After more than a year of tossing around fitfully, it's time to get
some sleep. Worries over our health and finances, grieving those we've
lost and loneliness continue to keep us awake. Sleep routines that worked
in the past no longer lull us into slumber. It's time to try something
new and get a better night's sleep.
We're not alone during these sleepless nights. According to a
survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, approximately 40 percent of the population experienced stress-sleep problems
during the pandemic. Disruption of daily routines and circadian rhythms
caused every day to seem like being lost in Bill Murray's "Groundhog
Day" but without the laugh track.
The Better Sleep Council declares May as Better Sleep month. It is also
observed as National Mental Health Month, and, as we know, lack of sleep
impacts our mental well -being. So, this seems an ideal time for getting
into a better sleep routine.
Numerous organizations, including the two mentioned above, offer helpful
resources for improving sleep routines. However, discuss with a healthcare
provider any problems with sleeplessness or insomnia as it could be symptomatic
of other medical conditions.
Here are a few tips for getting better sleep:
Spend less time in bed.
While it seems counterintuitive, we should avoid going to bed until sleepy.
Tossing, turning and worrying about not going to sleep doesn't help
us doze off.
When having trouble falling asleep, get up and go to another room. Turn
on low lights, play soothing music and read a book—not a digital
device—until sleepiness takes over.
Avoid taking a laptop to bed. Just a few more minutes of work only increases anxiety.
Wake up at the same time every day.
For a better sleep routine, follow the same wake-sleep cycle even on weekends.
This helps regulate our circadian rhythm. Contrary to what we tell ourselves,
limited weeknight sleep followed by weekend sleeping binges does not benefit
Like children, we need set bedtimes. Figure out the best time for going
to bed and awaking to fit our schedules. Start with no less than six hours—increasing
gradually—and set alarms accordingly. Many smartphones and home
AI devices have health apps and data that alert us to "wind down"
time. Power down everything and start getting ready for bed when the timer goes off.
Follow other healthy daily habits.
Healthy sleep, food and exercise habits all contribute to overall wellness.
Eat three or even four balanced meals at set times and stick with a set
exercise schedule to help maintain the circadian rhythm for better sleep.
Concentrate on something besides sleep.
Most of us have had restless nights of waking up every hour on the hour
before catching a flight or attending an early morning meeting. To prevent
anxiety about sleeping, we need to alter our thoughts.
There are numerous guided meditation apps with soothing voices to help
us drift off listening to someone else's soothing voice rather than
the ones in our heads. Sound machines with white noise or peaceful ocean
sounds can also have hypnotic effects.
Practice good sleep hygiene.
Along with aiming for seven to nine hours of nightly sleep and keeping
consistent bedtime, keep the bedroom for sleeping—or romantic pleasures—only.
Set offices or exercise equipment anywhere else in the house. Make the
bedroom a restful sanctuary.
Keep the room cool, quiet and dark at night. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
before bed. If exercising at night, allow time for endorphins to settle
down. However, some restful yoga poses such as child's, corpse and
leg-up-the-wall poses, can help with better sleep. A warm bath and aroma
of lavender essential oil also relax the body and mind.
Avoid doom scrolling.
Unfortunately we may have developed a new self-destructive behavior in
2020-doom scrolling. Constantly scrolling doom-and-gloom news sites, whether
on mobile or with a television remote in hand, only adds to our stress.
Turn off all screens 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed to give your
body and mind time to rest and prepare for a better night's sleep.
If you have concerns about the quality of your sleep, contact our Sleep
Disorder Experts at Thibodaux Regional Sleep Disorders Center by calling
985.493.4795 or visit www.thibodaux.com/centers-services/sleep-disorders-center.