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10 tips for better sleep

What you need to know to overcome insomnia and other sleep disorders

tips-for-better-sleep
Sleep is vital to health. Yet millions of people don’t sleep enough or get the quality of sleep they need to thrive. Inadequate sleep is linked to increased obesity, reduced cognitive function, and even mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
You’re probably heard of oral hygiene, the best practices to promote a healthy mouth and prevent problems like gum disease and cavities. Sleep hygiene refers to both the environment and behaviors that set you up for a good night’s rest.
Here are 10 ways to reset your sleep habits and resolve underlying issues so you can wake up refreshed and ready to conquer your day!

 

#1 - Set a daily schedule

People who work night shifts or erratic schedules often experience sleep disorders like insomnia and restless sleep. Strive to keep a schedule in which you go to bed and wake up at the same time, every day of the week (even on weekends). As much as possible, strive to sync with the circadian rhythm, which is tied to your 24-hour body clock and regulates your awareness, relaxation and sleep. Your circadian rhythm, which is found in most living things, regulates your body temperature, modulates your metabolism, and activates specific hormones throughout your body.

 

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#2 - Check your airway and breathing patterns

In many cases, an airway issue is the root cause of a sleep problem. Sleep disordered breathing is when your sleep pattern is interrupted night after night due to abnormal respiratory patterns.

In its “fail safe” manner your body unconsciously works to keep you alive, even if that means interrupting your sleep. It is as if an emergency switch is flipped on. The brain detects the drop in oxygen levels and alerts you to wake up.

When this “alarm bell” is pulled many times a night, night after night, and week after week, it begins to take its toll on your physical and mental health. Common issues related to airway obstructions include snoring, apnea, hypopnea, and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which often results in the use of a CPAP machine or breathing strips.

The goal of healthy breathing 24/7 and during sleep is to:

  • Breathe in and out of your nose (this is known as nasal breathing)
  • Keep your mouth closed with your lips touching
  • Keep your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth

#3 - Create a relaxing pre-sleep routine

If the stress and drama of your day follow you into bed, counter restless nights with a consistent and relaxing pre-sleep routine. Set up your own personal routine based on what works for you. Here are some ideas:

  • Take a bath or a shower to reset your body temperature and signal it is bedtime.
  • Write down your thoughts, concerns, and to-do lists on paper or in a journal. (You’re less likely to let your mind race and keep you up if you know you’ve got your thoughts down in writing.)
  • Make yourself a soothing herbal tea with plants like chamomile, valerian root, passionflower, or lavender. 
  • Read a relaxing book. (Make sure it isn’t a page-turner!)
  • Listen to calming music or meditation audios. (Check out bedtime sleep podcasts.)
  • Get into some extra-comfy pajamas.
  • Establish a personal practice, meditation or relaxing breathing techniques.

 

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#4 - Reduce your screen time

Americans spend an average of 10 hours of each day on screens. To get a good night’s rest, avoid and turn off all screens including TV, tablet, computer, and cell phone before bed. Blue light waves found in natural light during the day help boost attention and mood, but the artificial blue light emitted by screens, particularly at night, is disruptive to your sleep.

When you use your screen at night your brain’s neurons are activated and electrical activity goes up. When you check the news, respond to a text message, watch a video, or answer an email at night, it leads to stress and the release of the hormone cortisol, which further inhibits your ability to fall asleep. Reducing screen time in your day and avoiding screens completely at night can help improve your sleep.

Most devices have a screen time, do not disturb, or sleep mode allows you to set limits for use between certain hours of the day. These settings can help you avoid the temptation of signing back in. If you are able to put your devices off and away in a different room than the one you sleep in, even better!

 

#5 - Identify and prevent interruptions

Conduct an audit of anything that wakes you up at night. Could it be the sound of traffic or sirens outside of your window? Or is it artificial light from a streetlamp? Are you waking up to check your phone for messages or notifications?

  • Consider using blackout curtains to keep your bedroom dark and block out light.
  • Select comfortable earplugs to block out sound
  • Use a white noise machine or app to counter jarring noises and help you fall asleep
  • Make sure you turn all notifications off on your cell phone and devices to avoid unexpected lights or sounds from your device during the night

 

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#6 - Find the root causes of sleep problems

If you’re searching for a solution to insomnia or poor sleep, you’ve very likely to find advertisements for prescription medication to help you sleep. These pills can be habit-forming and rarely get to the root cause of why you’re having trouble catching z’s.

Poor sleep can be caused by multiple factors that are often interlinked and overlapping. Is chronic pain keeping you up at night? Or are you stressed and worried about an issue in your life? Is your sleep problem related to trauma or a mental health issue like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression or anxiety that would benefit from counseling or therapy? If you really want to resolve your sleep issues beyond just masking symptoms, it is important to ask yourself WHY you’re having trouble sleeping and take steps to address the problems head-on.

 

#7 - Track your sleep

If insomnia, restless sleep, snoring or obstructive sleep apnea is keeping you up at night, a good place to start is to find a trusted healthcare professional who can help. Tracking your sleep patterns, either with a sleep journal or a sleep tracking app can help you explain what is going on to your doctor. Next, a sleep study can help you get data to better understand the underlying issues.

During a sleep study, you’ll go to a special lab with a polysomnogram (PSG). You stay overnight so that sleep specialists can record and analyze data about you while you sleep. Your breathing, movements, heart rate, and oxygen levels will be monitored. An EEG will track data on your brain activity. A data-informed analysis of your airway issues and dysfunctional sleep patterns can be an important step towards a diagnosis and treatment plan.

 

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#8 - Make sure your bed is just right

Your bed is a personal place, not your office. When you keep work and sleep spaces separate, it can help your body know when to “turn off” work mode so you can rest.

Start by choosing the right mattress that is neither too soft or too firm. Select linens and ergonomic pillows to keep you comfortable and the right temperature. Some people find that weighted blankets help them sleep better because they limit restless movements. Others prefer light sheets. It is up to you!

 

#9 - Improve your diet and exercise

What you eat affects just about every part of your health, including sleep. Adjusting your diet and lifestyle to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and too much sugar. Many people who shift away from processed foods towards whole, natural and plant-based meals report better sleep and energy in the day. A good place to start is by keeping track of everything you eat and drink as well as your sleep. Notice which meals and which foods appear to affect your sleep. For example, you might find that eating a heavy meal with meat or alcohol results in a lot of tossing and turning. A registered nutritionist can help you assess your current diet and help you learn how to avoid foods that inhibit sleep.

Getting aerobic exercise on a regular basis will improve your overall health as well as your sleep. A good workout will help you feel tired and ready for a great night of rest. Exercise reduces stress and can help clear your mind. Even walking, cycling, or dancing for 15 minutes a day can give you the boost you need. Exercise releases endorphins and elevates your body temperature, signaling the body to be awake. After exercise, the body cools down, which can help ease you into sleep. When you do exercise is up to you — some people prefer avoiding aerobic exercise before bed because it makes them feel energized, while others have no problem winding down after the gym.

 

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#10 - Get back to nature

Spending time outdoors, especially overnight camping, can help you re-set your biological clock and improve sleep. The key is to remove yourself from artificial lights, especially the blue lights of screens, and expose yourself to natural cycles of light and darkness. Recent studies show that immersing yourself in nature can dramatically improve the quality of your sleep, boost your mood, and promote relaxation.




Ready to learn more & get specialized support?

We created health:latch circle to increase education, awareness, and support around the issue of airway health, oral dysfunction & oral restrictions.

The circle makes it easy for you to surround yourself with caring and knowledgeable healthcare professionals across many healthcare fields and healing modalities who can guide and advise you through the ups and downs of diagnosing, treating, and recovering from the long-term effects of an oral restriction.

The health:latch circle is a radically kind, community-based online platform that allows interested parents and professionals to ask questions, learn together and connect to trusted professionals who are committed to helping families thrive.

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