We all know how important it is to get enough sleep, and we really do try…
But we also know it’s often easier said than done…
Wouldn’t it be nice to put all of those stressful thoughts aside for a solid 8 hours of sleep every night??? Yepp!
Luckily, there are a handful of helpful tips experts swear by, to combat sleep problems both big and small. We turned to the leading Sleep Doctors to help answer our biggest questions!
Lets dive straight in…..
Question #1: ‘I can’t seem to turn off my mind at night.’- what should I do?
The Answer: “I’ve had the same problem, especially when I’m on the road. I used to keep a worry journal in which I would jot down all the things on my mind along with a solution, even if it was just, ‘Think about this tomorrow.’ That can be effective, but I needed another trick. Counting backwards from 300 by ‘threes’ is my take on counting sheep, which research has shown is too easy to be effective. This forces me to focus enough to block out stressors, but at the same time, it’s really boring and puts me right to sleep. I guarantee that even if you do it every night for a month, you still won’t make it to the single digits.”
Question # 2: Does bright light effect our sleep?
The expert: Clete A. Kushida, MD, PhD, medical director of Stanford Sleep Medicine Centre
The Answer: “I like to use light to help synchronize my internal clock. I avoid bright light two to three hours before bedtime, so if I’m reading, I use just enough light to see the words on the page. Then, within 30 minutes of waking up, I open the curtains to let in natural light. We know from the literature that light activates the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is a group of nerve cells in the brain that controls the timing of the sleep-wake cycle and coordinates with our circadian rhythms. For patients who have a hard time waking up and who don’t have access to sunshine every morning, we recommend a light box that has more than 10,000 lux, and tell them to keep it about 18 inches from their eyes. This morning light puts a kind of time stamp on the brain and shifts your internal clock for sleep earlier—that will help you feel sleepy at the other end of the day, too.”
Question #3: Should I just stay awake if I can’t sleep?
The expert: Michael A. Grandner, PhD, research associate at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Answer: “I used to have a really hard time falling asleep, but I’ve since learned that spending time awake trains us that the bed is a place for worry and rumination. The bed needs to be a cue for sleep, period. So now whenever I hear that voice that says, ‘This sleep thing is not happening’—which could take 10 minutes or 40—I go read or write in a darkened room for at least 30 to 60 minutes. When I try to sleep again, I usually drop right off. In the clinic, this is called stimulus-control therapy, and 20 years of data shows that it can be more effective at treating insomnia than sleeping pills. The problem is that it’s much slower to take effect than a pill, and it also has a side effect: you’ll probably be tired for the first couple of days. This is why so many people give up and take naps, or sleep in, or refuse to get out of bed at night, and then they’re back at square one. For those two sleepy weeks, I suggest patients drink extra coffee, avoid long night drives, and take other stay-awake precautions—but they also need to hang in there.”
Question #4: Should I sleep with my ceiling fan on? (does this keep me awake!!!?)
The expert: David N. Neubauer, MD, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
The Answer: “I sleep with a bedside fan every night, no matter what the temperature. If the fan’s not on, I will definitely have difficulty falling asleep. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that white noise can be soothing because it blocks out sudden variations in sound—like a barking dog, or a car alarm—that can lighten our sleep or wake us. It also creates ventilation, and we know that people tend to sleep best in cooler temperatures—try keeping the room at a temp that you would describe as a little chilly when you’re not covered up. When I’m traveling, I often buy a small fan for the hotel room. It’s worth it to help block out unfamiliar noise and let me get the sleep I need.”
Question #5: My wife’s thick sheets keep me up at night…. any ideas?
The expert: John Dittami, an Austria-based sleep researcher and co-author of Sleeping Better Together
The Answer: “In Europe, where I live, it’s not at all strange for couples to have their own blankets in bed. This solves a lot of problems. We know from talking to couples for our book that using one blanket for two people is not conducive to good sleep. Not only does it make you more aware of your partner’s movements, but it can also amplify the heat—and it can cause arguments when the blanket isn’t evenly spread over both people. In my case, my partner and I will spend time together talking or cuddling before sleep, but after about 10 or 15 minutes, she turns over, and I turn over, and we each draw up our own separate covers. I know that I snore, so this helps a little bit. The separate covers are like our version of a peace treaty.”
We’re nearly at our #6 tip! Before we finish, check out this awesome Sleep Presentation with Dr Christie Westin which gives you some info on why you can’t sleep.
Question #6: Should I go to be at the same time every night?
The expert: Sam J. Sugar, MD, FACP, director of sleep services at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Doral, Florida
The sleep secret: “I used to go to sleep whenever I started feeling drowsy, which could be as late as 2 a.m. I would usually disrupt my wife, who was already in bed. About two years ago, she suggested trying the thing that experts—including myself—had been recommending to patients for years: that we both go to bed at the same time every night (we didn’t have to worry about setting an alarm, because our dog wakes us up every day at 6:29). The idea is that you’re creating a habit that the body then wants to stick to, so it tells you that it’s tired at the chosen time. Many studies have shown that this kind of repetition is self-reinforcing, including one from last year of over 650 retirees that found that going to bed and waking at the same time helped people fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more refreshed. That’s what happened to me, too. I’m lucky that I have my wife to keep us on schedule, but other people might find it helpful to set a go-to-sleep-now alarm, or create a bedtime routine (turn the computer off at 9:50, or wash your face at 10:45).”
So, if you’re finding it difficult to sleep at night then hopefully this information above helped…..?
At Smart Fitness, we believe the recipe for success is a healthy balance of Nutrition, Exercise and Motivation, regardless of where you’re at in life….. We offer a helping hand and Free consultation with a degree qualified coach who you’d love to help you get back on track….
Still not convinced……?
I’ve added another 18′ ‘science backed’ sleep tips through this infographic for additional support to this article.