Sleep is an essential but underrated activity in most people’s busy life. Modern research tells us we need at least 7 hours of healthy sleep for optimal health and proper:
- Memory assimilation
- Weight maintenance
- Immune function
- Cancer prevention
It is hard to believe that sleep can have this much of an effect on our health!
Despite its importance, many of us have difficulty fitting in this amount of sleep with our busy schedules and stress. The net effect is that we as a society are chronically sleep deprived and suffer the negative effects of this in our lives. The following lifestyle practices are suggested for improved sleep and avoiding possible sleep disturbances.
Sleep Planning and Bedroom Preparation
- Plan your sleep by putting it into your schedule
- Plan for 8-9 hours in bed
- Go to sleep and wake up as close to the same time each day as possible.
- This will help train your biological clock
- Natural melatonin production starts between 10pm and midnight which makes it easier to fall asleep, and allows for the production of other hormones and health benefits, so its important to go to bed in between these times.
- Finish all eating at least 3 hours before going to sleep
Try to avoid the following when POSSIBLE as they worsen the Estrogen/Testosterone imbalance.
- Getting in bed after midnight as late-hour sleep is not as helpful as earlier sleep
- Taking late afternoon or evening naps
- Naps longer than 45 minutes (unless sick or sleep deprived)
- Large meals or spicy foods before bed
- Drinking more than 4-8 ounces of liquids before going to bed
- Relaxing activities such as reading a good neutral book under low light
- Cover your eyes using a sleepmask or windows if being woken up because of light
- Turn down the light in rooms you are in 15 minutes before going to bed (ex. bedroom, bathroom, etc.) by using a dimmer or a reading light with a dimmer
- Consider half an hour exposure to a blue or 10,000 lux bright light first thing in the morning. Especially helpful if you are going to bed too late and want to go to bed earlier
- Consider 1-3 mg of melatonin 2 hours before bedtime, if you frequently go to sleep too late
- Take your magnesium before bedtime
- Eliminate irritating noises by closing windows, using ear plugs, or using a white noise generator
- Make sure your sleeping area is the correct temperature range
- Consider a body pillow to hug and put between your knees to align your back and shoulders
- Consider a “side sleeper” pillow for under your neck when sleeping on your side
- If waking due to recurrent thoughts, try writing them in a journal. Helpful if you are going to bed too late and want to go to bed earlier
- Use positive self-talk phrases regarding your ability to relax and fall asleep:
- “I can fall asleep.”
- “I can relax”
- “Any amount of sleep I get is just fine”
- Staying in bed more than 20-30 minutes trying to fall asleep.
- Leave your bedroom and read, relax or meditate in a room other than the bedroom
- Repeated negative judgments about the fact that you are unable to sleep
- Avoid sleeping near electric fields
- If possible have your head at least 5 feet away from electric fields
- Sources of electrical fields include: electrical outlets, clock radios, stereos, computers and monitors.
- Consider using a Tri Field or other meter to test for these fields
- Sleeping on a water bed or an electric mattress because of the excessive heat and the electric fields
Bedroom Air Quality
- Keep bedroom air clean, especially if you have nasal congestion or are prone to snoring.
- Use air purifiers/filters to clean the air in your bedroom. Use on a low setting at night if the noise is soothing, otherwise use the filter on a medium setting for 4-6 hours during the day
- Consider replacing your pillows with hypo allergenic pillows
- Use Ultrafine allergy pillow and mattress covers
- Consider cleaning the vents in your house once a year & change your furnace filters every 3 months
- Check for mold and other allergens
- If your nose is blocked up and you’re having trouble breathing through it, follow the above steps.
- Consider using a saline spray before bed or Breathe-Easy strips on your nose.
- Toxic glues or other odorous items
Minimize or Avoid Stimulants
- Alcohol (wine, beer and hard liquor) for 3 hours before bedtime
- Caffeine-containing beverages or foods after 2 pm (or earlier if sensitive).
- Caffeinated items/ingredients include soft drinks, tea, coffee, lattes, and chocolate
- Read the labels of everything you eat and drink!
- Sudafed or other decongestant cold medicines at night
- Medications with stimulating effects
- Consult your pharmacist and doctor to determine whether any of your medications might be contributing to sleep problems. Do NOT discontinue them without permission from your doctor.
- Aerobic exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime
Nighttime Tension and Anxiety
Avoid anxiety-provoking activities close to bedtime such as:
- Reading or watching stimulating, materials before bed (ex. news)
- Paying bills, checking financial reports or the stock market before bedtime
- Arguments before bedtime
- If possible schedule difficult conversations well before bedtime (at least 3 hours before)
- Try to achieve some action plan or resolution of a discussion or argument before trying to go to sleep
Sleep apnea is a common condition which results in poor sleep quality and can lead to excessive daytime tiredness. Common symptoms include:
- Pauses in breathing, lasting seconds to minutes
- Shallow breaths
- Snorting or choking sounds
If you think you might be experiencing sleep apnea you can discuss this with your physician, who can make a referral to a sleep clinic for a sleep assessment if needed.