Good Sleep, Better Health
7 Steps for Getting a Sound Snooze
In a perfect world, we would all go to bed at our appointed time and wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to seize the day. However, in the real world, this seems much more of a dream than a reality. Poor sleep can sometimes lead to serious medical conditions like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can also affect our mental health.
Sleep medications typically work only in the short term and may cause side effects that make them not worth taking. In the many years that I have spent in the world of pharmacy, sleep deprivation has become more and more a reality. Additionally, the older we get, the more sleep seems to elude us.
There are some basic behaviors you can take to help you get back on track and on your way to waking up to the rested mornings of your youth.
Set a schedule
Make sleep a priority and keep your bedtime and wake-up times consistent. This also means not napping during the day. It is important to get your sleep cycle into a regular pattern.
Pay attention to what you put in your body
Many people are more affected by what they eat and drink than they realize. Try to avoid caffeinated food and beverages from late afternoon to bedtime. Also, try to avoid alcohol and smoking in the evening as these can also affect your sleep cycle.
Set up your room for success
A cool room (around 65 degrees) with room darkening blinds can improve your chances of a good night’s sleep. If you live on a loud city block or other location where night sounds are very prominent, try adding a little white noise to your room such as a fan, or recorded sounds of the rainforest or ocean.
Don’t just lie there
If you can’t go to sleep or you wake up and are restless, get up and do something else for a while. Keep the atmosphere quiet and your activity light. Read, draw, write or make a list of things that worry you. Then set that list aside for tomorrow. After you do, go back to bed and try it again.
When you are stuck in a sleepless cycle, it’s hard to think about exercise, but it can actually be of benefit in the long run. It’s important for our bodies to be tired when we head for bed. During the day, be sure to take a walk, go on a bike ride, or play golf with friends. Remember to avoid heavy exercise in the evening when it is time to wind down.
Take a break from the light
With all of the entertainment choices these days, there is hardly a time when we aren’t looking at a screen. Our phones, televisions, and readers produce a blue light that is a sleep disruptor. It may take as long as three hours for the effect to go away. This can lead to a lot of tossing and turning. Consider shutting off your screens at least a couple of hours before bedtime or take advantage of new apps or glasses that can filter the light on your device for you.
If medication feels like the only option
Sometimes medication may seem like the only answer for a good night's sleep. If you decide to try a sleep aid, let your doctor know what you are taking, and take the medication as directed. Doing so will prevent possible interactions with other medications. Never combine sleep medication with alcohol or other drugs. Never drive or plan tasks after taking a sleep medication. Always make sure you allow yourself enough time to sleep after taking the medication.
A good night’s sleep may seem like an impossible dream, but making even a few of these simple changes may be just the answer you need to get the sleep you deserve.
Dawn Schott, RPh Bridgewell Medical