Top Two Ways to Improve Your SleepJan 04, 2018
To quote Dr. Kirk Parsley, renown sleep expert who improved the sleep of some of the most revered badasses on the planet, Navy Seals, “Sleep affects everything you do and everything is affected positively by better sleep."
As snake oil-like as it may sound, good quality sleep literally improves everything: every marker on a blood panel, weight management, sport performance and recovery, productivity, and numerous types of disease management. The list goes on and on, yet the percentage of sleep deprived Americans, particularly in Urban areas, continues to rise at an alarming rate. In fact, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 30% of Americans are sleep deprived getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep per night, and that’s a problem. Study after study proves that we need 7-9 hours of sleep per night in order to recover appropriately and prevent the many negative consequences that come from sleep deprivation.
I see people with sleep deprivation all the time in the clinic. Parents with young children, serial entrepreneurs and CEOs, students cramming for exams, and countless people who simply have a hard time “turning on their off switch” in order to fall asleep. However, in many of these cases when we have these patients make dedicated efforts to average 7-9 hours of sleep per night for just one week, something wild happens. All of a sudden their back pain isn’t as severe, or their elbow pain thats nagged them for weeks is no longer there, or their knees no longer hurt when they squat. The benefits of good sleep cannot be understated, and the mechanisms behind how sleep benefits you and what exactly goes on while you sleep are both complex and incredibly fascinating, but that’s for a later article.
One of the biggest reasons adults have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep is because they lack Sleep Hygiene, which is simply having the appropriate routine to put themselves in an environment to promote sleep.
For those of you reading this who have young children, think about their night time routine. You give them a bath, brush their teeth, tuck them in, read them a story, and give them a kiss and rub on the back as you shut off the lights.
Now compare this to what we do as adults. Read emails on our computers, watch our favorite show or sports team, check our social media feeds, and then immediately try to get in bed and fall asleep. No bueno.
Just like when we were kids, we need to have good sleep hygiene as adults, and below you’ll find the top two ways to do just that put yourself in a better position to optimize your sleep.
Optimize your Environment:
In order to optimize you sleeping environment, you must do three things: Make it dark; make it cold; make it quiet.
- Make it Dark: Arguably the most crucial of the three. In your brain there is a region called the Suprachaismatic Nucleus (SCN), which is responsible for controlling your circadian rhythm and when light hits your eyes, it activates the SCN, which drives wakefulness and inhibits the sleep center of your brain. This means you need to remove all electronics out of the bedroom, cover your windows, duct tape any LED light in your room, and put your alarm clock either face down or in a drawer somewhere you’ll still be able to hear it.
- Make it Cold: The optimal temperature to sleep in is between 64-68 degrees fahrenheit. Now, I’m just as cost effective as anyone when it comes to the energy bill, but maintaining your health is way less expensive than the slight increase in your electricity bill by cooling down your room when you sleep.
- Make it Quiet: This doesn't have to be “so quiet you can hear a pin drop,” you can have a white noise maker or fan running in the background, as long as it’s consistent (more on that below). However, you should not be able to hear noises outside of your room. This includes; your family watching TV; loud neighbors if you're in an apartment; and street noise.
Create A 10-Minute Routine:
This isn’t some crazy, convoluted process. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Your nightly routine should be something that you will be able to perform on a consistent basis and be easily replicable regardless if you're at your home or in a hotel room. This could literally be something as easy as drinking a cup of your favorite (non-caffeinated) drink, performing light stretches, reading a book, or working on various breathing techniques. However, there are some simple rules to keep in mind with your routine:
- Absolutely no electronics
- Dim the lights
- Cool the room
- Maintain a quiet environment
Consistency is key with your night time routine. We are creatures of habit, and after doing the same routine a few times in a row your body will start to recognize that you're winding down to sleep and will up-regulate the the portion of your brain responsible for helping you fall asleep.
At our clinic here in Decatur, Georgia, the number one excuse for poor sleep is lack of time. Well, your health is pretty important and you only get one body... you need to take care of it. Sleep is a crucial part of that process and should be made a priority in your life. Just try the steps we covered in this article for seven days straight, start optimizing your health, and feel great in the process!
If you've been struggling with a nagging injury or are frustrated with your current medical provider, give us a call. We work one on one with all of our clients and they see a highly qualified Doctor of Physical Therapy every time they come in. We help people get back to living an active life full of movement and interactions with the ones they love most.
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Thanks for reading,
-Dr. Jake, PT, DPT
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