Your Toolbelt Blog

The Top 10 Dos and Don’ts for Getting Your Optimal Sleep

We all want and need to get a good night’s sleep in order to feel our best every day.  Unfortunately, increasingly, our industrialized habits have encouraged an extended day which squeeze our precious hours for sleep on either end, leaving the majority of us chronically sleep deprived.

Here are my top 10 Dos and Don’ts for a Getting Your Optimal Sleep:

  1. Being too sedentary: when your body hasn’t had enough physical activity, your brain may be tired, but your body isn’t tired enough for sleep. Physical activity helps relieve stress, anxiety, reduces cortisol production, and normalizes sleep patterns.
  2. Overeating and Indigestion: abdominal bloating, indigestion, gas pains, reflux symptoms, obesity all contribute to poor sleep due to increased inflammation in the body and brain. Avoid eating within three hours of bedtime to give your body enough time to digest your evening meal before shutting down shop for the time.
  3. Overstimulation: the brain needs at least two hours (often three) before bed to wind down from electronic stimulation, physical activity, and/or other forms of stimulation. Strive to make the last two hours before sleep quiet and relaxing.IMG_0426
  4. Excessive Worry: worry increases cortisol, adrenalin, and activates the brain to be awake. Strive to avoid watching or reading the news in the evening. Avoid suspenseful novels at night. Practice calming breathing exercises and/or meditate before bedtime in order to quiet the internal noise and prepare your brain for rest.
  5. Erratic schedules: Good quality sleep is dependent upon regular schedules and routines. As much as possible, follow the rhythms of nature with your schedule (e.g. waking with the sun, slowing down and becoming inactive at night; being more active in summer, less active in winter).
  6. Overextension: packing too much into your day, week, month, year, leads to stress, over-stimulation, and anxiety. Strive to slow your pace of life as much as possible. Add mindfulness practices to your day (e.g. breathing, meditation, yoga, stretching). Learn to say “no” to unnecessary demands on your time and attention, whether from others, or from Facebook, or your own inner perfectionist.
  7. Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol: caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants and should be avoided within seven hours of bedtime. Both have been shown in studies to negatively impact sleep, both quality and duration, when consumed too close to bedtime. Alcohol, while a depressant, suppresses dream sleep early in the night then can provoke REM rebound with nightmares later on.  Avoid consuming excessive alcohol altogether and limit alcohol consumption to no more than two glasses within three hours of bedtime. All three have also been shown to exacerbate anxiety (see “excessive worrying above).
  8. Napping: while a nap can be refreshing for some, keep your naps to no more than 45 minutes and keep naps before 3 p.m. to difficulty falling asleep on time at night.004
  9. Medications: many medications have been shown to interfere with sleep. If you’re struggling to fall and/or stay asleep at night, and you’ve maintained proper sleep “etiquette” (see #10), then check your medications for sleep side effects and talk with your doctor about possible alternate medications, if possible.
  10. Poor Sleep Etiquette: many bedrooms these days appear to be more set up for socializing and entertainment than for sleep. Follow these tips to set the stage in your bedroom for slumber:

Keep same sleep schedule for every day of week, regardless of next day’s schedule.

Keep bed for sleep or sex only.

Use sleep meds only on a short term basis.

Keep bedroom as dark as possible and the temperature as comfortable as possible.

Keep bedroom as quiet as possible.

Clutter—remove it.

Pets—often can disrupt sleep, better to keep them out of the bedroom if possible.

Bed—buy a new mattress every 8-10 years; new pillows every 2 years or so.

Space—avoid restrictive, heavy bedding.

Spouse—may need to sleep separately if spouse has disruptive sleep patterns until sleep issues are addressed.

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