Why is Sleep Important?

Sleep deprivation (less than 7 hours per night) is associated with increased hunger, decreased satiety (the feeling of being satisfied or full) and less energy. People who do not get adequate sleep have increased food intake and want more high-calorie, carbohydrate-rich foods.

Studies have proven that sleep loss is associated with obesity – indicating that people who sleep less, weigh more.

According to a study described in the book Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem (2006), people who sleep 6 hours a night – compared to people who sleep 7-8 hours a night – are 1.7 times more likely to develop diabetes. Additionally, people who sleep 5 hours a night are 2.5 times more likely to develop diabetes.

Therefore, people who sleep 7 hours a night may live longer! People sleeping less than 4.5 hours a night and those sleeping more than 10 hours a night have a greater mortality (death) rate.

There are many factors that can disrupt sleep:

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol
  • Night eating
  • Restless legs
  • Sleep disorders
  • Hormonal issues (nighttime hot flashes)
  • Depression
  • Exercising close to bedtime
  • Large meals or excessive fluid intake close to bedtime
  • Pain
  • Medications such as decongestants, steroids and beta blockers
  • Noise, lighting, uncomfortable temperatures
  • Working night shifts

Try these tips to improve your sleep habits:

  • Set aside a window of time for sleep.
  • Go to bed at the same time on weekdays and weekends
  • Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. A regular nightly routine helps the body recognize that it is bedtime. This could include taking a warm shower or bath, reading a book, or doing light stretches. When possible, try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before attempting to sleep.
  • Avoid napping during the day.
  • Limit caffeine during the day to less than three 8-ounce cups. Do not drink caffeine after 4 p.m. because it takes 6 hours for caffeine to leave the body.
  • Avoid alcohol within 2 hours of bedtime. It may seem to help you fall asleep, but actually disrupts REM sleep and suppresses breathing.
  • Avoid nicotine within 2 hours of bedtime, and do not use nicotine during your window of sleep.
  • Exercise regularly and be as active as you can during the day, but do not exercise within 3 hours of bedtime.
  • Do not drink fluids after 8 p.m.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and a comfortable temperature.
  • Do not watch TV, look at your cell phone, or work on a computer in your bedroom for at least one hour before bedtime; the light emitted from screens makes it difficult to sleep.
  • Keep pets out of your bed and bedroom during the night.
  • Have children sleep in their own beds/cribs.
  • Keep a notepad and lighted pen on your nightstand. If you begin thinking about all the things on your “to-do” list you need to remember, jot them down so you can put them out of your mind.
  • Find ways to manage your stress or avoid those things that increase stress. If you are thinking about stressful things, your fight-or-flight instinct can override your sleep rhythm. There is an app called “Calm” that can be helpful to reduce stress. It offers breathing exercises to help you relax, sleep stories to help you fall to sleep, daily meditation programs, and relaxing nature sounds to sleep to.
  • Establish boundaries – stop work-related activities at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Establish a “worry time.” This is 15-30 minutes set aside each day for you to worry. Write it on your calendar! Write down the things you need to do, things you worry about, what you can do to change things, and what things you cannot change. Let this be the only time you spend worrying each day. If something comes up during another part of the day, jot it down so you can remember to put thought into it during your worry time. Be sure to complete your worry time at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Be assertive. Learn to say “NO” to people when asked to take on additional responsibilities that may affect your sleep time.
  • Steer clear of food that can be disruptive right before sleep. Heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion for some people if consumed within 2-3 hours of bedtime. When this occurs close to bedtime, it can lead to painful heartburn that disrupts sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder. Obesity is the strongest risk factor for OSA. This disorder contributes to cardiovascular disease and reduces life expectancy. To find out if you should be tested, fill out the STOP-BANG questionnaire and discuss the results with your provider.

Stop–Bang Questionnaire

Weight Management: Pathways to Improving Your Health

Hattiesburg Clinic Weight Management will provide healthy tips and information each month. To be notified of an update via text message, opt in by texting the word WEIGHT to 57711.