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Here's how to get better sleep

Doctors say changing your sleep habits could change your day and even your life.

TAMPA, Fla. — Between the pandemic, lockdown, time change and election stress, a lot of us are really in need of a reboot. Getting a good night's sleep is a big part of that.

Zachary Williams had sleep apnea and knows the difference a good night's rest can make all too well. 

"I've been having issues with my sleep for quite a few years now. I've lost jobs over it and all that. And I thought it was time to just get a second opinion. I thought I just had broken sleep as any person had, but that was far from the truth." 

Sleep apnea is a disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts, keeping you from getting a full night's sleep. 

USF Health and Tampa General Hospital sleep specialist Dr. Fareeha Hussaini says it's important to rule out underlying health conditions like Williams' and then make some healthy changes. 

"The number one treatment, even for acute stress insomnia is working on your sleep habits, your sleep hygiene and cognitive behavioral therapy that's targeted to improve your sleep,"  Hussaini said.

"I changed habits. I stopped drinking so much and I don't play video games two hours before I go to bed. Those two things alone are really helping me out with sleeping as well," Williams said. 

Dr. Hussaini recommends several things to help you get a good night's rest.

  1. Get some exercise about 2- 3 hours before bed. she says this helps tire you out and build up chemical compounds and hormones to give you deeper sleep.
  2. Eat dinner early. At least a couple of hours before going to sleep.
  3. Don't drink alcohol. Dr. Hussaini says that nightcap might initially help you fall asleep but will prevent the deep sleep you really need.
  4. No screen time, TVs or phones, two hours before bed.  "The blue light that comes from your phone tends to block and suppress the natural melatonin that we make and because of that, that is what delays sleep."

Williams says is feeling much better now that he is getting good sleep. 

"I feel refreshed, great. I don't feel drowsy or depressed anymore. I felt depressed for a long time and I didn't know what was wrong. It was sleep. Sleep can really change your thought processes, your behavior, your mood, everything."  

Dr. Hussaini agrees, "It can change the quality of not just your day, but your life."

One more thing that could help you sleep is what Dr. Hussaini calls "pink noise." Playing any sort of nature or ocean sounds can help relax your mind when it's racing from all the stress.

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