Alaska Sleep Education Center

Better Sleep in 2020

Posted by Jennifer Hines

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on Jan 2, 2020 8:15:00 AM


The New Year has arrived, and for many of us it means coming up with new resolutions to better ourselves. Most of our new year's resolutions revolve around improving our health, strengthening our family and friendship bonds, and doing better at work or school.

But what if I told you there was an easy to abide by resolution that actually targets all of these major resolution groups? One that if followed will quickly show improvements in many aspects of your life.

So what is this all encompassing miracle resolution?

It's as simple as it sounds: Get more sleep!

Why make sleep your resolution?

It should come as no surprise that getting good sleep at night directly impacts our daily lives. When you've had a bad night's sleep, you've probably noticed a decline in both your performance and mood the next day. However, when you're regularly sleeping only a few hours a night or simply not sleeping well, you become more susceptible to a whole slew of health problems such as:

  • heart disease

  • heart attacks

  • stroke

  • diabetes

  • obesity

  • cognitive impairment

  • memory loss

  • chronic stress

  • heart arrhythmia

  • increased likelihood of accidents

  • depression

  • mood disorders

It's almost hard to believe that something as simple as not getting enough sleep can lead to all of these conditions, disorders, and impairments, but these are very real things that can happen from sleep deprivation. So if health is your priority this upcoming year, you can target all of these potential problems simply by getting more quality sleep at night.

How to get better sleep

Getting better sleep is all about practicing sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is basically things you can practice that will help promote better sleep every night. It includes two categories: personal habits and sleep environment.

Improve your personal habits

Many of the personal habits that you can choose to do for better sleep are those that you may have chosen to target for a resolution anyways such as:

  • Establish a regular bedtime routine. Getting into a regular routine of going to bed and rising at the same times everyday is one of the most important practices you can perform for better sleep. Part of keeping a healthy bedtime routine is to keep it up even on the weekends by avoiding staying up late and sleeping in. Depriving yourself of sleep during the midweek and binge-sleeping on the weekends does more harm to your sleep cycles than good.
  • exercise_girl_resizedExercise regularly. Exercise breeds energy and also helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Exercise in the late afternoon is best for sleep because the physical activity helps wear us out, and the post-workout body temperature drop helps cool the body, making sleep come more readily. However, exercise too close to bedtime can make sleep difficult to come, as your body doesn't have enough time to cool itself off.

  • Eating healthy. It's no secret that some foods are great for sleep, and others can help keep us awake at night. Fatty foods, processed carbs, and spicy foods are the worst for sleep. Foods high in fat and processed carbs don't have the nutrients and vitamins your body needs to produce energy, leaving you feeling sluggish during the day. Spicy foods, eaten too close to bedtime, can disrupt your sleep by causing acid reflux, which can disturb your sleep. Foods that help promote sleep are those that are high in amino acids, proteins, antioxidants, and vitamins.

  • Don't eat too close to bedtime. Eating too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep, mostly because it gets your stomach acids going, and lying down can cause those acids to creep up into your throat. If you're really craving a late night snack, try a bowl of cereal with milk or cheese and crackers. These types of foods are rich in minerals, such as tryptophan and calcium, which help promote sleep.

  • soda_bottles200Avoid caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that, when taken within 3 hours of bedtime, can make it difficult to go to sleep or stay asleep until the chemicals wear off. Many people may recognize that drinks such as soda, tea, and coffee contain caffeine, but may not realize that foods such as chocolate also contain caffeine.

  • Avoid alcohol before bedtime. Many people falsely believe that alcohol help promotes sleep as it makes them drowsy and more likely to fall asleep quicker. However, once your body begins to metabolize the alcohol there is a period of arousal, which disturbs one's sleep.

  • Get light when possible. Your circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates periods of sleep and wakefulness, is triggered by light and darkness. Getting ample amounts of natural light during the day and less light at night helps keep your circadian rhythm in harmony with the external world.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before bedtime. To help get your body and mind prepared for sleep, try some relaxing activities to prepare yourself for sleep. Dwelling on problems or bringing arguments to bed can keep you awake and worrying. Activities such as meditating, praying, and stretching can help ease the stresses in the body and mind before bedtime. Writing your frustrations out in a journal can also be therapeutic and stress relieving.

In addition to making healthy lifestyle choices, there are ways to improve your sleep by simply maximizing your sleep environment.

Maximize you sleep environment

  • Associate your bedroom with sleep and sex only. These are really the only activities that your bedroom should be designed for. Doing any other activities in your bedroom can cause your mind to associate it with other stimulating endeavors. Don't watch TV, listen to the radio, or talk with your partner about important life occurrences or problems in bed. Bringing stimulating content or conversation to bed can keep you awake engaging in it or worrying about it.
  • electronics_in_bed250Keep electronics out of the room. All electronic devices including TV's, tablets, laptops, cellphones, portable gaming systems, and e-readers should be ditched before bedtime. For starters, the content may be stimulating and keeping you awake as you play "just one more game" or read "just one more post." Furthermore, the light emitting from these devices is similar in wave-length to daylight and can trick your circadian rhythm into believing it's daylight and delay the release of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.

  • Keep your room dark. Light is bad for sleep as it can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Keep your room dark by using heavy window shades, wearing a sleep mask, and avoiding staring at glowing electronics.

  • Keep your room quiet. Noise can keep you awake so make sure your room is as free of unnecessary sounds as possible. If you're still having trouble sleeping because of noisy neighbors or others in the house consider using earplugs to block out sound or try "white noise." Fans and sound machines that make continuous rhythmic sounds can be both relaxing and aid in drowning out distracting or sudden noises.

  • Keep your room cool. As you go to sleep your body temperature begins to drop as it prepares itself for slumber. Keeping your room a cool temperature (between 60-67 degrees) can help aid the process of cooling your body.

  • Make your bed as comfy as possible. Most mattresses are good for about 9 years. If your mattress is out of date or uncomfortable, getting a new mattress can go a long way towards great sleep. Having an uncomfortable pillow or bedding can keep you from sleep as well. If you're constantly readjusting your pillow before bedtime, it may be time to get a new one.

  • Set your alarm and keep it away from your bed. Too often people get used to using their phone as their wake-up device. Having your phone close to your bed makes it too easy to continuously check it for new texts, emails, or just looking at the time. Constantly reminding yourself of the time can create anxiety, making sleep more difficult. Also, keeping your alarm away from your bed reduces the chances of hitting the snooze button over and over, and it makes you get up out of bed to shut it off.


Get any possible sleep disorder diagnosed

doctor_reading-885776-editedUnfortunatelfy for some people, practicing good sleep hygiene isn't always enough. If you've improved your sleep environment and have been applying positive personal habits and you're still not seeing results, it could be a sign of a sleep disorder. A sleep disorder is anything that disrupts your sleep patterns. Some of the most common sleep disorders are sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, bruxism, and a variety of parasomnias.

If you believe that your lack of nigtly sleep is due to a sleep disorder, it may be time for you to schedule a sleep study to help diagnose your disorder and show you the best treatment options available to you.

At The Alaska Sleep Clinic, we specialize in diagnosing and treating a myriad of sleep disorders. So if you're serious about making sleep your priority this year, contact us @ 907-770-9104.

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