You’ve probably heard it all when it comes to improving your overall health. “How’s your diet? Do you exercise regularly? What’s your stress level like?” Diet, exercise, and stress management are common areas of concern when it comes to our health — and rightfully so! But how often does your primary care provider ask about your sleep?
Typical adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night to function at their best — and no, we’re not counting the time you spend in bed thinking about your to-do list for tomorrow. The interest in sleep’s impact on health is growing, and for good reason. FitBit, Oura, and Whoop are just a few popular wearables that track your sleep, including efficiency, sleep stages, and bedtime recommendations based on your activity level.
So what’s the big deal about sleep? Getting enough sleep has a long list of benefits:
Removes toxins from the brain
Improves heart health
Decreases facial puffiness, appearance of wrinkles, and eye redness
Reduces risk of chronic disease (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart attack, stroke, and more)
Have we sold you yet? If you’re looking to improve your sleep game, here are a few tips to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment
Cool it down: At night, the human body experiences a natural dip in temperature, which we want to encourage with the help of our environment. The recommended bedroom temperature is around 65 degrees fahrenheit.
Make it dark: The body releases hormones that make you sleepy according to its circadian rhythm (or natural time clock). Use blackout curtains or wear an eye mask to help your body understand that it should be tired at night.
Comfort is key: This seems like a no-brainer, but your bedroom should elicit feelings of safety and comfort. Try using less harsh lighting such as warm-colored lamps to help you relax. Some people even report sleeping better when they remove clutter from the bedroom.
Use white noise: To buffer unwanted sounds during the night, try using white noise to cover them up. This might include a fan, an air purifier, or even a white noise machine or app. Avoid using the TV because the noise can vary in pitch and volume and contribute to poor sleep during the night.
Set a Bedtime Routine
Wind down: Begin to dim the lights, read a book, journal, or meditate during the time before bed. You might consider these “intermediate” activities between being awake and asleep.
Create a routine: The body does better when it can predict what is coming. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day-and yes, even on weekends! Most of us probably use an alarm to wake up, but try using an alarm to go to bed as well.
Limit screen time for an hour before bed: Screens emit blue light, which naturally comes from the sun and helps our bodies know they should be awake and productive. Try avoiding screen time before bed to cue your body that it should be relaxing. Phones can be switched to “night mode” or you can even try using blue light glasses two hours before bed if using screens.
Move to another room if you’re not tired: If you’ve been lying in bed for 25 minutes, or you’ve woken up and can’t fall back asleep, move to another room and go back to doing “intermediate” activities such as reading a book. Go back to bed only when you are sleepy again to help your brain associate bed with sleep.
Try to avoid:
Eating large meals before bed: Digesting food requires energy. Before bed, your body shouldn’t be focussing on processing a large meal, it should be powering down and preparing for rest.
Naps and caffeine later in the day: Napping and consuming caffeine too late in the day can confuse your body’s circadian rhythm and keep you up at night. Create a cutoff for the early afternoon and stick with it to avoid a restless night.
Using your bed for anything except sleep and sex: Try not to watch TV or read in bed because this makes your brain associate wakefulness with your bed.
Alcohol in excess: It might make you fall asleep faster, but alcohol limits high quality sleep and might lead to minor sleep disruptions during the night.
Tobacco: Nicotine is a stimulant, which is the opposite of what our body wants when it needs to wind down.
Looking at the clock: When we watch the clock at night we can become carried away with tomorrow’s worries. Allow your mind to relax and trust that your alarm will wake you up when it’s time.
Ready to sleep better?
Here at Firefly, we see you as a whole person, not just a patient number. If you think you might have a sleep disorder, book a visit with your care team today to discuss treatment options, or speak with your Health Guide for personalized tips on getting a good night’s rest.
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