Don’t Lose Any More Sleep Over Your Insomnia

June 09, 2020

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, many of us had to change our daily routines. All of this uncertainty has pushed people to feel anxious, and simple things like getting the right amount of sleep can become a nightmare. 

If you have insomnia, you’re not alone: about 1 in 3 healthy adults suffer from it. Insomnia can wear you out, both mentally and physically. In fact, if you are missing out on quality sleep on a regular basis, you could be setting yourself up for a variety of health issues, including weight gain, increased risk of accidents, irregular heart rhythm, and even a higher risk of diabetes and stroke. 

So, what’s causing your insomnia? 

We have some tips that can help you go back to a regular sleeping schedule. Read on and don’t lose any more sleep!

 

Common Causes of Insomnia

Section 1
 There's a variety of reasons why you might have insomnia and recognizing what’s causing yours is the first step. Even in the best of times, these factors are all too common, and current events have made these feelings more intense for many people. 

On a positive note, many of these common causes of insomnia have simple fixes. We’ve grouped them into two categories, which can help you figure out where to go for a solution.

Health-related causes 
⦁    An illness or condition (e.g., asthma or sleep apnea) that may be interrupting your sleep
⦁    Chronic pain
⦁    Certain medications, including common medications for depression, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease
⦁    Menopause

For health and medication-related issues, work with your doctor to learn if there are solutions that can help you.

Lifestyle-related causes 
⦁    Alcohol consumption
⦁    Smoking or vaping
⦁    Poor or unbalanced diet
⦁    Too much caffeine through the day
⦁    Uncontrolled stress levels
⦁    Poor sleep hygiene (not going to bed at the same time every night, having a noisy bedroom, checking your cell phone in bed, being too hot or too cold)

If you believe your lifestyle or your environment could be to blame for your insomnia, keep reading to learn what to do to get back to sleep.


Getting Back to Sleep

Section 2Before you go to bed tonight, try at least one or two of these tips. They’re all great additions to a healthy lifestyle!

⦁    Create a comfortable sleep environment: make sure your room is relaxing, quiet, and comfortable. Small things like temperature can affect your sleep, so it’s best if your room is not too hot or cold.


⦁    No more screens: stop using electronics an hour before going to bed. The blue light from devices such as a phone, tablet, or TV can keep you active and disrupt your sleep. 


⦁    Manage your stress: try not to engage in difficult conversations or work right before going to bed. If you find yourself frequently stressed out during the day,  trying meditation techniques, deep breathing, or yoga to help you relax and make it easier for you to sleep. 


⦁    No more naps: it can be tempting to take a short nap, especially if you are working from home, but taking a nap during the day can make it difficult to go to sleep at night. 


⦁    Keep yourself on a schedule: because of COVID-19, many of us had to change our home schedules radically, and sometimes it’s tempting to sleep late or go to bed at different hours. Try to keep yourself on a routine that supports your biological clock. Wake up at the same hour every morning and go to sleep at a specific time as well. 


⦁    Don’t drink or have a huge meal before bedtime: having a late dinner before going to bed is going to activate your digestive system. Certain foods can cause reflux and heartburn that could keep you up all night. When it comes to drinks, having lots of fluids before bedtime can make you go to the bathroom during the night, interrupting your sleep. 


⦁    Stay active: regular workouts can improve the quality of your sleep. However, working out too close to bedtime can get your heart racing, so plan your physical activities for at least four hours before going to bed. 

 

We hope these simple suggestions help you recover your good night’s sleep. If you think your insomnia may be a symptom of another condition, talk to a doctor. AltaMed is open, and we are also offering telehealth visits, by phone or video, to help keep you safe and healthy at home. Call us at (888) 499-9303 to make an appointment.
 

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Why Having a Routine During Quarantine is So Important

May 28, 2020

It finally looks like we may be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel regarding COVID-19 lockdowns. So many of us have been sheltering at home, some of us without jobs, others trying to help our kids learn at a distance, all of us wishing for positive news giving us a date for when things will be back to normal. 

Even though there are reasons to be optimistic, we are still a long way from our lives returning to the way things were before COVID-19. Coming up with a routine or a regular schedule for your life is more important than ever. It can help you and your family deal with uncertainty and put you in the best position for whatever comes next.

 

Why Have a Routine?

Section 1

Humans are naturally hard-wired to crave stability and dependability. Our brains and our bodies perform better if we can follow a regular schedule. At first, it may feel fun or relaxing to have a lot of free time that you can use however you want – especially if you have a job you can no longer go to and other responsibilities that have shifted.  

However, the decisions you make about how to spend your time cause stress. Do I go to the market or wait another day? What time should I wake up the kids? Should I look for jobs online, or should I watch TV? When should I start cooking dinner? 

Without a routine, during a single day, you could be making hundreds of decisions, and the stress and anxiety will add up. Building a routine can take this pressure off and sticking to a routine can help boost your self-confidence. 


What are Other Benefits of Having a Routine?

Section 2

Having a routine can help you become more efficient. Say, for example, you need to look for a job, but you only give yourself a few minutes, here and there. You will probably spend a lot of time online, searching your computer for resumes and other important documents, and not get that much work done. But if you make it a habit and start a routine – such as spending two hours Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – you will get into a rhythm that will make your time more productive. This is true for almost anything, whether it’s work, school, cleaning around the house, or even working out.

Following a routine or schedule every day could also help you get a better night’s sleep!


Who Needs a Routine?

Section 3

Everyone in your household can benefit from having a schedule – especially children. In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted their lives the most, taking them away from school, their friends, and all the social interactions that stimulate their young brains. There are signs that many children may already be suffering from anxiety and depression. 

The truth is, this has been hard on all of us. You don’t have to create a perfect routine that mirrors how life was before but work with your family to create structure for everyone.


How Do You Make a Routine?

Section 4

Start out by writing out all the things you need and want to get done, then list them by priority or urgency. The key is to stay busy, yet still have time for meals and personal care.

If you still feel like you don’t have a lot to do, then, look at what you can break down. For example, if one of your items is “cook a healthy dinner,” then you also might need to add “go to the store,” “search online for good recipes,” and “wash and dice the vegetables.” Breaking big to-do items into smaller tasks will help you fill out your day.

Throughout your day, it may help to include things that you used to do regularly. No, you don’t have to get dressed up, but a small thing – for example, putting on earrings or lipstick can help. If you always went on coffee break at 10:30 a.m., you can still have a cup at 10:30 – it will help you feel more normal. 

One of the ways you can help create a sense of stability is to create dedicated areas for certain activities. Identify a space in your house for working, create a pleasing environment with all the things you’ll need, and then only work there. Do the same for exercise, family time, leisure, and self-care.

However, you should be realistic about what you can get done. If you try to do too much and miss the mark, you may get discouraged and then give up.

And, just like there are great apps to help you live a healthier life, there are many free apps you can use to start and stick to a routine. More than 20 million people use Todoist, a free app that’s available for both Apple and Android. And Habitica is great for children (and those who are young at heart).It takes a game-like approach to setting goals and rewarding good behavior.


When Should a Routine Go into Effect?

Section 5

Right now! You can start by creating routines for a few days a week, or even for an entire month.

Don’t feel too bad if you go off your schedule. You can try again tomorrow. The point of a routine is to make your life better.


Don’t Ignore Your Health Routines

AltaMed is open to serve you in any way we can, and we don’t want you to forget about your family’s health routines. Children’s vaccinations are more important than ever, and we have taken steps to protect you and your family’s health so it’s safe to bring your kids in. We are also offering online and over-the-phone doctor visits so you can continue to get the care you need. Call us and make an appointment today!
 

Busting Myths Around Screen Time: Balance is Key During Quarantine

May 06, 2020

Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, many of us are now working, playing, socializing, and going to school online. That’s a lot of screen time. And you may be wondering if all of that time spent looking down at a laptop, cellphone, or tablet is good for you.

The answers aren’t always easy. In a nutshell, spending 6, 8, or 10 hours online every day isn’t great for you, but you may be able to undo some of the harmful effects. Read on to learn more about common screen-related problems and how you can fix them.

 

The Myth: Increased Screen Time Can Lead to Weight Gain, Diabetes, and Other Health Problems

man playing video games

The Truth: There’s scientific evidence that too much sitting – whether it’s in front of a screen, on a couch, or behind the wheel of a car – can lead to heart disease, a shorter life, weight gain, increased risk of dementia, and many other health problems.

With increased screen time, you’re probably seeing more online ads and commercials for fast food, snacks, and other unhealthy products. These ads can stick in your brain and influence what you buy later.

Finally, there is a connection between lack of sleep and weight gain. If your device use affects your ability to get a good night’s sleep, then you may be eating more, moving less, and gaining weight.

The Solution: Include more movement in your day. Even if you’re having a difficult time with vigorous exercise, just start moving as much as you can. At least once an hour, get up from your computer and walk a lap around your house. And read on for tips to keep your devices from keeping you up at night.

 

The Myth: Too Much Screen Time Interferes with Your Sleep

woman writing a document

The Truth: This is true, for a number of reasons:
1.   First, your devices give off a light that may keep you up or make it harder for you to shut your brain off.

2.   If you spend too much time reading the news and worrying about the day’s events, that can also cause you anxiety and make it harder to sleep.  

3.   Finally, if you find yourself consistently binging content or texting in bed when you should be asleep, you could be throwing your schedule off, making it more difficult to get restful sleep.

The Solution: Put your devices down at least an hour before bedtime, but if you absolutely, positively need to be on your phone, switch your apps over to dark mode, which is easier on your eyes, your brain, and your phone’s battery life. Also, set limits on the amount of news you see.

 

The Myth: Staring at a Computer All Day is Bad for the Eyes

boy using an smartphone with his father

The Truth: Finally, some good news! Increased screen time won’t permanently ruin your eyes, and no one has ever gone blind just by staring at their phone all day. But you can get temporary eye strain, discomfort, and even headaches. 

The Solution: You can take steps to correct the strain and protect your eye health. One easy thing you can do is simply to blink more often! This will help refresh and moisten your eyes. If you wear contact lenses, try switching to glasses (if you have them) or working without your contacts. A few simple changes to how you work at your computer can prevent eye strain as well as headaches and backaches, too. Believe it or not, sore, dry eyes can lead to an achy back, so try these stretches and exercises to keep your spine mobile

 

The Myth: Too Much Screen Time Hurts Kids’ Brains

back of a kid watching tv and wearing headphones

The Truth: An excess amount of screen time can harm young, developing brains. Studies have found too many hours in front of a device can lead to developmental delays, poor social skills, behavioral problems, and a general feeling of unhappiness or a lack of well-being. 

The Solution: For younger children, limit their screen time to the absolute minimum. The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed these guidelines:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, no more than one hour per day.
  • For children over the age of 6, set limits on the time as well as which devices and content, and make sure this time doesn’t interfere with getting enough sleep and physical activity. 

Work with your children so they’re doing as much schoolwork offline as they can. Encourage physical play and exercise – get outdoors as much as possible, while still being safe. Make screen-free family time a priority, and do as much IRL (“in real life”) socializing as you can safely, paying attention to the latest recommendations from our mayor and governor.

 

Set a Good Example for Your Family

mother and daughter speaking at the table

We understand how essential phones, tablets, and computers are right now, but as so many of us are battling isolation and loneliness, do what you can to connect with those in your household.  Create device-free times throughout the day – and even no-phone-zones throughout your house (for example, at the dinner table).

We’ll get through this – and until we do, AltaMed is here for all of your family’s health needs. We’re even offering appointments by phone to help you grow healthy, no matter what.