adult woman sick in bed and coughingNow that we’re officially into fall and the kids are back at school, we’re heading into cold and flu season. In Fort Atkinson, our long Wisconsin winters can make this a grueling, miserable time some years. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do something to make it less likely that you’re going to get sick? 

There is, and we’re not talking about flu shots (though you should consider that, too). No, we’re talking about getting better sleep. Good sleep can help your body fight off many kinds of upper respiratory infection.

There are many things you can and should do to improve your sleep quality and quantity at home. However, if you think you’re getting plenty of sleep, but you’re still feeling tired–and getting sick–you should consider the possibility that sleep apnea is robbing you of rest. Please contact Fort Atkinson sleep dentist Dr. Jennifer Stafford at Bite Align for a sleep test

Less Quality Sleep Leads to More Illness: Study

While we generally accept that less sleep puts us at higher risk for getting sick, a new study adds some nuance to our understanding. 

In this study, researchers looked at more than 1300 military recruits (68% males) as they transitioned from civilian life into and through 12 weeks of training. Researchers focused on recruits who had more restricted sleep during training than in their civilian life–getting an average of two hours less sleep during training than before training. 

Researchers found that this sleep restriction more than doubled the risk that recruits would develop an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). All well and good so far, right? Here’s where it gets interesting, though. Not all recruits saw an increase in URTI risk with sleep reduction. The only ones that saw their risk go up significantly were those who also reported poor sleep quality as well as reduced sleep. 

Recruits who reported good sleep quality didn’t have an elevated risk for URTI. However, those who reported poor sleep quality were three times more likely to develop a URTI than those who reported good sleep quality. So it’s not just the quantity of sleep you get, it’s also the quality of sleep that matters. 

Good Sleep Hygiene Can Help You

So how do we apply these insights in Fort Atkinson? Simple: it’s important that you focus on  your sleep quality as well as your sleep quantity. We already know that more and more people are reporting difficulty sleeping.

To help you combat poor sleep quality, take a look at your sleep hygiene. This basically means making sure that the conditions are right in your mind, body, and environment for getting quality sleep. Some common suggestions for improving sleep quality include:

  • Maintain a consistent bedtime, even on the weekends
  • Establish a bedtime routine to help your brain prepare for resting
  • Make your bedroom dark and quiet. Try to maintain a comfortable temperature
  • Consider removing electronics from your bedroom
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime
  • Stop consuming alcohol 3-4 hours before bedtime, and caffeine at least 8 hours before bedtime
  • Get exercise during the day
  • Try to get sun exposure during the day

Some of these tips deserve more explanation. The issue of electronics in the bedroom remains controversial. Some studies show that blue light from devices can make it hard to sleep. Other studies don’t. Plus, these devices are a distraction. If you’re currently having trouble sleeping, try removing electronics from the bedroom.

Many people think alcohol helps you sleep. While it can cause you to fall asleep, it impairs the quality of your sleep. Since we know that quality sleep matters, it’s important to avoid alcohol too close to bedtime. Caffeine susceptibility varies, but many people find it hard to sleep within 8 hours of consuming caffeine.

Exercise and sun exposure guidelines get harder in Fort Atkinson in the winter, we know. However, it’s worth trying. If it’s dark when you leave for work and when you get home, try to get out for exercise over lunch.

Is Sleep Apnea Affecting Your Sleep Quality?

If you follow the above recommendations and you’re still having trouble getting good sleep, you should consider that you might have sleep apnea. 

In sleep apnea, your breathing gets interrupted during sleep. Your brain has to awaken to start breathing again. While you might not wake up enough to notice it, it’s enough to disrupt your sleep quality. It prevents you from reaching the deep, restorative sleep stages. 

As a result, you might feel tired during the day no matter how much sleep you think you’re getting. You might fall asleep at work or while driving. You might be moody and irritable. People with sleep apnea also likely have high blood pressure, diabetes, and might find it hard to exercise and lose weight. 

Testing and Treatment for Sleep Apnea in Fort Atkinson

Are you unable to get quality sleep no matter how good your sleep hygiene? Sleep apnea might be the problem. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, Fort Atkinson sleep dentist Dr. Jennifer Stafford can help. She can help you get tested for sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, she can help you get a comfortable, convenient sleep apnea treatment that’s an effective alternative to CPAP. 

Please call (920) 563-7323 or use our online form to request an appointment at Bite Align in Fort Atkinson, across the street from Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts, near the Johnson Bank.