Feeling Tired? Try This

Feeling Tired? Try This

Hang onto your coffee mugs, North Americans. You lose 191 million hours of sleep on the first workday of Daylight Savings Time. Every year when clocks across the U.S. and Canada “spring forward,” most of you are left longing for more -- and better -- z-z-z’s. Quality sleep can make you look years younger and feel less grumpy, protect you against weight gain, depression, heart disease and diabetes. Plus, research suggests, good sleep can help prevent brittle bones and serious digestive system problems.

Unfortunately, a whopping 50-70 million of you don’t get enough deep, refreshing sleep. You’re up late working, tweeting, watching The Tonight Show, opening a box of Girl Scout Cookies…and often, doing that all at the same time. As a result, your body clock gets discombobulated and that makes levels of the stress hormone cortisol and the feed-me hormone ghrelin rise; production of blood sugar-controlling insulin gets messed up. As a result, you gain weight and may see your blood pressure and blood sugar rise. You become more vulnerable to infections because your immune system takes a hit too. One study from Oregon Health and Science University suggests the systems that erode and then rebuild your bones get thrown out of whack, so there’s more tearing-down and less reconstruction. And research from Massachusetts General Hospital and Rush University Medical Center has found that getting less than 5-6 hours of shut-eye on a regular basis increases risk for flare-ups of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Sometimes, it’s wise to start your quest for better sleep at your doctor’s office. Make an appointment if you have severe or long-standing insomnia or signs of obstructive sleep apnea (like extreme daytime tiredness or a partner’s report that you snort and gasp for breath at night.) Otherwise, try these better-sleep strategies.

Clean up your sleep routine. Good sleep hygiene tells your mind and body it’s time to sleep. We recommend: No coffee within three hours and no exercise within two hours of bedtime. Keep your bedroom cool and dark at night. No TV, computers or smart phone before bed (the blue light resets your brain to morning time!). And, of course, make time for intimacy.

Skip the nightcap. A drink at bedtime can help you fall asleep faster, but as your body processes it, your restorative stages of sleep are dinged. You’ll feel drowsier in the morning and a study from Australia’s University of Melbourne suggests you may have trouble with memory and sharp thinking, too.

Kick pets off your bed. A Mayo Clinic study reported one-in-ten pet owners had their sleep disturbed by their animals. Cats and dogs snored, whimpered, wandered and begged to go outside. If possible, have them sleep in their own cage or space and if they keep you up, keep them out of the bedroom.

Eat healthy fats. Say yes to fish, like salmon, wild trout and sardines, or 900mg of algal-based DHA daily. They’re all rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is key for brain function. In one British study, getting plenty of these beneficial fats every day was associated with longer, deeper sleep. Could be because omega-3 levels are linked with healthy levels of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin.

Take a power nap. In a French study, stress hormone levels rose and a protein associated with strong immunity fell in sleep-deprived people. But those who caught a 30-minute catnap found immune functions restored and stress hormone levels returned to normal. Nap early (before 5 p.m.) so your bonus snoozing doesn’t interfere with nightly sleep.

Still not sleeping? Try CBT-I. That’s short for cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, a short course of therapy aimed at retraining your mind and body for great sleep. Studies show it works better than a sleeping pill. Find a CBT-I therapist through the websites of the American Board of Sleep Medicine or the Society for Behavioral Sleep Medicine.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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