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Proper Sleep Hygiene

Posted on August 29, 2011 by Dr. Erin Elliott

7.7 hours… That is how much sleep the human body needs to function and be fully rested.  How many Americans do you know that sleep like that?

I actually get teased from time to time by friends and family at how much sleep I actually get.  I am usually in bed at 9PM on a work night, even in the summer.  With a 5AM wake up time I feel like I owe it to my patients to be fully rested.  Which is why there is something to be said for the saying “The early bird gets the worm.”  The night owl sleep schedule often leaves us tired and fatigued during the day.  This is rule #1 of sleep hygiene.

Having a regular time each night for bed helps our body in many ways.  When it is time for bed having a cool, dark, comfortable room makes it easier for our body to unwind and get ready for sleep.  It is also important to use your bedroom for sleep and quiet reading only.  The TV and electronics should be eliminated from the bedroom as that can stimulate our minds and even cause adrenaline.

I have to eliminate big meals before bedtime as a full stomach or acid reflux can make me not only uncomfortable but keep me awake.  Alcohol and nicotine can actually act as stimulants and of course caffeine.  One thing that has helped many of my patients is elevating the head of the bed and preventing fluid from pooling and making them stuffy.  And last but not least we need to train ourselves to sleep on our side and not our back.  That is hard to do!!

All of that information is fine but my problem is not going to sleep but staying asleep!  I don’t want to take Tylenol PM or Ambien so what can I do?  Usually if I’m awake it’s because I’m thinking of all the things I need to do the next day or my kids woke me up and I can’t get back to sleep.  The first step is to not fight it!  Tossing and turning never helps return to sleep.  Avoid looking at the clock and avoid getting up and watching TV or using the computer (which is what I used to do).  Get a book and a soft reading light or a notepad to write down your thoughts and quiet your brain.  Hope this helped!!