajamas) to keep you on your side.
8. Get the Right Amount of Sleep.
Everyone is a bit different as to how much sleep they need to function at their best. Recommendations change with age, but the average adult needs seven to nine hours per day. Allow yourself plenty of time and find what works best for you.
9. Get a sleep study.
If you snore or gasp while sleeping and have difficulty controlling your blood pressure, reflux, or blood sugar, you’re a prime target for a sleep study. Sleep studies can be done in a lab or even in the comfort of your own home. You may have a sleep disorder and not know it.