Health & Wellness

Chasing Dreams?

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If you’ve forgotten what a good night’s sleep feels like, you’re not alone. 

From dealing with young children who cry at night, to lying awake stressed about your job or tossing and turning during the long, humid Bermuda summer evenings, the reasons for sleep deprivation are numerous and varied. 

About a third of adults don’t get enough sleep, according to the Sleep Foundation. Yet while many people accept being permanently tired as an annoying but inevitable part of their daily lives, experts warn that they dismiss the importance of sleep at their peril. 

Utsav Bansal, a senior sleep technologist at the Bermuda Center for Sleep Disorders, said: “Getting enough sleep is crucial for overall health and wellbeing. 

“It supports physical health by aiding in healing and immune function, enhances cognitive abilities like memory and decision-making, stabilises emotions, improves performance and ensures safety. 

“Inadequate sleep can lead to various health issues, impacting both short-term and long-term health. Prioritising sufficient sleep is essential for a healthy and productive life.” 

Experts recommend seven to nine hours’ sleep per night, although the amount varies depending on your age, lifestyle and health. 

According to Mr Bansal, these are the top reasons people in Bermuda fall short: 

Stress and lifestyle. Getting adequate rest time can be hard in today’s hectic world. And even when you make it to bed, the worries that mount up during the day can make it difficult to switch off. 

Screen time. Blue light emitted by electronic devices impacts the ability to fall asleep and interferes with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. 

Environmental factors. Noise, temperature and uncomfortable sleeping conditions can disrupt sleep, especially in busy areas or homes with inadequate insulation or ventilation. 

Shift work and irregular schedules. Going to bed at inconsistent times disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm. 

Poor sleep habits. Irregular bedtime routines and stimulants like caffeine or alcohol can harm the quality and quantity of sleep. 

The good news is that a few simple life changes can make all the difference. 

Mr Bansal suggested establishing a routine. 

“Set a consistent sleep schedule,” he said. “Aim for the same bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends, to regulate your body’s internal clock. 

“Make your bedroom comfortable, dark, quiet and cool. Limit screen time before bed and consider using blackout curtains or white noise machines if environmental factors disturb sleep.” 

Relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises or yoga, can also help people unwind at the end of the day. 

Leading a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise and a balanced diet are important – but Mr Bansal advised against too much vigorous exercise late at night. 

The timing of your sleep also matters. But what if you have no choice other than to accept an irregular sleep pattern – for example if you work night shifts? 

Mr Bansal said people should aim for a consistent wake-up time, even on days off, to regulate that internal clock. 

Tips to help night workers sleep during the day include: 

Make your bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable. Use blackout curtains, earplugs or white noise machines to minimise disruptions. 

Use bright lights at work to stay alert. Wear sunglasses on the way home to limit exposure to sunlight which can signal wakefulness. 

Wind down with relaxation techniques like meditation or a warm bath to signal your body that it’s time to sleep. 

Take short naps before work to boost alertness, but avoid long naps close to bedtime as they can interfere with sleep. 

Communicate with your employer about scheduling preferences that promote better sleep. 

Other factors to consider for a good night’s sleep include: 

Choose the best mattress and pillow 

This is crucial for proper spinal alignment and alleviating discomfort. 

“A quality mattress should provide adequate support for your body while being comfortable,” Mr Bansal said. 

“Options like memory foam, latex, or hybrid mattresses offer different levels of support and firmness. It’s essential to consider factors like firmness, material and individual comfort preferences. 

“Pillows should support the neck and head in alignment with the spine. The choice of pillow often depends on sleeping position and personal comfort. 

“Testing different options and considering individual preferences and sleeping habits can help find the most suitable mattress and pillow for a good night’s sleep.” 

Get the temperature right 

The optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Mr Bansal said: “In Bermuda’s hotter summers, maintaining a cooler room temperature of about 65 degrees Fahrenheit can promote better sleep. 

“Using fans, air conditioning or proper ventilation can help regulate room temperature and create a more conducive sleep environment despite the warmer climate. 

“Adjusting bedding materials to lighter, breathable fabrics can also improve comfort during hot weather.” 

Consider the impact of sleeping with partners and pets 

Mr Bansal said: “Sleeping with a partner can have varying effects on sleep quality, depending on individual preferences and sleep habits. 

“For some, sleeping with a partner provides a sense of comfort and security, promoting better sleep. However, factors like differences in sleep schedules, movements during sleep or snoring can disrupt sleep for others.” 

Some people find pets comforting but others can find them disruptive to sleep. 

“Pets may move around, snore or take up space, affecting sleep quality,” Mr Bansal said. 

“Allergies or concerns about hygiene can also influence whether having pets in bed improves or hinders sleep.” 

Sleep problem symptoms 

Mr Bansal advised people to look out for the following signs someone may have a sleep problem: 

Difficulty falling asleep quickly 

Waking up multiple times in the night and being unable to get back to sleep 

Daytime fatigue 

Irritability and mood changes 

Poor concentration and memory 

Decline in performance at work or school 

Headaches, muscle aches or gastrointestinal issues 

Excessive daytime sleepiness. 

If you are having trouble sleeping, seek professional advice from a healthcare professional or sleep specialist. 

Follow the Bermuda Center for Sleep Disorders on Facebook. 

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