How To Get Better Sleep
Jarrod Beachum, PA-C
This week’s blog is all about sleep. Sleep is a vital part of our lives. It is when a body gets a chance to rest and repair, and our brain gets to sort through everything that happened that day. While most people are generally able to drift right off consistently, many of us complain of sleepless nights occasionally, or more.
Whenever a patient asks me about sleep problems, I always discuss sleep hygiene with them first before we start medications. What is sleep hygiene? My definition is those habits or practices that we do to prepare our bodies for good quality sleep that gives us the energy to carry on the next day. Practicing good sleep hygiene will improve daytime alertness, productivity, mental health, and allow you to go to sleep quicker and stay asleep.
Here are some guidelines that I use with my patients, and I try to follow them myself:
- Routine: Having a consistent bedtime and wake up time is a great way to regulate your sleep cycle. With time, the body can become attuned to your schedule. Consistency will trigger sleep hormones to be produced at the same time every day, allowing you to go to sleep quicker. Inconsistent sleep schedules throw your body off, so some days you will be wide awake when you know you should be sleeping, and other days you may barely make it to dinner without a few power naps.
- The 2 S’s: Sleep and Sex. These are the only two things you should use your bed for. Again, the body can pick up on habits and will react to that. That means no eating, reading, playing video games, cruising Facebook, etc. You want your brain to associate the bed primarily with sleep, secondarily with sex.
- Caffeine: I recommend no caffeine at dinner or later. If you are sensitive to caffeine, then you might want to consider stopping even earlier, say around 3 pm.
- Napping: Napping is ok in moderation. It can improve alertness, mood, and performance. However, it is not the same as sleeping, and should not be used that way. Recent research has recommended the optimal nap time as 26 minutes, once a day.
- Journaling: I know I said Sleep and Sex are the only two things to do in bed, but for those of us who’s minds start racing as soon as our heads hit the pillows, journaling may be beneficial. Many people will keep replaying things in their heads that happened during the day, usually negative events. I recommend that you keep a journal to write down your thoughts. Write out the problem, then write out the solution. Physically writing out the thoughts allows your tired brain to focus on the processing and removal of those sleep obstacles. Once you have done that, hopefully, you are cleared out enough to start the sleep cycle.
- Comfort: Having a good sleep environment can probably be number one on this list. A good sleep environment is one that has comfortable bedding, light ambient noise (unless you prefer total silence), low to no light levels, temperature between 60-67 degrees, and no interruptions. I recommend not to have a TV or lamp on. The light can affect the number of sleep hormones the brain produces, causing you to stay awake or interrupting your sleep cycle, resulting in poor rest and fatigue the next day. If you insist on having a TV or lamp, put them on a timer. Gradually decrease the timer to wean yourself off using them. My wife and used to fall asleep with the TV on. We stopped watching TV in the bedroom about 6 months ago, and it has been immensely helpful.
- Daytime habits: Exercise and light exposure during the day are important for overall health and for aiding in sleep. Natural light exposure during the day helps maintain our circadian rhythm, which the 24-hour clock our bodies follow. Exercise is also helpful. Intense workouts just before bed are not recommended for most people, but a good cardiovascular workout earlier in the day will greatly improve your sleep later in the evening.
If you have had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or have other concerns about sleeping and how you feel during the day, please come see me at 45 Urgent Care. I will be happy to discuss this with you and help you get the rest your body deserves!