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Sleep Hygiene

Getting a good night sleep is critical for health and well being. Our bodies do their best cellular repair and rejuvenation while we are sleeping. Additionally, sleep is very important to the formation of memories, if you are actively learning and memorizing material, sleep is essential for proper recall.

During the day:
Limit caffeine intake to one 8oz cup of coffee in the morning, do not drink caffeinated beverages past 11AM.

Spend time outside each day while the sun is up, you do not have to be in direct sunlight. This helps establish a healthy circadian rhythm and aids in falling asleep and waking up at appropriate times. Aim for at least 30 mins daily.

Drinking alcohol can absolutely interfere with sleep quality. Limit alcoholic beverages to no more than 1 per evening to minimize disrupted sleep. Avoid drinking alcohol on consecutive days.

Preparing for sleep:
Consider taking a warm bath with Epsom Salts in the hour before bedtime. Add 1-2 cups of Epsom Salt to a full bathtub. Dim the lights and soak for at least 20 minutes.

Make your bedroom a relaxing and rejuvenating sanctuary. Select the mattress that is right for your sleeping habits. If you notice you toss and turn a lot, it’s possible that your mattress is either too firm or too soft, and you’re having to readjust your sleeping position as a consequence. I personally like a firm mattress with a memory foam topper, giving me the support I need and the comfort I enjoy. Invest in soft, breathable sheets and replace your pillows every couple of years.

When it’s time to sleep, make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible. We achieve better quality sleep in a pleasantly cool room, aim for approximately 65 degrees F.

Try to go to bed at the same time each evening, and aim for being asleep by 10PM. Each hour of sleep you get before midnight is effectively worth 2 hours after midnight due to your cortisol being lowest in the evening and peaking around 7AM. We achieve the deepest sleep states when cortisol is low. People who work night shifts often have a reversal in their cortisol patterns, with low levels in the morning and high levels in the evening.

Minimize screen usage at least an hour before bed. There is evidence suggesting the blue light given off from television screens, tablets and smart phones disrupts the normal circadian rhythms involved in falling asleep easily. If you wake in the middle of the night, resist using your phone as it can slow how rapidly you fall back asleep.

Keep bedroom distractions to a minimum, which includes letting pets sleep on your bed. Have a snuggle with your pet as you’re preparing for sleep, and then invite them to sleep in their own bed.

It’s very normal to wake and use the bathroom in the middle of the night, if this is happening more than 1-2 times, consider limiting fluid intake 2-3 hours before bedtime.

If you are the type of person to wake up and start worrying about things you forgot to do that day or what you have to do the next day, keep a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed. Jot down what is on your mind, knowing that you’ll see it in the morning. This keeps you from staying up and worrying about your to do list.

Aim for between 7.5-8.5 hours of sleep a night for adults. Teenagers and young adults may require more like 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep a night.

by Dr. Lauren Mathewson
Spark Health

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