Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sleep Hygiene Tips to Get You Better Rest

Most of us have trouble sleeping at some point (well there are those few people we know who always sleep like a rock – they may never understand how incredibly lucky they are – am I right?).  But for the majority of people at least, from time to time trouble sleeping can be a huge problem! It can mess with your mood and health and sometimes just render us useless if it was a really bad night.  Whether it’s having trouble falling asleep, or waking up in the middle of the night or a combination of both, there are some things that you can do to help get quality sleep.  These practices are what is know as sleep hygiene. I have been looking into it per my doctor’s suggestions when I mentioned poor sleep, and here are some of the best tips I came across:

·      Keep A Regular Schedule
·      Exercise - We should all be exercising regularly, but did you know for sleep hygiene it’s better to do vigorous exercising during the day? Avoid working out during the night, or if you do evening workouts, go for something more relaxing such as yoga
·      Use Your Bed Only For Sleep and Sex/Intimacy – I admit, I am guilty of watching TV shows on my laptop in bed. These other types of activities condition your brain to associate your bed with things other than sleep which can disturb your sleep
·      Pay Attention to Diet in relation to sleep - Don’t eat big meals right before bed. This doesn’t mean it’s necessary to go to bed hungry but go for a healthy snack instead of a large meal if you know you are heading to bed soon. Skip protein for this snack – instead healthy carbs or dairy are shown to help bring on sleep better. Also notice how diet changes in general affect your sleep patterns, sometimes changes in diet can cause troubled sleep while you’re getting used to them. Avoid caffeine later in the day – that includes chocolate if you are very sensitive.  Don’t eat spicy food if you are very sensitive. Experiment with what works best for your body but think – if it’s hard to digest it may keep me up.  I’m talking greasy food, cheese, protein etc. Try kefir, which is healthy and naturally has tryptophan an essential amino acid that helps serotonin production and therefore may help with sleep.
·      Have A Relaxing Bedtime Routine - Having time to unwind is extremely important – schedule it into your evenings. What will be your nightly routine; Relaxation? Meditation? Bedtime tea? Stretching? Warm bath?  This routine is especially important if you are dealing with psychological stressors.  You can’t have just gotten into a big argument, just turned off a dramatic TV show, or just finished a stressful work project and expect your mind to immediately shut off. It needs time to unwind and move away from all the hustle and bustle of the day.
·      Exposure to Natural Light - This helps regulate a healthy sleep/wake cycle in your body.  I know this can be hard for some of us in the winter in cold areas (aka Minnesota), but just do your best. Open your window curtains to let as much light in as you can during the day and if the temp is bearable outside consider taking a 10 minute stroll during your work break. One cross sectional study from 2011 found that workers under-exposed to natural light during the day had more sleep impairments and wake disorders1.
·      Have The Right Environment - Take a critical look at your bedroom.  Make sure it’s relaxing and comfortable; this includes the bed and temperature.  Also remove all electronic gadgets from your room. We don’t need to be sleeping with or by our phones or laptops for the most part. Electronics that omit any light or signals can interfere with your body’s melatonin production.
·      Avoid Alcohol 3 Hours Before Bed - Sorry to bust your bubble, but the metabolism mechanisms that go into your body breaking down alcohol often disrupt sleep (Daytime drinking anyone?).  Even though alcohol may seem to help you fall asleep initially; you might wake up a few hours later once it is being fully metabolized. So maybe have your glass of wine before dinner instead of after or at the beginning of your evening out.

Cheers to a sound and restful nights’ sleep.

1 Leger, D., Bayon, V., Elbaz, M., Philip, P., Choudat, D. (2011) Underexposure to light at work and its association to insomnia and sleepiness: A cross-sectional study of 13296 workers of one transportation company. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 70 (29-36).

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