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A New Era in Healthy Sleep: Prevention, Early Intervention, Treatment

By Dr. Joel Bennett, Consultant to Designed Wellness


“Sleep is not a nice to have; It is a must have”

 

PART 1: PREVENTION

At one point or another, many of us have faced sleep deprivation: an “all nighter” for an exam, working on a deadline, pregnancy, caring for a new baby, or any one of many stressors during the day or evening. These events are often less within our control than daily lifestyle habits that prevent sleep problems.

But even healthy habits may not be enough to get the proper rest. Research suggests that (1) there is a continuum of sleep-related problems, (2) it is important to recognize where we fall on this continuum, and (3) we should monitor our sleep health as we encounter life changes and stresses.

At one end of the continuum lie problems that can be prevented through regular sleep and energy habits. These may be labeled as primary prevention sleep and energy habits. At the other end are dozens of sleep disorders that need to be addressed through special supports. If you recognize that you have a disorder, please contact your physician. These are categorized as proper sleep and energy treatment options. The middle category between these two pertains to early sleep and energy interventions where self-assessment, screenings, or consultation with a sleep professional are important. This post reviews each of these below and provides resources to help.

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For this blog, I interviewed a health and wellness colleague, Jessica Davenport. Jessica has both Sleep Apnea and Narcolepsy and is a Wellness Specialist for PSCU. Jessica is a sleep health and sleep disorder advocate for those afflicted with any of 100 plus different types of sleep disorders. She has written on the topic of sleep health, been a guest speaker in her community and has coordinated Sleep Walk Tampa Bay for the last two years. The Sleep Walk is part of Project Sleep’s advocacy event. She told me that she’s so passionate about sleep health because she knows first-hand how dramatically it can affect a person’s entire life.

Sleep and Energy Habits: Primary Prevention

There are three main types of daily health behaviors that help create a positive sleeping lifestyle.

  • Make Quality and Quantity Both Important. It helps to get at least 7 hours of sleep, AND it is equally important to create a proper environment: no clutter around you, right temperature, dark, and a face mask if necessary. Wearable health trackers help to see you are getting enough sleep, but make sure to turn off devices at night. Create a “sanctuary” in the border zone between day, evening, and sleep preparation. Recovery from your day is essential.
  • Moderate Your Diet and Exercise Before Sleep. Proper diet and exercise are critical for both good health and good sleep. Proper sleep in turn, leads to more energy for exercise and the avoidance of supplements, sugars or caffeine to maintain good energy. This is especially important at night. Usually, you want at least 2 (sometime 3) hours at night between a meal (not too heavy) and sleep-time. Similarly, light exercise in the evening may be appropriate.
  • Follow Sleep Tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. These include things like avoiding exposure to light (including your cell phone) during the evenings, avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime, avoid nicotine entirely, and use your bed only for sleep and sex.

Following the above often helps us all get the sufficient amount and quality of sleep needed. However, stress, life changes, and other factors can lead to both acute or chronic changes in sleep habits.

In the next installment of this blog post we will explore how you can take steps – through self-assessment and consultation – to prevent sleep problems from getting worse.

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