Not getting enough solid sleep is a common issue for many people. During each appointment, I ask my patients about their sleep. I’m curious how many hours they sleep, is their sleep solid or interrupted, do they have difficulty falling or staying asleep, do they experience vivid dreams, and do they feel well rested in the morning.
As many of us have experienced, when we don’t get a good night’s rest, it negatively impacts our minds, our emotions, and our physical bodies the next day. More importantly, when poor sleep becomes habitual, it greatly increases our chances of developing chronic diseases such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, anxiety, and depression. Sleep apnea, a condition where one’s breathing is interrupted during sleep, is strongly associated with cardiovascular disease.
Here are 7 Positive Habits for Healthy Sleep:
- Start with routine. Developing good sleep requires conditioning. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Determine the time you go to sleep based upon what time you need to get up in the morning. One hour before bed set an alarm. From this time on, focus on calming down your mind and physical body.
- Calm down your mind by reducing the amount of stimulus around you. Shut off all lights in your house except for those in the room you’re in. Dim the lights in the room you’re in. Avoid TV, the computer, iPad, phone, and anything electronic an hour before sleep. Avoid loud or stimulating music. Enjoy reading a fiction book or a mindless magazine. Consider listening to a 20-30 minute guided meditation to relax your nervous system.
- Calm down your physical body by taking a hot bath with Epsom salt or a warm shower. Sip on a cup of decaffeinated herbal tea containing one or more of these herbs: passion flower, valerian root, chamomile or lavender. Diffuse essential oils such as lavender, Roman chamomile, bergamot, sweet marjoram, ylang-ylang, cedar wood, or sandalwood, or apply them topically.
- Avoid drinking soda, coffee, or any beverage containing caffeine in the afternoon. Many people are affected by the delayed onset of stimulants hours after use.
- Do not eat within 2 hours of going to sleep. If you’ve had a heavy meal for dinner, consider taking enzymes to aid in digestion.
- Get regular exercise early in the day (sometime before noon). For many people, exercise can be stimulating so avoid cardiovascular exercise at night.
- Get regular exposure to the sunlight during the day. Sunlight helps our body produce vitamin D and melatonin. Both are hormones (not vitamins) which help keep our body clocks (also known as circadian rhythm) regulated.