Simple steps can mean more sleep, better health

- Everyone has their own way to get to sleep. Some watch TV and fluff the pillows or listen to white noise.

As well as making us drowsy, losing sleep impacts us medically. Lack of quality sleep disrupts the circadian rhythm, an internal clock hardwired into our brains.

The medical director for the Florida Hospital Tampa Sleep Center, Dr. Lara Wittine, says everything from cardiovascular disease to depression and obesity is affected by how much and how well we sleep.

"Hormones get thrown off that control our ability to be satisfied by food. What we crave is actually very dependent on the sleep we are getting at night," explained Dr. Wittine.

Unless you suffer from a sleep disorder, you can begin improving your sleep as you start your day. Dr. Wittine says something as simple as opening up the shades in the morning can make a big difference.

"It's the key, critical time to get light exposure," she said.

She says once you are up, stay active. "As we're active during the day, we build up a pressure to sleep at night. That's just chemicals building up in our bodies as we metabolize and burn energy through the day."

Try to schedule eight hours for sleep and avoid brain-stimulating blue light before bedtime, including tablets and smartphones.

Avoid taking a nap, unless it is a very short one.

"You’re basically decreasing that pressure to sleep right then and there," explained Dr. Wittine.

It is also important to create a comfortable bedroom and strive to keep it cool and dark. If you can't keep it quiet, create white noise with a fan or an app.

However, if that fails, Dr. Wittine says earplugs are an underutilized method to control sound.

Lastly, instead of making up for lost time on weekends, maintain your sleep schedule seven days a week. Otherwise, you could trigger those comfort food cravings for up to a month.

"If people are thinking, 'Well, I'll skimp on sleep for a night.' Is it really worth the munchies for the next month? Just consider that," she said.

For more information on the Florida Hospital Tampa Sleep Center, visit https://www.floridahospital.com/tampa/neurology/sleep-center

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