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Falling asleep: Why drifting off to dreamland is preferable to conking out the second you hit the pillow

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 6:11 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Of all the things we don’t agree on these days surely most people do share one thing in common.

We all enjoy a good night’s sleep.

But it’s sometimes an elusive thing to achieve.

And while we’ve all endured the frustration of tossing-and-turning at times waiting for dreamland to settle in, did you know it’s also not necessarily a good thing to conk out the second your head hits the pillow?

“It should take between 15-30 minutes to fall asleep at night,” said Jill Fritz, a Sleep Medicine Specialist with CoxHealth.

Heading off to la-la land as soon as you lay down could be a sign of sleep deprivation and lead to health problems.

“People who fall asleep immediately could be a sign of something else going on like sleep apnea,” Fritz explained. “What happens with sleep apnea is the muscles in the back of the throat and back of the tongue become too relaxed during your deep sleep and when that happens the brain says, ‘Whoa! You need to wake up to take that next breath!’ So if that’s happening 20 times-an-hour, eight-times-a-night no wonder you’re tired the next day. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, funny heart rhythms and it does increase your chances of a heart attack or stroke which can lead to death.”

According to the CDC adults need at least seven hours of sleep a night while school-age kids need eight to 10 hours.

So what if you’re not getting enough quality sleep time?

“It really does affect your mental health because a lot of your happy hormones are produced at night,” Fritz pointed out. “So people can have worsening depression and anxiety and other mental health issues. It can also lead to issues with your immune system and if we’re not getting that good sleep you’re actually opening yourself up to becoming sick quicker.”

It’s understandable to be frustrated by not being able to fall asleep but keep in mind that being stressed makes it even harder for you to get to sleep.

“A good rule of thumb is if you’re in bed for more than 30 minutes and you’re not asleep you should get up,” Fritz said. “Go to another room, read by low light or do a crossword puzzle, something that’s not very brain stimulating.”

It’s also recommended that you try to keep your routine the same every day including what you do in preparing to go to bed (brushing teeth, showering, reading a book, etc.) and when you sleep, keeping it the same even on your days off from work.

“Most people think the bedtime is the most important,” Fritz said of maintaining consistency. “But it’s actually the wake-up time.”

Studies have also shown deep breathing exercises (slow breath in for a six count, hold it for six, out for six) and keeping a notebook by your bed can be helpful.

“A lot of people’s minds are so busy at night and you start thinking of everything that you want to do the next day,” Fritz said. “So having a notepad or note card next to the bed, you can write that thought down and then leave it and go to sleep.”

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