Jill Murphy, DPT, LAT, CSCS
Ask any parent of a newborn, and they will remind you the importance of getting adequate sleep every night. In addition to maintaining sanity, energy, and clarity of mind, getting enough sleep helps reduce your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, and keeps your nervous system in check to treat and prevent migraines and fibromyalgia. It also improves your memory, boosts your mood, maximizes your ability to learn, and enables quicker thinking throughout the day.
How do you know if you are getting enough sleep? Are you sleeping at least 7 hours per night? Are you getting at least 2 bouts of sleep 3 hours long? This will ensure that you are getting the most restful kind of keep sleep called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. This deep sleep is critical to allow the body and mind to adequately repair itself for whatever challenges the next day will bring. Healing is critical to maintain a strong immune system, healthy bones, joints, and muscles, and repair tissues with an active injury.
So how can you guarantee a good night’s sleep tonight? Read on for our top ten tips for restful sleep.
10. Sleep in a dark room. Use room darkening curtains to block out any leakage of light around windows and edges around blinds and shades.
9. Eat a light meal instead of a large meal before sleeping, if you have to eat and then go to bed immediately, so the natural rise in blood sugar after eating does not delay your ability to fall asleep.
8. Avoid caffeine, chocolate, and tobacco at night.
7. Avoid alcohol before bedtime, as this will reduce your ability to achieve deep sleep.
6. Time pre-bedtime medications right. If it takes an hour for a sleep promoting medication to kick in, be sure to take it one hour before your target bedtime.
5. Avoid naps, especially if you tend to have trouble sleeping a full 7 hours without delay. If you need to nap, take it in the early afternoon, and keep it brief, under one hour if you can.
4. Stick to a set sleep schedule, even on the weekends. You really can’t “catch up” on sleep, and sleeping later on the weekend may contribute to grogginess throughout the day.
3. Find a way to wind down before bedtime, including AVOIDING screen time one hour before bedtime, which includes TV, computer, video games, and cell phones. Even e-readers should be avoided, since the artificial light they emit confuses the brain and will tend to keep you up instead of winding you down.
2. Maintain your bedroom as a restful, relaxing place for sleeping only. Introducing work and stressful projects and conversations, especially before bedtime, is a recipe for sleep problems.
1. Exercise! Exercising at some point through the day, especially outside, is a great way to “fatigue” the body in a good way to help promote a relaxing and restful night’s sleep. However, avoid exercising within 2-3 hours of bedtime, as this may cause a large delay in your ability to fall asleep due to the chemicals released in your body during and immediately following exercise.