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Asking the Sleep Experts How to Make the Most of Our Nights

Apr 30, 2019 04:09PM ● By Style
May is Better Sleep Month, so there’s really no better time than now to reflect on your shut-eye habits. Whether you think you’re rested or not, you’ll benefit from the following guidance on how to make your snoozing really count. Read on as local experts spill their A+ advice on getting your ZZZs.

Q: How many hours of sleep do we really need?
A: Generally, about 7-9 hours, or 4-5 full sleep cycles, which happen every 90-120 minutes depending on the individual. People who sleep less than the recommended hours per night are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, diabetes, and even dementia.—Kyle Mitzel, sales associate at European Sleep Design,

Q: Can people sleep too much?
A: If you’re sleeping longer [than the recommended sleep duration] and you feel unrefreshed upon awakening, it can signify that a potential underlying sleep disorder—such as sleep apnea—is impacting sleep quality.—Robert Dias, MD, neurologist and sleep medicine expert at Mercy Medical Group,

Q: How long should it take to fall asleep each night?
A: The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that the average sleep latency, or the time it takes to fall asleep after closing your eyes, is less than 30 minutes. It should also be noted that if it only takes you a few minutes or less to fall asleep, that’s not necessarily a good thing, as it could be a sign of sleep deprivation and should be addressed immediately.—Sherri Hanson, RPSGT, RST, CCSH, sleep care director at California Sleep Solutions, californiasleepsolutions

Q: What’s the optimal sleep temperature?
A: Keeping the room cool is key for a good night’s sleep, and many experts say the optimal sleeping temperature is around 65 degrees. Your body temperature fluctuates throughout the day but dips as you become drowsy, reaching its lowest level around 5 a.m. As the morning progresses, your temperature rises. A hot room may disrupt your body’s natural drop, making you more restless during the night. Of course, each of us has our own temperature preferences, so it’s important to experiment with different temperatures to optimize your sleeping environment.—Clarisse Glen, MD, Pulmonary Medicine, Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center,

Q: How dark should your bedroom be when you’re sleeping?
A: Your bedroom should be completely dark, which means turning off all electronics, including your phone (I recommend placing it in another room). When it comes to lights and television, a timer can be very helpful.—Chuck Tolbert, RPSGT, owner/operator at Specialized Sleep Diagnostics,

Q: How often should you replace your mattress and change your sheets?
A: As a good practice, [you should replace your mattress] about every 10 years or when you feel you’re regularly waking up stiff and sore. This does depend on the type of mattress you choose. If it’s memory foam, polyurethane, or gel foam, expect about 3-5 years before you start to see wear. Natural materials like latex, cotton, and wool will give you around 8-12 years of consistent performance before seeing comparable wear. As for your sheets, you should wash them as often as you deem necessary. If you sweat a lot, [then wash] more frequently; if not, bi-weekly or monthly, per your preference.—Kyle Mitzel, sales associate at European Sleep Design,

Q: How do you keep a person from tossing and turning all night?
A: Tossing and turning in sleep indicates frequent awakening, whether the person is aware of waking up or not. Addressing the underlying cause is the answer. In order to go to sleep and stay asleep, there are two primary requirements: 1. The mind has to switch off; and 2. One has to be breathing freely through the nose. Problems with either one of these issues will cause frequent tossing and turning. A busy mind, rumination, anticipation, problem-solving, clock-watching, thinking, and worrying will also result in frequent awakenings. Aside from these, there are other common issues leading to tossing and turning: being too hot or too cold, aches and pains, and the need for frequent urination.—Amer Khan, MD, Medical Director of Clinical Quality for Sutter Independent Physicians and Founder of Sehatu Sleep,

Q: What is an effective nap and how long should it be?
A: Naps can be a great way of renewing and recharging your energy, allowing you to enjoy the latter part of your day and be more efficient and productive. Unfortunately, our work culture doesn’t support the ability to nap. The best nap is taken about eight hours after waking up in the morning, which for most people falls in the middle or late afternoon. Naps should never be longer than 30 minutes in duration, as those can result in grogginess and feeling sluggish rather than energized.—Amer Khan, MD, Medical Director of Clinical Quality for Sutter Independent Physicians and Founder of Sehatu Sleep,

Q: What should I do if I think I have a sleep disorder?
A: If you think you may have a sleep disorder, it’s best to discuss your symptoms and concerns with your doctor. Some questions that your doctor might ask are:
•    Do you snore?
•    Have you ever been told you stop breathing or gasp in your sleep?
•    Do you feel sleepy during the daytime?
•    Do you have difficulty staying awake when sitting still, watching TV, or reading?
•    Do you fall asleep or feel tired while driving?
•    Do you have difficulty concentrating or focusing during the day?
•    Do you need caffeine to stay awake during the day?
•    Do you have restless legs?
•    Do you feel refreshed in the morning?
•    Do you have high blood pressure?
•    Have you ever had heart problems, heart disease, or a stroke?
•    Do you have insomnia?
Answering yes to some of these questions can be an indicator of a sleep disorder. However, a sleep study is required to not only diagnose one but also rule out other potential causes.—Chuck Tolbert, RPSGT, owner/operator at Specialized Sleep Diagnostics,

by  Kourtney Jason