Health & Medicine

Feeling sleepy? How getting a good night’s rest can boost your health

Alexander Tzouanakis
Alexander Tzouanakis

Have you already strayed from some of your New Year’s resolutions? If you vowed to lose weight, exercise and just generally improve your health, let me offer a way to help you reach those goals — improve your sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation’s latest findings revealed that more than four in 10 Americans reported that their daily activities were significantly impacted by poor or insufficient sleep at least once during the past seven days.

There are compelling reasons to get more and better sleep. Shortage of sleep is associated with an increased appetite (particularly for junk food), feelings of fatigue (hard to work up the will to exercise when you’re tired) as well as a higher risk of obesity, diabetes and heart problems.

It’s tough to just suddenly sleep one to two more hours every single day. You probably need to ease yourself into it with a slightly earlier bedtime each night. If you go to bed one minute earlier every night for two months, you will earn an extra hour of sleep fairly painlessly.

Limit the use of TVs, tablets, smartphones and other electronic devices before going to bed. The artificial blue light that’s emitted by these devices delays your body’s internal clock, suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep.

Try to get daily exercise, but not within four hours of bedtime. Avoid alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime. Try to wind down from whatever activities you were doing at least 30 minutes before bedtime so that your body adjusts to a more relaxed mode.

If you feel you are getting enough hours of sleep but still remain excessively sleepy or fatigued, discuss your symptoms with your doctor. The diagnosis and treatment of a sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia or restless leg syndrome, may be needed to allow you to feel fully rested and more capable of pursuing those New Year’s resolutions.

Dr. Alexander Tzouanakis, a pulmonologist with Baptist Health Medical Group Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, is a board-certified sleep specialist on the staff of the Baptist Health Lexington Sleep Center.