We all are distracted during the day with responsibilities and activities, but when it is time to lay your head down, quality counts after a long day. It is not all about the number of minutes you are laying in bed. Several factors qualify as quality sleep.
Sleep Health, the Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, indicates the following as quality restful nights:
- Sleeping more time while in bed (at least 85 percent of the total time)
- Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less
- Waking up no more than once per night
- Being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep
Today we will look at a few distractions that could easily be adjusted to help you sleep well.
Turn off the lights.
Maybe you live by yourself and the sound of the television or the bright light of a screen helps with any strange noises or anxiety. However, keeping a lot of light on while you snooze has been linked with an increased risk of weight gain and obesity. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine shed more light onto the risk of weight-gain and a lit up bedroom.
Four categories were established in the study for women’s self-reported sleeping habits: no light, small nightlight, light outside of the room, and light or television on in the room.
Over the five-year study, the highest level of exposure in weight gain were those who had more than one type of artificial light. Women who slept with a mask on or reported no light while sleeping were classified as experiencing no artificial light exposure.
“Among the women, the researchers found that sleeping with a television or light on in the room was associated with gaining five kilograms or more, a BMI increase of at least 10%, and a higher risk of being overweight or obese, compared with being exposed to no artificial light during sleep.”
To decrease the risk of light, remove the television from your bedroom and move the cell phone charger into the kitchen, living room, or space outside of your view.
Remember to also remove the blue light.
With the addictive nature of a cell phone, here are some questions to ask yourself if you consider the cell phone to be a huge distraction to your sleep quality.
Think back to the last time you fell asleep without your cell phone in bed. It may be too long to remember, but exposure to “blue light” from screens before bed leads to drowsiness even with a full eight hours in bed. Studies show emittance of the blue light “prevents our brains from releasing melatonin, a hormone that tells our bodies it's nighttime.”
Giving up the phone for an hour before bedtime will help distract your brain from the light. I am not suggesting you keep your phone at 5 percent life but don’t charge your phone next to your bed; otherwise you will be tempted to get on your phone in bed.
In fact, “71 percent of people sleep either holding their smartphone, having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand.”
Studies found that binge-watchers were 98 percent more likely to have poor sleep quality compared with those who didn’t binge-watch. By definition, binge-watching is viewing multiple consecutive episodes of the same television show in one sitting on a screen.
An average binge-watching session lasted 3 hours and 8 minutes, with 52 percent of binge-watchers viewing three to four episodes in one sitting.
A few ideas and tips to binge-watch responsibly include:
- Decide if you are binge-watching alone, with a friend, or your spouse. Together you can decide on a limit of episodes.
- Be aware of looping with the auto-play features on streaming. If you start another episode on auto-play, you are more likely to break your plans and keep watching.
- DId you know you can download episodes on your phone or tablet? There is a limit so you can make certain you restrict the amount of bingeing.
- Avoid binge-watching from the bedroom. The blue light exposes the room to distractions when you are trying to fall asleep.
- And while you are not emitting light in the bedroom, stop bingeing 30 minutes prior to your bedtime to help maximize your sleep quality.
Dogs keeping you up?
The research is split on whether letting your dog sleep in bed with you is a good idea. On the negative side, a rare spread of disease by the dog to human can occur. It can even enhance one’s allergies. But the positives date back to Aboriginal Australians who slept beside their dogs or dingoes for "warmth and protection from evil spirits."
If you find yourself alone or you have a dog who is used to sleeping with you, here are some ideas to help keep the distractions to a minimum. And if this doesn't work, try weaning your dog to a crate next to your bed or training your dog to sleep on a bed on the floor especially designed for them.
There are a few tips and tricks to sleeping with your dog permanently by your side. And if it does not work, a crate or bed on the floor may do the trick to keep your bond but get more room in bed.
- Invest in a mattress that doesn’t bounce too much when changing positions. This can ensure more sleep from you if your dog is restless.
- Establish a routine. Make certain your dog understands the bedroom is for sleeping especially the bed itself if co-sleeping.
- Do not engage in play. If your dog wakes up at night and tries to nudge you awake, resist playing or engaging. This can throw off their sleep schedule and may become a common occurrence where submissiveness is the owner versus the dog.
- Stay consistent. Do not sleep with your pet one night and then lock them in a crate in the kitchen the next. Their sleep patterns will adjust to yours if you start day one with the routine you prefer.
- Think about a crate or a bed. Depending on the size of your pet, maybe you need the bed itself but want your dog close by. A crate next to your bed could do the trick if you are trying to wean your dog from the bed. A special bed or pillow can help as well.
What to track for your doctor will be helpful when you find yourself out of options and needing some expert help. Start a sleep journal so you can bring this to your appointment.
- Wake up and bedtime
- The last time and meal you last ate
- The season and room temperature
- How tired you were at work
- The last drink you took (water, caffeine)
- Any medications you took
- Time of day and amount of exercise during the day
If you live in Alaska and want to see if a sleep study is right for you, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic by clicking the link below for a free 10-minute phone call with a sleep educator who can help determine if a sleep study is necessary or if a consultation with our sleep specialist needs to be scheduled.