As our clocks fall back to standard time, sleep experts suggest the time change offers an opportunity to reset sleep patterns to make sure we get the most restful, healthy sleep possible.
For some perspective, sleep deprived individuals are at greater risk of accidental injury, and drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving.
Common symptoms of inadequate sleep include difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, daytime sleepiness, snoring, trouble breathing and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping.
"Most sleep problems are treatable," advises Dr. Amanda Avellone, a pulmonologist and medical director of Mercy’s Sleep Center in Crystal City, Mo. "A sleep study can help determine if common symptoms are a result of bad habits or a sleep disorder."
Good sleep habits may help provide restful nights and include:
Make ample sleep a priority. A good night’s sleep should be a regular part of your daily schedule.
Establish a bedtime and stick to it. A consistent sleep schedule will help you feel less tired because your body stays in sync.
Embrace good sleep habits that include a nightly routine such as 15 to 30 minutes of relaxing, quiet activities before bedtime.
Bedrooms should be quiet and comfortable places kept dark at night.
Caffeine and high-sugar content food or drinks should be limited or avoided completely, especially from late afternoon on.
No pills, vitamins or drinks can replace good sleep.
Sleep apnea is a significant health risk if left untreated. The condition is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. People with the sleep disorder awaken frequently during the night gasping for breath.
The resulting interrupted sleep can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness which, in turn, can cause symptoms of depression, irritability, learning and memory difficulties. Sleep apnea contributes to an increased risk for high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
"The impact of our sleep habits goes beyond our health," Dr. Avellone says. "There are many daytime consequences of a bad night's sleep. Lack of sleep impairs work performance, increases the risk for injuries and affects our mood and behavior."