In the first article of this series, you met Ava, a 33-year-old woman. Ava is experiencing a variety of health concerns, one of which is trouble falling asleep. Sleep is a foundational component of our mental and physical health, but it is common to miss out on getting a full night’s rest.
Read previous articles in this series:
Article 1: Your Health and Wellness – It’s All Connected
Article 2: The Brain Gut Connection
Article 3: Stress and Overall Wellbeing
Missing out on sleep can happen for a variety of reasons, for example: racing thoughts, a crying infant, or a Netflix binge keeping you up.
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association more than 50 million Americans suffer from over 80 different sleep disorders and another 20 to 30 million suffer from intermittent sleep problems each year. Although there are many factors to getting quality sleep that we can’t control, one thing that is within our power is our ability to engage in sleep hygiene practices.
These practices can help lay the foundation for better quality sleep. Similar to oral hygiene like brushing your teeth, sleep hygiene must be practiced every night.
In the previous article, a few sleep hygiene practices were mentioned, but now we’re going to go a bit more in depth.
How to Begin – Sleep Hygiene
- Get outside and get some sunshine in the morning. Getting sunshine in the morning may seem like it might not be correlated with sleep, but it actually is. Getting sunshine in the morning right after waking can help you sleep can help regulate your body’s “circadian” clock.
- Wake up at the same time each day. Try to wake up at the same time everyday even on the weekends, this will help your body know what to expect.
- Limit screen usage for a few hours before bed. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone).
- Make your bedroom feel like a sanctuary. This could include cozy blankets, a relaxing scent, white noise or low sound levels, a cool temperature, and more.
- Do a relaxing activity to wind down before bed. This could look like reading a book, practicing yoga, or incorporating a meditation practice.
- Make sure you’re moving your body enough throughout the day. In this modern world, many people live a sedentary lifestyle. Oftentimes, if you haven’t moved your body enough in the day time your mind may begin racing at night. A good place to start with getting more movement is incorporating a couple of walks into your daily routine.
Making changes to your diet can also improve your sleep. According to This is Your Brain on Food, by Uma Naidoo, MD, the best foods for insomnia include:
– Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna
– Foods rich in melatonin, such as eggs, fish, rice, walnuts, sunflower seeds, asparagus, broccoli, and cucumber
– Chamomile tea
Hopefully through this article you’ve found a few areas of improvement when it comes to your sleep hygiene. If you’re already doing the items listed above and you’re still having trouble with your sleep, don’t be afraid to reach out to one of our medical professionals for a consultation. Navigating challenges like this isn’t something you have to do alone.