DR. DONALD JOHNSON: You’re wrecking your sleep!

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These five bad habits are the most common.

Lack of sleep is a real epidemic. Our culture devalues sleep; if you prioritize your sleep, you are considered lazy or boring. Students boast about staying up late doing homework. Sleep deprived people are a health disaster to others and to themselves. They are less able to concentrate or even remember job details. But culture is not all that causes sleep deprivation. Here are five easy ways to ruin your sleep.

Caffeine after lunch

It’s common to have an afternoon cup of coffee or soda. But that afternoon caffeine will disturb one’s sleep. It stays in a person’s body about nine hours after consumption. That means that it will be likely to have trouble falling asleep until the caffeine is out of the body. Trace amounts of caffeine can be responsible for a bad night of sleep. Remember, nine hours after the soda, cup of coffee or chocolate dessert.

Electronics at night

Scrolling on any electronic device at night can cost you sleep. It’s the blue light they emit. It suppresses melatonin production which keeps one up. There are glasses that block the blue light from these devices, but not all of those which are available block enough. Some only block 20 percent!

Different daily

sleep-wake times

You can’t make up for sleep that you lost during the week on the weekends. You need a standard circadian rhythm every day. The practice of sleeping in on weekends messes with this rhythm. So, it is harder to get good sleep during the week. Your sleep-wake times should not vary by more than one hour each day.

No breakfast

One’s circadian rhythm is based not only on light exposure, but it is also based on one’s eating habits. The longer time between meals is “night” to the body and the first meal after the “night” is “morning” to the body. So, if one skips eating until lunch, their body can “think” that noon is it’s morning and the circadian rhythm is really messed up. One’s body can start to think that “night” starts at 4 a.m. and “morning” starts at noon. Similarly, if one has a late-night snack, the body can think it is “morning.” Repeated late-night snacks can prime the body to wake up at 3 a.m.

Alcohol, nicotine or drugs before bed

Some think alcohol before bed may help people fall asleep faster. Since alcohol is a depressant, they do not realize that the body will fight this. It wants hemostasis and will fight the alcohol with a stimulant it produces on its own. And this stimulant will wake one up early after the depressant wears off. Alcohol interferes with slow-wave sleep patterns that allow memory formation and learning. It also blocks R.E.M. sleep — the most restorative sleep one gets.

In addition, it can relax one’s throat muscles leaving one more prone to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In OSA, one briefly stops breathing for 10 seconds or longer while sleeping. In many people, these brief episodes happen over a hundred times throughout the night resulting in many, many health problems — even death. Snoring is a main symptom of OSA; it can be checked easily with a sleep test taken in your own home.

Sleep is important; don’t sacrifice it on the “altar of bad habits.” If you still have sleep problems, it could very well be OSA. Get checked right away before it causes health problems which cannot be reversed. Keep a standard circadian rhythm.

• • •

Dr. Donald Johnson founded Heartfelt Family Dental in Coeur d’Alene to help patients with their dental needs and live free with no limits! His office is at 114 W. Neider Ave., near Costco. The website for more information is www.heartfeltdental.com and the office phone is 208-667-4551. Schedule an appointment today!

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