Way of life
May 3, 2023 | 6:58 p.m.
Experts delve into sleep issues and how to fix them.
Experts say you should aim for six to eight hours of quality rest per night, but that’s often easier said than done.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, approximately 50 to 70 million people in the United States suffer from sleep disorders.
And not sleeping well can have serious consequences.
“(Extreme) sleep deprivation (can) be harmful to your health,” Dr. Neomi Shah, director of the sleep medicine program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told The Post. “We worry about accidents, traffic accidents, accidents at work or accidents at home if you are sleep deprived.”
Some sufferers turn to over-the-counter medications, such as melatonin, CBD or NyQuil, but experts warn they should only be used as a temporary fix.
Getting to the root of the sleep problem is key to overcoming it.
Here, experts outline four common sleep problems and how to combat them.
i can’t fall asleep
The problem: You have the best intention for a long night of zzz’s, but you just can’t turn off.
The solution: Sometimes this problem just hits the hay too soon.
“Humans have a ‘very basic’ system in the brain that regulates when we sleep and when we wake up,” said Dr. Emmanuel Pendant, associate professor of neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “The best habit really is to go to bed when you’re sleepy.”
Trying to force yourself to sleep can also cause anxiety and make things worse.
Pendant recommends creating a relaxation routine that you follow every night to decompress and prepare for the zzzs. Dim the lights and put your phone down.
“We need to be in a state of relaxation,” he said. “No activity (and) no deliberate thought on any matter related to our life.”
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, a popular type of psychological treatment that focuses on interventions to manage negative thoughts and actions, may also be helpful.
Some might also consider taking over-the-counter melatonin, but Dr. Mandana Mahmoudi, clinical director of sleep medicine at NYU Langone Health, said it’s important to note that while it’s a natural medicine, it should always be considered taking a sleeping pill.
Proceed with caution.
I wake up too early or in the middle of the night
The problem: You aim for eight o’clock, but your eyes open after half past five or you’re still up at night.
The solution: You may be depressed and could benefit from talking therapy.
Spicy, heavy meals before bed can also interfere with sleep, so watch what you eat for dinner.
In the moment, give yourself some time to go back to sleep. If that doesn’t work, get up.
“If you’re awake for more than 20 minutes, you want to leave the bedroom, go out, and maybe do something calming like a crossword puzzle or read a book that might not be super exciting,” said Thea Gallagher, a clinical assistant. professor in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. She added that the healthiest habit is to only use your bedroom for sleeping.
If it’s already morning, you might just want to jump on things early.
“Get your day started and maybe be productive with your day,” Gallagher said, noting that it can help get you back on track the next night.
I sleep eight hours a night but I’m still exhausted
The problem: You get a full night’s rest, but you feel like you haven’t slept a blink of an eye. Your mouth is dry and you may wake up panting.
The solution: See a doctor about being tested for sleep apnea, a common but serious disorder in which breathing stops and starts again throughout sleep.
Fortunately, the condition is easily treatable, with sufferers using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, although the device can be cumbersome and take some getting used to.
Other treatment options include specialized mouth guards or surgery.
I’m jet lag
The problem: You are traveling to a new time zone, but your sleep schedule remains behind.
The solution: After landing, try to stay up to adjust to local time.
“As long as it’s not been a long time (say 24 hours) since you’ve slept, it’s reasonable to go all the way,” Shah said, noting that coffee and being busy can help.
She advises against using sleeping pills like melatonin if you haven’t done so before.
“If you’ve never taken medicine, you almost never want to take medicine for the first time (while traveling).”