May is Better Sleep Month. Here are some quick tips and tricks if you suffer from a sleepless night.
“Guidelines for healthy sleep are very simple: exercise regularly, keep a healthy diet and maintain a regular sleep time schedule,” says Joshua Barzilai, DO, (pictured left) a sleep medicine specialist at Mercy Health – Youngstown. “Think of your sleep like charging your cell phone. If you don’t charge your cell phone enough (don’t sleep enough), it stops working (feeling tired or sleepy).”
Despite how simple these principles may be, they can be hard to follow.
“First, take stock of your sleep environment,” Carmela Kiraly, MD, (pictured right) another sleep medicine specialist at Mercy Health – Youngstown, suggests. “I always recommend to my patients a dark, quiet, cool room as the best for sleep. For those who need noise, I advise an alternative to keeping the television on.”
Dr. Kiraly adds that it’s better to have an audio-only source of background noise, and one that provides a consistent stream of noise. Television audio is constantly changing in volume and quality, and the light from television is disruptive to the sleep environment. Non-stimulating noise, like that generated by white noise machines or soothing audio clips, can provide low volume background noise.
When it comes to the amount of time needed to sleep, both Dr. Kiraly and Dr. Barzilai say the standard is seven to eight hours per night.
“This may mean cutting back on the time you spend binge watching television or scrolling through social media on your phone,” says Dr. Kiraly.
“It is best to avoid blue light technology in the hour or so before bedtime anyway, as it suppresses the melatonin rise that helps us to feel drowsy and fall asleep,” Dr. Barzilai adds.
If you are someone that struggles with falling asleep at the beginning of the night or staying asleep during the night, avoid drinking caffeine within eight hours of bedtime. The same holds true for nicotine products, which also contain stimulant properties. Cigarettes are the first habit to quit if you are having difficulty sleeping.
Still struggling with sleep despite maintaining good sleep habits?
You may benefit from further evaluation and consideration for behavioral techniques. Many people are not aware that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is the first-line recommended treatment for psychophysiological insomnia, the most common type of insomnia.
Additionally, if you experience snoring, waking up breathless, pauses in breathing during sleep, consistent morning headaches, unrefreshing sleep and poor energy during the day, it would be helpful to discuss the need for further evaluation with your primary care provider. You may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.
“Don’t be scared of a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. It is more common than you think,” says Dr. Kiraly. “…with effective treatment, we see patients whose quality of life improves drastically, their overall health improves too.”
The technology for both of these sleep issues has evolved greatly and offers a more conducive experience than ever before. This includes an increased variety of and more comfortable masks as well as Bluetooth-enabled devices with efficacy-tracking data and enhanced comfort features.
There is also an alternative, fast-emerging, second-line treatment: inspire therapy, or hypoglossal nerve stimulator therapy. This implanted device works by moving your tongue out of the airway during sleep, allowing you to breathe more easily and ultimately, sleep better. Fun fact, inspire implantation and activation are now being offered through the ENT and sleep medicine practices at Mercy Health – Youngstown.
Both Dr. Kiraly and Dr. Barzilai stress the simplest and smallest changes first to help jump start a restful night. However, if the lack of sleep is disrupting your daily routine, it may be time to speak with your provider or a sleep medicine specialist.
Learn more about the sleep medicine services we offer at Mercy Health.