Good morning North Idaho DPC,
As the weather gets warmer and we start to venture outside for longer parts of the day, many of us start to notice shifts in our sleeping patterns. I would like to talk about a few strategies to improve our sleep WITHOUT supplementations or medications. There are pills, supplements and alcohol that can all put us to sleep, but all of them have side effects that worsen the older we get.
How much sleep do I need?
There is a range here generally based on age. Babies get approximately 18 hours of sleep, but it is often broken. This starts to decrease as we grow with phases of increased growth needing more sleep; each person finds about the right amount of sleep that they need to be their optimal alertness. Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night for optimal alertness.
What happens if I don’t get enough sleep?
If you have a one off where you get less than 7 hours of sleep, you may drag the next day or need a second cup of coffee. But what happens when this deficit continues to build because of our busy life? It begins to affect your mood, memory and health. There is a greater risk of depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness and fuzzy thinking. Healthwise, there is a 36% increased risk of colon cancer, three times the risk for diabetes and three times the risk of catching a cold. Decreased sleep also affects your cravings for sweet, salty and starchy food leading to 50% increase risk for obesity. I know after pulling an all nightery all I want is a greasy egg McMuffin with cheese and bacon. (Not following the AHA Life’s Simple 7 recommendations). Essentially, poor sleep affects every part of our life.
What can I do to improve my sleep?
The most important part of sleep hygiene is to create a consistent routine.
- Go to bed and wake up each day at approximately the same time.
- Create a routine that is relaxing before bed avoiding overly stimulating activities to allow your stress hormone, cortisol, to wind down.
- Avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before it is time for bed.
- Mold your sleep space into the ideal environment.
- It should be dark, without a TV, and the ideal temperature for sleep is between 60-67 degrees according to the sleep foundation.
Let’s review techniques to maximize your daily routine.
- Physical exertion early in the day will help you be tired at night.
- Lighter evening meals that occur before 7pm will allow your digestion to occur before bed.
Take a look at this resource for additional techniques to help with your sleep hygiene.
I am going to address non-pharmalogical techniques next week on how to address insomnia. If you are suffering for sleeping issues, please don’t hesitate to come talk to us in the clinic. Dr. Silakoski and I are a resource for you, and our Licensed Clinical Social Worker has tips and tricks for you as well.
M. Ryan Odom
North Idaho DPC