We’ve all heard the phrase “early to bed, early to rise,” but does it really help our sleep to go to bed earlier? One thing is for sure: Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. A study conducted by the Center for Disease Control found that more than one in three Americans are sleep deprived. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that typical adults require seven hours of sleep per night in order to prevent dangerous health problems and loss of productivity. There are several reasons why we aren’t getting the sleep we need, but one reason centers around the advancement in technology that keeps us glued to our screens and staying up way past the recommended time to sleep.
So when should we hit the hay? There isn’t necessarily a universal time that is best for everyone to go to sleep. Everyone’s schedules are different and your sleep schedule should match up to your unique needs. We know that adults should receive at least seven hours of sleep each night in order to feel well-rested, but it doesn’t stop there. Some people require more sleep, depending on their health, activity level, or other factors.
“It really depends on your schedule,” said Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine Specialist, Richard A. Parisi, MD of TPMG Lung and Sleep Specialists at Williamsburg. “So, if you begin your day at 6:00 am, then the right time to go to bed is around 11:00 pm.”
The most important signal that tells your brain it’s time to be awake is light exposure. In a perfect world, if we had no work, school, daycare, or other obligations, the best time to go to sleep would be sunset and the best time to wake up would be sunrise. Back before the technological revolution, people had a much more natural sleep schedule; they would sleep longer and wake with the sun. Now, with the interference of technology and our daily schedule, we’ve had to adjust.
Sometimes going to bed at the right time won’t fix our sleep problems. One of the biggest concerns in our society today is undiagnosed sleep disorders. For example, studies show that sleep apnea affects approximately 20 percent of American adults; however, 90 percent of those cases remain undiagnosed.
“If you’re having difficulty getting adequate sleep at night, it’s very helpful to discuss that with your physician and seek evaluation by a sleep specialist if it continues to be a problem,” said Dr. Parisi. Many different forms of insomnia can be treated with changes in sleep habits, medications, or alterations of other things that can interfere with sleep.
There are many ways to promote good sleep habits at home. One of the most important things is to be consistent with your sleep schedule. That means getting up at the same time each morning and reinforcing a regular bedtime. Try to avoid screen time for at least 30 minutes before bed as it can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Instead, try listening to music, reading, or relaxing before bed to destress and clear your mind. Your bedroom environment should also be dark, cool, and quiet.
If you’re having difficulty falling and staying asleep for more than three months, without improvement from changes to your sleep hygiene, it may be time to consult a TPMG physician or sleep specialist. If you experience excessive sleepiness during the day that impacts your ability to function, you also might want to visit a physician. Getting the right amount of sleep is important for your body and mind. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, not getting enough sleep increases your risk of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and could even impact your life expectancy.
“Most adults will have difficulty falling or staying asleep at one point in their life and it does improve if it’s addressed in a systematic way,” said Dr. Parisi. Don’t let sleepless nights win. Consult a TPMG Sleep Specialist to learn how to get more fulfilling and restful sleep.
About Richard A. Parisi, MD
Richard A. Parisi, MD, is a fellowship trained, board certified physician with over 30 years of experience in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases, and Sleep Medicine. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), a unique honor that recognizes special competency in sleep medicine and significant contributions to the field. Dr. Parisi has many years of experience in the field of sleep medicine, with a special interest in sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and other sleep-related disorders. He always strives to be a good listener while developing treatment plans in partnership with his patients.
Dr. Parisi sees patients starting at 13 years of age to adults and is accepting new patients.