9 Signs You're Not Getting High-Quality Sleep

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Between work, family and play, it can be difficult to get a good night's sleep. While it's easy to tell you're tired after a night of tossing and turning, there are a few more subtle signs that indicate you're not getting the beauty rest you need and deserve.

If you find that many or all of the following signs are true for you, consider taking steps to improve the quality of your sleep:

1. You can't stop hitting the snooze alarm.

Hitting the snooze alarm often is usually a sign that you either haven't had sufficient sleep or that the quality of your sleep is poor.

2. You sleep late on weekends.

If you find that you're constantly sleeping later on weekends, this may be due to the sleep debt you built up during the week.

Unfortunately, this catch-up sleep can't make up for your lack of sleep. Even worse, it may throw your circadian clock off, making it more difficult to fall asleep on Sunday night.

3. You're irritable and moody.

It's unfortunate that so many of us fail to realize how insufficient sleep affects our moods. Sleep is very important in our processing of emotions.

4. You get frequent coughs and colds.

Many studies have demonstrated the importance of sleep in relation to our immune system. In fact, in my book I examine sleep and its relationship to the immune system.

5. You can't shed those pounds.

Insufficient sleep is a major cause of obesity. When the body does not get enough sleep, it tends to overproduce an appetite-stimulating hormone called ghrelin, and underproduce an appetite-suppressing hormone called leptin.

6. You're unable to focus and remember.

Sleep is a necessity if you want to be able to concentrate, problem solve, and remember things. During sleep, toxins that build up in the brain throughout the day called beta amyloid are cleared at a rate 10 times greater than during wakefulness. Also during sleep, information is uploaded and consolidated into our long-term memories. That is the reason that most people perform better on testing after a good night's sleep.

7. Your blood sugar is creeping up.

Inadequate sleep is a cause of insulin resistance. In fact, many people labeled prediabetic will return to normal if they start to get seven to nine hours of sleep.

8. Your blood pressure starts to increase.

Sleep is very important to cardiovascular health. Actually, our blood pressure is usually 15 points lower when we are asleep; this is called "nocturnal dipping." If you are consistently getting less than seven hours of sleep a night you may end up paying the price in the form of high blood pressure.

9. You consume caffeine all day.

There are many of us who consume coffee or caffeinated soft drinks from morning until night. In many instances, we have become so dependent on it to stay awake that we no longer realize why we are doing it. I have found in my sleep practice that this is frequently a sign of not enough or poor quality sleep.

The bottom line is that we need to appreciate how important sleep is to our physical and mental well-being. Too many of us fight sleep, not wanting to miss anything. Unfortunately, like most things in life, there are consequences when we do things in excess.

It's very important to have an adult ritual before bedtime. This should consist of relaxing activities such as reading, listening to music, prayer or meditation. Above all avoid computers, televisions, iPads and cellphones at least one hour before bedtime. Eliminate all sources of caffeine, including dark chocolate, at least six hours before bedtime. Finally, exercise regularly!

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