What is "Quality Sleep"?
(Adapted from B99.3 Medical Minute)

We all sleep, but is yours “quality” sleep? What do we mean by quality sleep? While quantity of sleep is important (six to eight hours per night is the rule of thumb), your quality of sleep is most evident when you wake up. Are you ready to face the day? If not, then perhaps your sleep quality could be improved.

Sleep is actually a very active process; there’s a lot going on while we are catching your zzz’s. Depending on what stage of sleep you’re in, different things are happening. For example, in Stage III you are revitalizing and repairing your body, and in deep sleep (REM) when you are dreaming, you are refreshing mentally.

But it’s not all in your head. Poor quality of sleep can actually put you at greater risk for stomach and heart disease and can even lead to diabetes. Studies performed on young, healthy people who have been deprived of quality sleep have shown that within 48 hours they experience difficulties controlling blood sugar levels. It’s surprising how quickly it can have a negative effect on your overall health. Any existing health problems can be worsened, even the ability of medications to work effectively can be limited if there is a lack of quality sleep. Medically treated blood pressure can be more difficult to control when the body is fatigued.

One way to get quality sleep is through “sleep hygiene;” a set of routines done in the evening to “trigger” your body and brain that it will soon be time to sleep. These routines should be done at roughly the same time each night whenever possible and may include brushing teeth, turning the bed down, and ensuring the ambient temperature is not too hot or cold. Having the TV or radio on can interrupt your ability to move seamlessly into the various stages of sleep. If you cannot sleep in a room that’s “too quiet,” white noise can help. This is a constant sound that does not have variables, but can block out variable noises.

Avoiding vigorous exercise within three hours prior to sleep can also help you wind down more easily. Late afternoon naps can disrupt your normal sleeping pattern, while short early afternoon naps are fine, they should generally not be longer than twenty minutes. Avoiding a large meal before bed, as well as alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine are also effective in ensuring you get the best quality sleep possible. Don’t forget that chocolate has caffeine, a stimulant, so you may want to reconsider that bedtime cup of hot cocoa. Over the counter sleep aids can help you fall asleep, but do not enable you to move through all of the various stages of quality sleep.

If you still can’t sleep, try to avoid rehashing the day with your mind racing. If you practice the sleep hygiene routine, eventually your brain will be retrained to shift into a lower gear before sleep. Still awake? Resist the urge to stress about how late it is. Instead, get up and take a warm bath, read in a chair, or do something that is relaxing for you. Try not to read in bed; train your mind to see your bed as a sleeping cue. Last tip? Breathe. Count 1 -breathe in, 2 - breathe out and repeat rhythmically. Our body responds to the rhythm and the habits we set. Sleep well.

About St. Lawrence Health System

St. Lawrence Health System was established in December, 2013 with the mission to improve health, to expand access, and to lower costs through coordination and integration of services. Encompassing several corporations, including Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam, NY, and Gouverneur Hospital, Gouverneur, NY, St. Lawrence Health System also operates extension outpatient facilities in Antwerp, Brasher Falls, Canton, Colton, DeKalb Junction, Edwards, Gouverneur, Massena, Norfolk, and Potsdam. The largest employer in St. Lawrence County, with just over 1,400 employees, St. Lawrence Health System has 130 full-time medical staff members and annual net operating revenues of $180 million.