Sleep is easily one of the most under appreciated, and overlooked restorative functions of the human body. As a pain management specialist, several chronic pain disorders are further accentuated with a loss of proper sleep hygiene.
How can we improve our overall sleep patterns?
- Set a regular disciplined sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake at the same time daily, to allow your body to habituate this cycle. This allows your body to prepare for its restorative cycle and quickly begin to maximize your sleeping hours.
- Avoid all electronic devices 45 minutes before sleep. All too commonly, we are lying in bed with the TV on or with iPad in hand, but this does not allow for restorative sleep. Place all electronic devices away and allow yourself to “unwind” a bit, and your sleep will be far more restful.
- Avoid stimulants after 12 noon. That afternoon cup of joe may be the perfect pick me up, but it will disrupt your sleep. Eliminate all stimulants after noon, and by the time you are preparing for sleep, you will have metabolized and excreted the majority of these agents and their metabolites.
- The temperature of a room when sleeping is extremely important. We are all a bit different, but a typical recommendation is to keep the room between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lighting can adversely affect our sleeping patterns as well. Light disrupts our circadian rhythms and can inhibit the release of melatonin, which promotes more restful sleep. Another reason to stay away from those electronic devices before bedtime.
- Exercise too close to bedtime and you will stay awake! But trying to schedule a physical activity sometime in the day ( cardio being superior in this aspect ) will accelerate release of endorphins, and this baseline subclinical increase in levels should help sleep hygiene as well.
- Eating too close to bedtime forces your body to actively digest when it should be resting, this will almost certainly disrupt sleep. Try to eat lighter and earlier. Same for alcohol. Alcohol can cause maintenance insomnia. This means there is no problem falling asleep per se, but staying asleep is actually inhibited, and restlessness and insomnia ensue.
- Herbal Supplementation – If all else fails, I do not recommend running to a pharmaceutical sleep aid. Rather, if consider using herbal alternatives, such as melatonin, or my personal favorite, valerian root. Both agents have been shown to improve sleep hygiene.