If you are like many Americans, you answered yes to the title’s question. All too many of us are well aware that we are not getting enough quality sleep, but only a fraction of us are taking decisive action to address the issue. Approximately 30 percent of adults in the U.S. get an average of six or fewer hours of sleep on a nightly basis.
This year, National Sleep Awareness Week is March 11-17. What we know is that sleep is essential for a healthy mind and body. We feel better, perform better at work, and enjoy our days and our relationships with others more when we feel well rested. We also know that without quality sleep on a regular basis, we are putting ourselves at an increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity – all of which may result in shortened life expectancy. When seen from this angle, it becomes clear that quality sleep is a priority, not a luxury.
So do you have a sleep disorder, or do you just need a nap? If your symptoms suggest a disorder, schedule a visit with your primary physician and ask if a consult with a sleep specialist may be warranted. Some symptoms that deserve a closer look include excessive daytime sleepiness, awakening with a brief feeling of choking, leg movements that disrupt your ability to fall asleep, insomnia, sleepwalking, and waking up feeling that you didn’t get enough sleep. Often it is the individual who shares the bed that expresses concern about a sleep disorder as their sleep is disrupted by their sleep partner’s circumstances. Sleep partners are frequently the ones who suggest a sleep evaluation due to the disruptive snoring associated with sleep apnea.
And what about naps? Are they ever truly good for us? The answer is a very clear yes….and no. Naps that are required to get through the day, nearly every day, suggest the presence of an undiagnosed health condition. This could be a sleep disorder and/or some other medical situation. You deserve an evaluation to protect your future health. Brief naps, 20-30 minutes a day, can be beneficial for relieving stress and improving alertness. People report feeling less irritable, less easily frustrated, and less impulsive. When these emotions are kept at bay, the road is paved for more relaxed and enjoyable encounters with co-workers, friends, and family members. While naps may be recommended to treat jet lag and even some sleep disorders, it is vital to keep in mind that naps are not a substitute for the restorative stages of sleep that can only occur during prolonged hours of sleeping. No number of naps is going to replace the benefits of nightly deep sleep.
More research on sleep is still needed for us to understand what actually occurs during our nightly ritual of closing our eyes. If your doctor gives you a clean bill of health and you still want to take a daytime nap, consider these tips:
Limit your nap to 20 to 30 minutes to avoid feeling groggy when you awaken—a condition called sleep inertia. This can leave you more apt to make mistakes and have accidents shortly after waking up.
No naps after 3 p.m. Late day naps may interrupt your ability to fall asleep at night.
Nap in an environment conducive to rest so you can benefit from your nap. Dim lights, a comfy chair, and disconnecting from electronics will pave the way for quality extra z’s.
If your sleep is failing to give you the rest that you need, schedule an appointment with your doctor and ask for a referral to an accredited sleep center. It is possible to get the treatment you need to live the life you want to lead!
David Goldstein, M.D., is medical director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center-Old Bridge. The state-of-the-art diagnostic center provides the highest quality care for adults and children under the direction of board certified sleep physicians. To schedule a consultation, call 732-360-4255, or take the sleep quiz at www.rbmc.org/sleep-center/sleep-survey/ to see if you could benefit from a sleep study. For more information, attend Dr. Goldstein’s healthy sleep lecture Wed., April 11, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., 2 Hospital Plaza, Raritan Bay-Old Bridge. Call 1-800-560-9990 to register.
With locations in Perth Amboy and Old Bridge, New Jersey, Raritan Bay Medical Center delivers critical world-class healthcare services care to Monmouth and Middlesex County residents. As providers of first-class healthcare in the areas of stroke, cardiology, cancer, physical rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, pediatric medicine, Raritan Bay Medical Center continues to stay on the forefront of medicine.
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