Monday, June 6, 2011

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Get a Better Night's Sleep?

"How can I improve my quality of sleep? No matter whether I get 4 hours of sleep or 10 hours, I'm always tired. Is coffee or other caffeinated beverages a good pick-me-up? Are energy drinks safe to consume?"

Registered Nurse Robert Mages Responds:

Sleep can be a tricky subject, to say the least.

Our sleep is primarily effected by a few things: our circadian rhythm, or 24-hour cycle, aging, psychological stressors (those factors can cause difficulty falling asleep and disturb the quality of your sleep), and common social or recreational drugs like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the proper rest.

My first suggestion to you would be to stay away from all stimulants for at least 4 hours before bed, including caffeinated or sugary beverages, nicotine and alcohol. All of these things can impair your ability to sleep. Reduce stress by listening to relaxing music or taking a warm bath or shower. Or, enjoy some quiet time with your feet up to help your body relax and become ready for sleep.

You may wish to consult your primary care doctor, as sleep disorders not only hinder your daily life but can lead to health problems down the road. A sleep study may be suggested by your doctor, which can be done both at home as well as in a sleep lab, and can be an important tool in your present situation.

As far as energy drinks go, I suggest staying away from them as much as possible. They contain a good amount of caffeine as well as other ingredients that can have side effects down the road. The excessive caffeine can cause your heart to race and cause overall general illness. A recent study found that these beverages can have dangerous effects on blood pressure, heart rate and brain function.

Please try to avoid these products for your safety.

— Robert Mages, RN

Robert Mages is the Nurse Manager of the Open Heart Unit and Critical Care Unit at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

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