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November 23, 2021

How good sleep, self-care and work-life balance can improve your life

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Community Conversation: Federico Cerrone, MD, and Kathy Robb, CHC

For a lot of people, separating their work life from personal life has become increasingly difficult.

On the October 22, 2021 episode of Community Conversations, Federico Cerrone, MD, medical director, Atlantic Health Sleep Centers, and Kathy Robb, CHC, well-being coach, Chambers Center for Well-Being, shared how to address work-life balance, incorporate self-care practices and the importance of good sleep to recharge your batteries and boost your mental health.

Are people feeling more stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Stress and anxiety have been enhanced by the pandemic and many people are struggling to manage, Kathy Robb acknowledged.

“People may have stopped taking care of themselves. They may not be eating as well, they may have gained COVID-19 weight, they may not be working out as much as before, and their stress levels can be high,” she said.

Kathy added that stress is a part of life that will never go away, but with the right tools and self-care activities, we can lead healthier lives.

How has the pandemic affected people’s sleep habits?

Dr. Cerrone said that even though more people are working from home and could get more rest, many find that it is difficult to set boundaries and stick to a sleep routine. He said that schedules have been disrupted, people are spending more time in front of screens and, for many, their general level of anxiety is higher. All these factors contribute to more stress and sleep disruptions.

You have to have a good night’s sleep ... sleep is tied into everything — feeling good in the morning, mood, and relationships.”

Federico Cerrone, MD, medical director, Atlantic Health Sleep Centers

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How have the Atlantic Health Sleep Centers helped to address some of these challenges?

The Atlantic Health Sleep Centers provide comprehensive services for a wide range of sleep disorders. In addition to conditions such as sleep apnea and insomnia, the sleep centers focus on wellness and the ways sleep is important for a person’s overall well-being.

“You have to have a good night’s sleep ... sleep is tied into everything — feeling good in the morning, mood, and relationships,” Dr. Cerrone said.

Learn more about sleep studies and sleep disorder treatment options >

What services are available at Chambers Center for Well-Being?

Chambers Center for Well-Being is a 20,000-square-foot wellness center with services that can help you achieve total well-being. The center offers nutritional counseling, massage therapy, skin care treatments, as well as a fitness center with a personal training studio and fitness classes. In addition, the center provides well-being coaching to help clients establish and meet their health and wellness goals. Kathy said she helps clients restart their exercise schedule, set realistic expectations and transition back into a wellness routine.

Learn more about Chambers Center for Well-Being >

What is the Himalayan Salt Room at Chambers Center for Well-Being?

Kathy described the Himalayan Salt Room as a relaxing space with therapeutic benefits. The walls of the room are made from pink Himalayan salt blocks. Clients enter the space barefoot and inhale salt crystals in the air.

“It’s very good for your airways (and for) people with asthma or allergies, or even more serious (conditions such as) cystic fibrosis or COPD. It’s kind of like being at the beach without the waves, that salt air. It's really good for your skin and your hair and it's very relaxing.”

What does the term “self-care” mean?

Kathy said that “self-care” refers to any activity that you do deliberately and consistently to take care of and/or improve your health that leads to overall well-being.

  • For your physical health, self-care could involve eating well, staying active and sleeping well.
  • For emotional health, you can learn to cope with negative or depleting emotions.
  • Social self-care creates connections that are important outside of your home and your work life.
  • Spiritual self-care encompasses things that help you find a deeper meaning in your life.

She added that Chambers Center for Well-Being has resources to help people with many aspects of self-care.

What is sleep apnea? Is there a link with dementia?

Dr. Cerrone explained that sleep apnea is a disruption in your breathing during sleep. It can lead to many health issues, including high blood pressure and stroke. In addition, research has linked sleep apnea to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia and other neurodegenerative problems. Not sleeping well, in general, can also lead to cognition issues, he said.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

Snoring is the most obvious symptom of sleep apnea, although not the only one, Dr. Cerrone said. Breathing problems during sleep such as “puffing or purring” can be an indication, as well as getting up to go to the bathroom often at night.

If you are fatigued during the day because of sleep interruptions or feel low on energy, you may have a sleep disorder. Dr. Cerrone added that many people attribute these symptoms to the stress and anxiety of life without considering they may be connected to a lack of restful sleep.

Are there ways to treat sleep apnea beyond using a CPAP?

A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine uses a hose connected to a mask or nosepiece to deliver air pressure to help you breathe while you sleep. For those with moderate to severe sleep apnea who have tried a CPAP without success, Dr. Cerrone said a new alternative treatment is available. Called the InspireTM device, this treatment is implanted during an outpatient procedure. When activated, it causes the tongue to move forward in your mouth, opening the airway, so you can breathe better at night. Learn more about Inspire >

How do I know if I have a sleep disorder?

Dr. Cerrone said that sleep requires consistency, routine, and boundaries. A person should be able to fall asleep within 15 minutes of lying down in bed without distractions such as TV or other screens. If you wake up at night, wake up earlier than you need to, or wake up without feeling refreshed, these could be indicators of a sleep disorder.

Take a short quiz now to assess your sleep health >

How important is it to find a balance between your personal life and professional life?

A work-life balance is important for your health and wellness, Kathy stated.

“People need to recognize that they can't do it all, that you can't please everybody, you're not going to make everybody happy. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of others, especially for those working parents out there. People have to learn to say no sometimes,” she said.

She urged people to try and not take work home and to practice a transition ritual between your work and your home life to clearly separate your workspace and your leisure space. The ritual could be as simple as listening to an audiobook or podcast on the drive home or to go for a walk around the block.

“Do something to escape from it all that is good for yourself.”

How can I find more information about the Atlantic Health System Sleep Centers and Chambers Center for Well-Being?

Learn more about Atlantic Health Sleep Centers >

Learn more about Chambers Center for Well-Being >