These red flags mean it’s time to pay closer attention to the quality of your sleep
It’s easy to forget what a healthy night of sleep feels like if you’re currently living without. Maybe your sleep quality deteriorated without you really noticing.
That’s why it’s critical to do a sleep checkup – to see if you’re getting the kind of sleep that leaves you feeling good and ready to embrace the day. Anything short of that isn’t something you should accept or normalize. Because, let’s face it, sleep impacts pretty much every cell in your body and plays an important role in your mood. Good sleep habits can improve heart health, reduce the debilitating effects of stress and slow down how quickly you age. Along with diet and exercise, it’s one of the 3 pillars for wellbeing you should never ignore.
That said, the odd poor night of sleep won’t derail overall good health, but make a habit of it, and it’s sure to cause problems. So when should you take action and seek a sleep specialist? Here are 6 signs it’s time to get help for a sleep issue.
1. You’ve watching late night television in real time. If the rest of your household has been asleep for hours and you’re still sitting in front of the television, you might have a problem. While short-term insomnia happens occasionally, you shouldn’t be struggling night after night for months on end. Studies say that insomniacs are likely to dismiss a regular pattern of sleeplessness because they think it will just go away or they believe that’s normal for them. If you do something often enough, you’ll retrain your brain and it will start embracing the new bad normal. Talk to a sleep specialist and get help before your health begins to suffer.
2. You can’t keep your eyes open during the day. There’s no question that naps are good for you, but usually a short one does the trick.
If you’re doing long blinks at work and caffeine is the only way you can maintain wakefulness, it’s time to take notice. When you’re engaged in normal activities, like driving, and all you can think about is how tired you feel, then it’s time to do something. Take a close look at your sleep habits (also known as sleep hygiene). Is your bedroom cool and dark enough? Is your mattress comfortable or a lumpy mess? Get those details in order and see if your sleep improves. Still tired? Get thee to a sleep doc with due haste!
3. You snore galore. There’s no need to panic if you do snore. It isn’t always a sign that your sleeper is broken, but it might be a sign that you have sleep apnea. What’s sleep apnea, you ask? It’s a dangerous condition that causes a temporary stoppage in breathing. In extreme cases, sleep apnea may lead to early death. Your sleep doctor may prescribe a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine to keep you breathing well and help you get the sound sleep your body and mind need.
4. You don’t feel fully awake in the morning. On a cold, rainy morning, no one feels they can leap into their day with vim and vigor, but if that’s an everyday occurrence for you, it may be a sign that sleep is a bigger issue for you than you realized. When coffee becomes a crutch and the only way you can function, it’s time to consider other options. A healthy, low-fat breakfast with protein can be a natural and healthy energy boost. If an egg-white omelet or a bowl of steel-cut oats don’t do it, then, you know what’s next, right? Talk to your doctor!
5. You wake up tired – every day. A typical sleep cycle lasts approximately 90 minutes and alternates between light and deep (REM) sleep, allowing your body and mind to repair itself from the previous day. If you progress normally through the different stages of sleep, you should wake up well-rested and feel ready to take on the day. If you wake up consistently tired, there’s a good chance you’re missing the deep, healing stages of sleep. Start by getting yourself and a fitness and/or sleep tracker to measure the quantity AND quality of your sleep.
6. You have other medical issues that may be impacting your sleep. Not being able to sleep can be a sign that something else is going on – a medical condition developing in the background. Insomnia, unfortunately, can also be a frustrating by-product of some medications. If you’re dealing with depression, chronic pain or restless leg syndrome, getting a good night’s sleep will almost certainly be a challenge. If sleeplessness is affecting your daily activities, consult a sleep doctor.
Do know what’s normal and what signals a potentially serious sleep disorder? Take Dr. Oz’s Sleep Quiz and test your sleep intelligence.