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Catch some zzz’s
Healthy habits for healthy sleep

01/08/15



Ever get a bad night’s sleep and wake up cranky in the morning? Quality sleep is key to having a positive, less anxious outlook, and sleep duration, sleep timing and maintaining healthy habits before bedtime all play a key role in proper sleep, says Dr. George Neal, a sleep specialist and neurologist.

Neal, who has his own practice and sees patients at Catholic Medical Center for sleep testing, said in 1900 the average duration of sleep was 9 hours, compared to 7.4 today.
“Sleep duration is important in our current society. … People often cut short the amount of sleep they are getting,” Neal said. “The brain is probably not evolved to handle the change in sleep duration, [which] is probably primarily related to advances in technology, including electric lights and the electronic age.” 
The consequence, Neal said, is that people sleep less and not as well.
“Some degree of less than optimal sleep is often associated with changes in mood and mental function, including impaired concentration and less than best cognitive function,” Neal said.
So how can you sleep better? Neal said the timing of when you sleep is important, and people should try to maintain the same sleep and wake times each day.
“Often people are sleep-deprived during the week and try to make up for it on weekends. It’s best to get adequate sleep every night of the week,” Neal said. 
The cumulative effect cannot be repaid by sleeping longer on weekends or days off, he said.
Neal also recommends saving the bed for intimacy and sleep. He said it’s generally best to avoid TV and using other electronics, like cell phones, tablets and computers, in bed.
Activities like going to the gym should be reserved for at least six hours before bedtime, and alcohol should be avoided up to four hours before bedtime, as it may result in a person waking up more frequently. 
Additionally, Neal advises avoiding caffeine after noon.
“If one wishes to maximize the chance of a good night’s sleep, these are things one should do,” Neal said. “We do know that people who have adequate durations in sleep have less changes in mood and less changes in executive brain function. Studies have shown that’s the case.” 
 
As seen in the January 8, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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