Sleep Deep

Get Regular Exercise:

  • Regular physical exercise is known to improve general wellbeing and promote improvement in sleep quality. Exercise should take place in the morning or early evening, not right before bedtime, and should be of moderate intensity. Usually 20 minutes of aerobic exercise at a heart rate between 60 and 75% of maximum is sufficient.

 

Make Healthy Food Choices: 

  • Especially important to preventing sleep maintenance insomnia is eating a low-glycemic-load diet to reduce blood sugar volatility. 
  • For healthy blood sugar levels:
    • Limit simple carbohydrates – sugar and refined grains. 
    • Balance each meal and snack with a combination of fiber/complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins. These provide a time-released source of sugar, allowing sugar to be absorbed slowly and steadily to prevent the peaks and valleys of poor blood sugar regulation.
  • Consider eating a small balanced snack before bedtime if you are prone to low blood sugar.

 

Evaluate and protect your sleeping environment:

  • Use your bedroom only for sleeping. A bit of light reading may help you fall asleep, but if it doesn’t, do your reading elsewhere in the house. Don’t watch TV in bed.
  • Be sure your bed is big enough to stretch out comfortably, especially if you have a sleep partner.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. To block out noise, use earplugs, soothing music, or a “white noise” machine. To block out light, use blackout curtains, blinds, or a sleep mask. 

 

Create an evening/bedtime routine:

  • Plan a routine that relaxes you before bed. Take a warm shower or bath, listen to soothing music, or drink a cup of non-caffeinated tea. Great herbs for sleep include California poppy, chamomile, holy basil, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower, and valerian. There are great tea blends for sleep like Cup of Calm or Nighty Night by Traditional Medicinals, or Bedtime or Relaxed Mind by Yogi. 

  • Maintain consistent sleep and wake times. This means going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, even if you feel tired when you wake.

  • Avoid bright light, particularly LED or blue light, for an hour or more before bedtime. Limiting bright light encourages melatonin production.

  • If you cannot fall asleep due to racing thoughts, write down your thoughts in a journal. Getting them out of your head and onto paper may help you fall asleep. 

  • Make a “to do” list of your tasks for the next day if stress about work, etc. keep you up at night. 

 

If you’ve done the above and are still having trouble sleeping, here are some ways to troubleshoot:

  • Limit caffeine (coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas) during the day, and don’t have any for at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. 

  • Don’t drink alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol decreases sleep latency, increases sleep fragmentation, and suppresses REM sleep. This can cause you to wake up more often during the night and wake feeling groggy and unrested. 

  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco, especially in the evening. Nicotine can keep you awake.

  • Many common medications interfere with sleep. Talk to your doctor about the side effects of your particular medications. 

    • ACE inhibitors – lead to dry cough, which can be worse at night

    • Alpha-blockers – decreased REM, daytime sedation

    • Anti-cholinesterase inhibitors – decreased REM, vivid dreams/nightmares

    • Anti-depressants and steroids – insomnia

    • Beta-blockers – inhibit melatonin production

  • Don’t take naps during the day, especially close to bedtime. If you feel tired in the evening, it is better to go to sleep early than to take a small nap, which will prevent you from falling sleep easily when it is truly time for bedtime.

  • Don’t lie in bed awake for too long. If you can’t fall asleep, or if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep within 15 minutes or so, get out of bed and go to another room until you feel sleepy.

  • Don’t drink any liquids after 6 p.m. if you wake up often throughout the night because you have to go to the bathroom.
     
  • Consider eating a small balanced snack before bedtime if you are prone to low blood sugar.
  • Imagine yourself in a peaceful, pleasant scene. Focus on the details and feelings of being in a place that is relaxing.

  • Get up and do a quiet or boring activity until you feel sleepy.

When you wake up in the morning, expose your eyes to sunlight right away- it helps halt your natural melatonin production and tell your body it’s time to get rolling. 

If you’re still having difficulty getting good rest after trying some of these tips, feel free to reach out for a personalized plan.

Sweet dreams,
Dr. Christoforou

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