Sleep and Your Health
Here are 10 simple steps to improve your sleep and improve your health. Our last blog post, Can Sleep Deprivation Increase Pain?, discussed the links between sleep deprivation and chronic pain. The following information focuses on suggestions on how to optimize your sleep hygiene which are habits and practices that are necessary to obtain good nighttime restful sleep and maintain full daytime alertness. Healthy sleep is critical for ALL aspects of your health. Restoring sleep and improving your breathing are literally two of the simplest changes you can make in your life that will have the biggest pay out for positive change.
In the state of chronic pain, sleep deprivation and stress are two major amplifier or modifiers of your pain. When the scales tip towards higher pain output, often you can trace the increase back to a stress facilitator or a degradation in sleep quality. Restoring your sleep requires changing habits and changing habits can by very challenging. A dedicated effort is required, but if you fall off the wagon, don’t be discouraged!
- Associate your bed with sleep and sex only – Avoid reading, eating, working or watching TV in bed. Leave the bed if you are unable to fall asleep within 20 minutes.
- Make your sleeping environment comfortable and relaxing – Find the right temperature for you, not too hot or cold. Avoid too much light and noise. Use eye masks and earplugs if necessary.
- Stop using light-emitting electronics 30 minutes before bed – The light reduces melatonin production that is necessary for sleep. Shut off the blue light on your cell phone when the sun goes down to avoid additional blue light exposure. Consider using blue light blocking glasses as well.
- Start a bedtime routine – That’s right, just like you do/did for your kiddos! This could include take a warm bath, reading a book, meditating, stretching or mindful movement lessons. There are a number of free meditation apps on the app store that work very well. I like Headspace.
- Keep a set bedtime and wake time – Reset your biological clock by going to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Try to reduce or eliminate variations to your sleep schedule. Expose yourself to bright natural light when you first wake up and as much as you can throughout the day.
- Exercise regularly – There is evidence that doing regular exercise daily improves your sleep at night. Avoid moderate to vigorous exercise 2-3 hours before bed.
- Avoid caffeine – Try to eliminate caffeinated foods and drinks for at least 4 hours before bed. Read the labels on foods as you would be surprised where caffeine is found.
- Reduce alcohol consumption – Refrain from drinking alcohol or smoking for 3-4 hours before bed. Alcohol will increase the number of times you wake up at night and nicotine is a stimulant.
- Avoid day time napping so you are tired at night – If you feel you need a nap, limit the duration to 20-30 min, and take in the midday, not evening.
- Avoid sleeping pills – Do not take un-prescribed or over the counter sleeping pills. Prescribed sleeping pills cause sedation instead of sleep. You do not get restful and healing sleep on prescription sleeping medications.
List adopted from Siengsukon, 2017