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May is Better Sleep Month

By Charles J. Abate, MD FCCP | Sleep Medicine, Pulmonology, Internal Medicine, & Critical Care

Better Sleep Month was established by the Better Sleep Council in May of 1985 to recognize the importance of sleep in our lives.  Good sleep is often an overlooked priority in our fast paced lives, but, as with healthy diet and exercise, is crucial to our physical, emotional, and mental health.  The aim of Better Sleep Month is to encourage people to establish better sleep patterns.  Many experts believe that 7 to 8 hours of rest at night is optimal, however, the quality of sleep during those hours is just as important.

More than a quarter of the U.S. population doesn’t get enough sleep, and nearly 10% experience chronic insomnia.  Sleep deprivation has become so prevalent that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify it as a public health epidemic.  Inadequate sleep can lead to health problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression, all of which result in higher health care costs. The consequences of lack of sleep in the workplace include a decline in quality of work, judgment, and concentration.  It is estimated that poor sleep costs the US businesses about $150 billion per year through absenteeism and lost productivity. Other consequences of poor sleep include reduced concentration, mood swings, irritability, stress, and a weakened immune system.  In severe cases, inadequate sleep may be linked to serious conditions including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome.  Evaluation by a suitable health professional should be sought if any of these conditions are being considered.

There are a number of behaviors that we all can follow to obtain a better night’s sleep. 

  • A healthy lifestyle consisting of exercise and a healthy diet can contribute towards better sleep.
  • Try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day including weekends.
  • Develop a sleep ritual by doing the same things each night just before bed including relaxing activities.  A routine cues the body to settle down for the night.
  • Unwind early in the evening so that worries and distractions don’t keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Create a restful sleep environment by keeping the bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Keep all electronics out of the bedroom including televisions, laptops, and smartphones.
  • Cut down on caffeine, big meals at night and avoid alcohol before bed.

If you’re sleeping as much as you need, but are still experiencing lethargy during the day, consult your health care professional to assess whether there may be a medical condition interfering with the quality of your sleep.