By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
A good night’s sleep is sometimes referred to as one of the best free medicines a person can get. And too often the general public is suffering from a lack of it.
“Rest is something that can be vital in restoring and strengthening your immune system,” said physician Alice Hoagland, director of the Insomnia Clinic at the Unity Sleep Disorder Center. “People who suffer from excessive tiredness start to feel emotionally, psychologically and physically different. People have experienced increases in blood pressure, mood disorders and depression because of lack of sleep.”
Hoagland offers five tips to good sleeping.
1. Get regular sleep
Even though as adults we don’t always like routine, going to bed at the same time each day has significant benefits. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will actually help you sleep better at night. Your body has a circadian rhythm that requires sleeping at a regular time. Sporadic sleeping patterns disrupts that pattern and can cause problems throughout the week.
“I know people don’t like to hear this but you should consider going to bed during the weekend at the same time you go to sleep during the weekday,” said Hoagland. “Your body and brain have a rhythm, and when that rhythm constantly fluctuates, then that will lead to problems sleeping.”
2. Stay away from caffeine
There are people who say they can drink coffee and caffeinated drinks at night and still sleep well. They are the chosen few. However for most adults, it’s not a good idea to have coffee or your favorite soft drink right before bed. The most obvious effect of the stimulant is that it can make it hard for you to fall asleep. One study found that caffeine can delay the timing of your body clock, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
“We really do recommend that you stay away from caffeine as far away from your bedtime as possible,” said Hoagland. “It will disrupt your system and either keep you from sleeping or cause you to wake up more randomly during the night.”
3. Eliminate or reduce technology at night
Technology isn’t always our friends. You carry it around with you everywhere you go all day — smart phones, tablets, you name it. Too often, we not only take it to bed, but we stare at the screen for hours and then expect to get a good night’s sleep when we are done. To have a good night’s sleep we have to put all of that down. “This is something we see a lot with millenials who are driven by technology,” said Hoagland. “Technology has this addictive quality and a disruption pattern that most people don’t know. The light from the cellphone has an effect on your brain that can prevent it from sleeping.”
4. Environment is key
Sometimes your surroundings may lead to bad sleep. Your social environment whether it is the lightness of the room or what’s on your bed makes a difference.
“Two years ago, I told a patient to take a picture of their bedroom and bring it to me. They did and what you saw was piles of clothes everywhere, things in disorder and just chaos. There was even a person who was in a queen size bed and had a laptop and a printer on the other side just in case she ever wanted to wake up and do work,” said Hoagland. “You can find out a lot about a person by how their bedroom looks.” Hoagland’s advice: Get the place where you sleep in good shape.
5. Relaxation can make all the difference
Peacefulness on your way to bed should be a consistent goal. Hoagland recommends something relaxing like yoga or meditation to ease your way into sleep. “When your body is in a relaxing state, it helps your mind become just as relaxed. That will trigger a calming effect that will make it easier to sleep,” she said. “Even doing relaxing, non-strenuous exercising is something we recommend.”