By Scott D. Miller, MD, MBA
In our busy world, most men underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep. The three pillars of great health are a nutritious diet, consistent exercise and regular sleep.
First and foremost, a lack of sleep makes us more accident-prone. For instance, inadequate sleep can impair our ability to drive the same way drinking too much alcohol does. We also become more susceptible to falls and sports injuries. Sleep deprivation can also lead to a whole host of easy-to-ignore medical conditions such as weight gain, cardiovascular risk, mood alteration and a weakened immune system. To add salt to the wound, these medical conditions can further hinder our ability to achieve a good night’s sleep.
When we sleep, the mind and body recharge themselves. For example, during this downtime, our body is hard at work repairing the damage that our cells endure throughout the day. Of course, without adequate sleep, our brains can’t function properly. We tend to sleep in cycles. Interruption of a sleep cycle often will lead to a feeling of tiredness. As such, even losing one hour of sleep can lead to significant sleep deprivation. So, how much sleep do we need? Seven hours per night is usually the minimum requirement for adult men. For those who require more sleep, typical indicators include difficulty waking up in the morning and feeling tired during the day.
Here are some tips for having a good night’s sleep:
The right environment—The ideal sleep environment is cold, dark and quiet. The bedroom should also be a dedicated space for sleep and intimacy. Work, hobbies, watching TV or browsing a computer screen can disturb your natural wind-down process.
Ritual—Having a consistent bedtime routine and time will reinforce our internal clocks. Bedtime rituals can include a cup of herbal tea, a warm bath or some light reading. Avoid electronic devices, TV, caffeine, alcohol and eating during the last couple of hours of the day.
Exercise—Modest but consistent exercise will lead to a better night’s sleep. However, exercise should be avoided in the few hours leading up to bedtime.
Weight control and other dietary concerns—Reducing your sugar and carbohydrate intake can decrease excess belly fat that is often associated with the most common sleep disorder, sleep apnea. Minimizing consumption of alcohol and caffeine will also lead to a better night’s sleep.
Apps, wearables, and other devices—Apps for our handheld devices can help track sleep, give reminders for starting our bedtime routine, provide meditation routines with restful soundscapes and sync with a wearable device such as a smartwatch. Resist that temptation to check email before retiring for the evening.
A notepad by the bedside—Sometimes just writing your thoughts down takes them off your mind.
If the preceding recommendations aren’t successful, seeking medical advice is the next best step. Your physician can evaluate you for a possible sleeping disorder and treat any associated medical conditions. Look for my article “Spring Forward or Fall Back,” which discusses injury prevention, in the next issue.
Scott D. Miller, MD, MBA, is the Medical Director of Robotic Surgery at Wellstar North Fulton Hospital. He is a urologist with Wellstar Urology in Roswell and has practiced in Atlanta for over 20 years. Wellstar North Fulton Hospital offers the Know Your Heart Screening that can determine your risk of heart disease, stroke and other serious conditions. Call 770-956-STAR (7827) to learn more or schedule an appointment.
Scott D. Miller, MD, MBA • Wellstar North Fulton Hospital • 470.956.4230 • www.ScottDMillerMD.com