Most people have heard we need 7-9 hours of sleep every night. However, many people struggle with getting this basic sleep requirement. Difficulty sleeping can be multifactorial, but there are some simple tips and cues we can use to help us get to and stay asleep.
Caffeine consumption could be a large contributor to your inability to sleep well. Caffeine blocks a chemical in the brain called adenosine. Adenosine is a chemical that builds throughout the day, making you feel sleepy the more it accumulates. Think of your brain as an empty parking lot after you wake up. If “adenosine cars” are allowed to fill the lot, you will feel sleepy. If you fill the parking lot with “caffeine cars,” those spots will be taken and adenosine will have no places to park. This will result in you feeling more alert. The effects of caffeine peak around five hours after consumption, and last for up to 10-12 hours after consumption.
A lot of people come into the clinic reporting they take melatonin to help them sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that helps you fall asleep. However, melatonin does not keep you asleep. If you find yourself waking up a few hours after taking a melatonin supplement, you may want to look at other ways of creating a better sleep schedule. Avoid viewing light from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., as light inhibits the release of melatonin.
Light from the sun early in the morning can help set your circadian rhythm. The light from the sun has a different quality than light from your phone, so try not to view your phone or other electronic devices first thing in the morning. If you are trying to go to bed at an earlier time, but have a tough time falling asleep, it takes at least two to three days to reset your circadian rhythm. Do not be discouraged if it takes at least two to three days to adjust to your new wake/sleep schedule. Blue light glasses can also be good for night time, but should be avoided in the middle of the day.
We go through multiple phases during our sleep cycle. Two of the main cycles of sleep are REM and Non REM sleep. These cycles do not occur at the same time. If we miss out on two hours of sleep by going to bed late, we will miss about half of the Non-REM sleep; if we wake up two hours early, we will miss out on half of our REM sleep. So even though we are getting six out of the eight hours we need, we will miss out of half of a certain type of sleep based on whether we are going to bed late, or waking up abnormally early.
If you are struggling with your sleep, give the above takeaways a shot! If you are still having trouble sleeping due to neck, shoulder, back pain - what have you - give us a call or hit the button above, to see how we can help you get a more restful and effective night's sleep.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Sam, PT, DPT, OCS
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention, and sometimes other random thoughts.