As you know, lots of people face sleep issues such as insomnia and sleep apnea…
I decided to get in touch with sleep experts from around the world and ask them one simple question:
“If you could only give 3 tips to help our readers enjoy a better sleep, what would they be?”
Let me tell you, the insights I received from these sleep experts were nothing short of amazing.
I’ve listed all of them below…
1. Dr. Gillum - gillumdentistry.com
#1. When it comes to optimal sleep hygiene nothing trumps sleeping in complete darkness in a cool room. Any amount of white or especially blue light emitted from computer, TV, cell phones and tablets will disrupt sleep by inhibiting the sleep hormone melatonin and stimulating the arousal hormone cortisol. Abstain from all electronics one hour before bed. I recommend black out curtains or blinds and remove all electronics from the bedroom. A small amber night light in the bathroom is ok. Keep the room temperature below 70. I find 68 almost ideal.
#2. The body needs to cool to initiate sleep. Sleeping without any clothes improves and helps maintain sleep. Only exception my be to wear socks as feet often chill or cramp due to poorer circulation at night. Taking a hot bath, shower or sauna one hour before bed helps the body cool rapidly which can help sleep.
#3. Habitual snoring throughout the night will completely disrupt the quality of your life and sleep. It will render you sick more often, keep you unable to control your weight, keep you hungry, sleepy and fatigued during the day and make you prone to accidents and memory problems. And that's the short list. There are many useful solutions to snoring and seeing a sleep physician or sleep dentist would be a great place to start to determine if you have sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is an increasingly common disease impacting up to 20% of the population. Patients suffer from symptoms or snoring, unrefreshing sleep, and daytime fatigue. In addition, it puts patients at risk for and can worsen high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke, and mood disorders, among others. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the primary treatment modality and works very well in controlling the disease, daytime symptoms, and mitigating many of the potential problems. However, as many as 80% of patients are unable to tolerate CPAP in some research studies and people are not aware of the alternative treatment strategies available. These other treatment options include body positioning devices for patients whose OSA is only present when lying on their back. Additional options include oral appliances and a variety of surgical approaches provided by ENT doctors and dentists. Each of these approaches have the goal of limiting or eliminating the disease.
One new surgical option offered at select centers across the country is Inspire upper airway stimulation therapy. Inspire is an implantable nerve stimulator that provides a gentle pulse to the nerve supplying the tongue with each breath during sleep. This pulse induces muscle contraction in the tongue and palate relieving upper airway obstruction. Patients note improvement in their sleep and daytime symptoms. Outcome studies have shown significant improvement in both sleep study and quality of life measures. www.inspiresleep.com
There is not a magic number of hours people should be sleeping every night. The average adult sleeps between 7 and 8 hours on a nightly basis, but some people require less sleep to function well during the day and some people require more. Many people have a difficult time either getting to sleep or staying asleep during some point of their life. Some people are predisposed to insomnia which can be triggered by stressful life events and propagated with poor sleep habits. Difficulty sleeping not only has significant effects on well being and productivity during the day, but is distressing. One of the initial strategies is to practice proper sleep hygiene. This includes a consistent bed and wake time, limiting caffeine in the afternoons, limiting the amount of electronic usage prior to bed, and only utilizing the bed for sleep and intimate activity. There are multiple treatment options for the treatment of both sleep onset and sleep maintenance insomnia. The initial treatment strategy of many physicians is to prescribe a variety of medications which have sedating effects and help to support sleep. An additional option, underutilized by many physicians is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI) which provides strategies and techniques to set the stage for optimal sleep conditions and has shown to be as effective, particularly in the long term, as medications. There are a variety of avenues to obtain treatment with CBTI including sleep psychologists and multiple internet programs.
Many people complain of restless sleep, particularly as they get older, which can have an impact on the quality of sleep they are getting on a nightly basis. Patients may have complaints of tossing and turning at night, sleep talking, frequent awakenings, and feeling unrefreshed in the morning. There are a number of conditions which can lead to restless sleep. Restless leg syndrome is a condition in which people have an odd sensation in their legs in the evening which is resolved with movement. This can create insomnia and is associated with limb movements during sleep which can cause sleep disruption. Obstructive sleep apnea is another condition characterized by snoring, cessation of breathing, and recurrent upper airway obstruction at night which can disrupt sleep. Movement disorders during sleep and sleep stage disruption are additional issues which can impact the efficiency of sleep at night. Anyone suffering from restless sleep, restless legs, snoring, or feeling unrefreshed in the morning should be evaluated by a sleep professional.
1) De-stress: For many adults, stress and anxiety is a big reason as to why they can’t sleep. Either they can’t turn their minds off before bed or when they wake during the night. It’s important to understand the root causes of your stress, and to try and eliminate or lessen the stress whenever possible.
2) Deep breaths: Taking deep breaths a few times a day is a great way to relax and provide your body with the extra oxygen it needs. Doing so before bed, can make it easier for you to fall asleep. You don’t need to take a lot of breaths at each occurrence – even just 3 will do the job!
3) Positive Journaling: Going to bed upset, angry, disappointed, anxious, or stressed can make it difficult for you to be able to easily fall asleep. I suggest keeping a journal next to your bed, where you can write down positive events that happened that day. It might be that your child took their first steps, your spouse complimented you, your boss loved your idea, or you met up with a friend for lunch. The point is that you have positive, happy thoughts before bed, so that you can fall asleep more easily and stay asleep all night.
1) Go to bed and wake up at the consistent times, even on weekends. If needed, set an alarm to give yourself some accountability on when to go to bed.
2) Put away all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The blue light in the devices can delay your sleep.
3) If you are excessively sleepy during the day despite sleeping for at least 7 hours a night, make an appointment to see a sleep physician. If your insurance requires you to get a referral, then explicitly ask your primary care physician if s/he will refer you to one, as they might not think of it if you simply off-handedly mention that your are sleepy.
TI suggest people get screened for sleep apnea by a qualified sleep physician or a sleep dentist.
2) Focus on preventing bad sleep habits early so you don't need to worry about fixing something down the road
3) Sleep issues don't end with babies. Toddler and preschools also need clear, loving boundaries to ensure they can receive the proper sleep needs and to stay well rested.
Author of many great books such as:
Eight Sleep Tips for Every Child
By Elizabeth Pantley
Lack of sleep affects every minute of every day for every person in the family because lack of sleep isn’t just about being tired. Sleep has a role in everything -- dawdling, temper tantrums, hyperactivity, growth, health, and even learning to tie his shoes and recite the ABCs. Sleep affects everything. The following ideas are of value to almost any sleeper, of any age. These tips can bring improvement not only in your child’s sleep, but also in her daytime mood and last, but not least – improvements in your own sleep and outlook as well.
# 1 Maintain a consistent bedtime and awaking time.
Your child’s biological clock has a strong influence on her wakefulness and sleepiness. When you establish a set time for bedtime and wake up time you “set” your child’s clock so that it functions smoothly. Aim for an early bedtime. Young children respond best with a bedtime between 6:30 and 7:30 P.M. Most children will sleep better and longer when they go to bed early.
# 2 Encourage regular daily naps.
Daily naps are important. An energetic child can find it difficult to go through the day without a rest break. A nap-less child will often wake up cheerful and become progressively fussier or hyper-alert as the day goes on. Also, the length and quality of naps affects night sleep – good naps equal better night sleep.
# 3 Set your child’s biological clock.
Take advantage of your child’s biology so that he’s actually tired when bedtime arrives. Darkness causes an increase in the release of the body’s sleep hormone -- the biological “stop” button. You can align your child’s sleepiness with bedtime by dimming the lights during the hour before bedtime. Exposing your child to morning light is pushing the “go” button in her brain — one that says, “Time to wake up and be active.” So keep your mornings bright!
# 4 Develop a consistent bedtime routine.
Routines create security. A consistent, peaceful bedtime routine allows your child to transition from the motion of the day to the tranquil state of sleep. An organized routine helps you coordinate the specifics: bath, pajamas, tooth-brushing. It helps you to function on auto-pilot at the time when you are most tired and least creative.
# 5 Create a cozy sleep environment.
Where your child sleeps can be a key to quality sleep. Make certain the mattress is comfortable, the blankets are warm, the room temperature is right, pajamas are comfy, and the bedroom is welcoming.
# 6 Provide the right nutrition.
Foods can affect energy level and sleepiness. Carbohydrates can have a calming effect on the body, while foods high in protein or sugar generate alertness, particularly when eaten alone. A few ideas for pre-bed snacks are: whole wheat toast and cheese, bagel and peanut butter, oatmeal with bananas, or yogurt and low-sugar granola. Vitamin deficiencies due to unhealthy food choices can affect a child’s sleep. Provide your child with a daily assortment of healthy foods in three meals plus several snacks for health and good sleep.
# 7 Help your child to be healthy and fit.
Many children don’t get enough daily physical activity. Too much TV watching and a lack of activity prevents good sleep. Children who get ample daily exercise fall asleep more quickly, sleep better, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling refreshed. Avoid activity in the hour before bedtime though, since exercise is stimulating – they’ll be jumping on the bed instead of sleeping in it!
# 8 Teach your child how to relax.
Many children get in bed but aren’t sure what to do when they get there! It can help to follow a soothing pre-bed routine that creates sleepiness. A good pre-bed ritual is story time. A child who is listening to a parent read a book or tell a tale will tend to lie still and listen. This quiet stillness allows him to become sleepy. Work with these eight ideas and you’ll see improvements in your child’s sleep, and in your sleep, too.
Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers & Preschoolers
1) Wind down relaxing outside of your bedroom, without technology, stress, or work, for the last one hour before bed.
2) Try to follow a consistent sleep schedule the entire week and weekend, as much as possible.
3) Do not use technology in the bedroom during the night.
1. Don’t spend too much time in bed
A common mistake many insomnia sufferers make is they spend too much time in bed. The thought process goes something like this, “If I spend more time in bed, I’ll get more sleep”. Unfortunately, this often has the opposite effect: sleep becomes worse because more time has been made available for tossing, turning, and feeling worry and anxiety about sleep. It’s best to spend no more than an hour over your average sleep duration in bed each night (but give yourself six hours at a minimum).
2. Keep a regular sleep schedule
It can be tempting to stay up later on weekends or enjoy lengthy lie-ins when you don’t have to get up for work. Unfortunately, this can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle and make it more difficult to fall asleep the following night. It’s best to stay within half an hour of the same bedtime and out of bed time every single day of the week — including weekends!
3. Don’t drink alcohol before bed
Although drinking alcohol can make it easier to fall asleep, it severely reduces sleep quality and can lead to more frequent nighttime awakenings as the alcohol is processed by the body.
Nothing beats a well-rested sleep. Catching a few zzzz is not only about resting but about refreshing too. A lot is spoken about the quantity of sleep required, 8-10 hour, 6 hours 4 hours etc. However hardly anybody talks about the quality of sleep. Quality is even more important than quantity. Even a few hours quality sleep can make you feel refreshed and energized! That is not to say you should sleep less. Sleep as much as your body needs, but make sure the hours count, and the quality of your sleep is top notch too. Here are 3 tips to have better sleep:
- Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary: A comfortable and cosy bedroom helps promote restful sleep. Install heavy curtain to block out any lights from the window. Ensure the bedroom temperature is cool and comfortable at around 60-75 degree Fahrenheit. Make sure your pillow and mattress are comfortable. If you live in a noisy neighbourhood consider installing white sound machine or noise blockers for your bedroom. Most of all keep your bedroom free of clutter, devices and distractions. Leave all laptops, phones, computers and all electronic paraphernalia out of bedroom door.
- Dine light and early: Heavy meals right before bedtime make for insomnia. Ensure you finish your dinner 2-3 hrs. before bedtime. Limit alcohol intake at dinner table. If an early dinner leaves you feeling hungry by bedtime, consider adding a pre bedtime snack into your routine. Make sure you snack light and it’s something your body can digest easily. A peanut butter cookie or a glass of milk should work well.
- Be Consistent: This one is very important. Nothing can make up for consistency. Make a sleep schedule and stick to it. Try your best to get to bed at same time every day and wake up at same time. Once you get into the habit, your body will be tuned and you will fall asleep within minutes of hitting the mattress. If you end up getting late for bed someday, do not be tempted to stay in late. Your body will wake you up at your regular time. Get up then and make up for the sleep deficit by a late morning or early afternoon nap.
A huge thank you to our sleep experts who contributed to this mammoth post! Please feel free to share it if you found it useful.
A question for our readers…
If you could give 3 sleep tips, what would they be?