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The ABCs of getting good ZZZs

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Getting enough sleep is crucial for people of all ages. However, few people consistently get the sleep they need. In fact, according to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million people in the United States suffer from insomnia. Even those who do not have a diagnosed sleep problem may still be feeling the negative effects of sleep deprivation. 

Bothwell Regional Health Center has a nationally accredited Sleep Center. Its medical director, Dr. David Kuhlmann, and staff are specially trained to diagnose and treat sleep disorders. 

Kuhlmann said feeling well-rested is crucial for success, as regular sleep deprivation can have negative effects on a person’s physical and mental health. Numerous studies have shown the relationship between lack of sleep and being overweight. In addition, sleep helps boost the immune system and allows the body to heal and reset for a new day. 

“People who suffer from a lack of sleep are often irritable, moody and have trouble concentrating,” Kuhlmann said. “These issues can cause problems at work or with relationships.”

Beyond this, a study done by the Mental Health Association found that people who get fewer than six hours of sleep per night are three times more likely to suffer from depression. 

These are many reasons why getting enough sleep is important, but how much sleep is enough varies from person to person and by age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends teens get eight to 10 hours per night, and adults 18 to 60 should get at least seven hours. Adults over 60 may need to get an extra hour or two per night. Feeling rested during the day usually means a person has gotten enough sleep. 

Kuhlmann said that even for those who are trying to get enough sleep, it is not always easy to get to bed on time or fall asleep right away.

“If you have trouble falling asleep, there are several tips on how to fall asleep faster,” Kuhlmann said. “First, have a set sleep schedule, or go to bed and wake up at approximately the same times every day, helping the body set a rhythm. Do not drink more than three servings of caffeine during the day, avoid caffeine after lunch, and try to relax, maybe by taking a hot shower or listening to music.”

When getting to bed on time is the issue, remember to prioritize a good night’s sleep. Staying up late to finish work or chores once in a while may not be harmful, but making a habit of it can be detrimental to a person’s health, and is probably not worth the risk. When the choice is between work and sleep, the work can probably wait until the next day. 

For those who feel tired during the day, a nap can do a lot of good. Naps do not have to be long;  in fact, a shorter nap can be more effective. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a 20-minute nap can improve alertness and mood. Spending more than 30 minutes napping may result in grogginess and increased problems falling asleep that night. 

“Consistently not getting enough sleep may take years off a person’s life,” Kuhlmann said. “Sleep deprivation can result in many health issues that may affect a person’s overall well-being, their relationships with others, and their performance in daily tasks. However, there are many ways to improve sleep, and it starts with making sleep a priority.”

Anyone who has consistent problems falling asleep or staying asleep should consult a doctor, as there are many treatments available that can help treat sleep disorders. For more information, call the Bothwell Sleep Center at 660-827-9573.

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