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Looking for a new you for a new year? Experts say - focus on sleep

Posted at 7:34 PM, Jan 04, 2021

If you're sleepless at home, you're not alone. One of the new trends in the new year surrounds sleep and getting more of it.

There are many tips and tricks, and some are seeking a professional sleep coach.

"Sleep is fundamental to all aspects of our health," says Dr. Adam Perlman, who added that not getting enough sleep isn't right for you.

At the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Perlman helps patients with sleep, health, and nutrition. He's also an advisor for the sleep company Proper.

"If we're not getting enough quality sleep, we're more irritable and tired," Dr. Perlman said. "We're not able to do as much, but over time particularly if poor sleep becomes a chronic issue, then there are more serious ramifications for our health."

Things like depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke can all be linked to lousy rest.

To be clear, Dr. Perlman says, insufficient sleep isn't classified as a night or two of lousy rest.

"We're talking about chronic sleep issues or chronic insomnia, things like sleep apnea, which is a whole other subject that have various effects on our physiology."

He says cumulative low sleep puts stress on the system.

"If you've had two weeks or more of chronic sleep-related issues, then it's probably time to speak with your physician and ask them what they think," Dr. Perlman said. "Medically-related sleep issues like sleep apnea are often overlooked both by patients, and unfortunately, there's evidence by health care providers as well because we don't ask enough about sleep."

There are, of course, devices. But it's important to note that not all sleep fits all. Like there's no "one size" in weight loss.

"There's no magic, and it's all very customized to what your lifestyle is and needs to be," said sleep expert and certified health and wellness coach Kelly O'Brien said. "But creating some intention around creating this sense of restfulness before getting into bed could be the secret sauce if you will. Launching into a picture that's a little bit closer to what most folks would like their sleep to look like."

O'Brien says, to achieve restfulness, put your phone down. It's designed to draw you in. Avoid anything "activating," such as exercise, about an hour before bed.

She says people should follow a consistent bedtime routine, and, if you watch TV, find something relaxing.

"We have these preset modes around sleep and wakefulness that will kick in, and we need to get out of the way of that, so the first thing is to take the focus off of trying to force sleep and know that sleep will come," O'Brien said.

O'Brien added that stress is the most significant contributor to insufficient sleep, and 2020 has been tough on our stress levels.

"What's important for people to recognize that they must become an expert on them," Dr. Perlman said.

It means to pay attention to yourself and what your body needs to help you be the best version you can be in 2021 - and beyond.