Sleep: Getting Back to Basics

We spend about one-third of our time sleeping.  Quality sleep and getting enough sleep is essential for feeling our best. Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body from the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance.

Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. Lack of sleep keeps us from learning, creating new memories, and makes it harder to concentrate and respond quickly. Despite all the benefits, many of us have difficulty getting a consistent good night’s sleep.

There are many reasons why we might not be sleeping well. The first step is to take a good look at how your lifestyle may be affecting your sleep. Here are a few steps to get started with.

  • Do you have an evening routine that helps foster sleep? Our bodies need routine so that we expect to go to sleep and we need to build in time to wind down from the day. Think about how you teach a toddler to sleep with a routine. If your routine is lacking, it might be time to take a closer look and dial it down.
  • Check the light, temperature, and decor of your bedroom. You are aiming for a slightly cool room, free of light, including electric lights, and want to create a restful, peaceful environment. You may want to put black electrical tape over charger lights, turn your alarm clock around, install blackout shades, and/or use an eye mask. Assess if it may be time to do some cleaning, upgrade your sleepwear or bedding, or send your snoring partner in for a sleep study.
  • Pay attention to your caffeine and alcohol habits during the day and evening. Both can cause us to wake during the night.
  • Notice when you are eating your last meal or snack. Try to give yourself at least two hours before going to bed after eating so that have time to digest before going to sleep. This can help with reflux as well. If you have low blood sugar, you may be waking in the early morning hours because you are hungry and a small snack of something like almond butter could help you stay asleep.

When a client comes to me with sleep issues, I like to take a good look at lifestyle habits before digging into other recommendations. Sometimes it takes some digging, but I often find that making some simple habit changes can improve sleep quality. If they don’t help, then I may recommend supplements or suggest a referral to a medical provider who can determine if medication is the right answer. Just like eating and drinking, sleep is something that we need to make time for each day. If you are having issues with sleep, it is worth digging into the root causes and working from there to fix the underlying problem.