Sleep is CRITICAL for mental health, physical health, and wellbeing. This is especially true in times of uncertainty when we are riddled with anxiety–eg the coronavirus pandemic. It is especially important during this time to get optimal sleep to strengthen our immune system.
Poor sleep may decrease the activity of immune natural killer cell by 70% — leading to immune system weakening. This can even lead to cancer. The World Health Organization actually classifies nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen because of the disruption of sleep-wake rhythms. Every aspect of your wellbeing is hurt by poor sleep.
It can be really hard to transition from the stress of a busy day to the tranquility needed to fall and stay asleep. This is hard to practice every day but so important. I personally have not been following my own advice for optimal sleep lately as I try to stay up-to-date on the coronavirus pandemic for my patients. So, I have decided to write this blog article for myself and for everyone reading this.
The 9 Do’s for Optimal Sleep
1. ROUTINE is the KEY!
Build a SLEEP ROUTINE. A sleep routine should last about 15-30 minutes if possible (mine is about 15 minutes) and include things that you enjoy doing. For example, consider a warm shower with relaxing music, guided meditation, or reading a few pages of a relaxing good book. (Watching television, scrolling through instagram, or using other bluelight devices are too stimulating!)
2. Keep it COOL (65-70 degrees F)
You have an internal thermostat (set-point) for body temperature. This body temperature drops to induce sleep and can be helped along by ambient air temperature. Therefore, some studies recommend setting your room temperature to 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Play around with the temperature as everyone is different. Try to find the temperature that’s best for you.
My favorite thing is to ensure that my bed is at the perfect temperature. The Sleep 8 Pod and the Chilipad have really revolutionized the game to help your body reach that perfect temperature before bedtime. (<–This is not an ad for these companies; I just really love my Sleep 8 Pod bed.)
3. Write down your PLANS
This may work for some and not for others. Think about what you need to tackle at least 2 hours before bedtime (but not right before bedtime as this may be too stimulating). Write everything down so it is out of your head. This will calm your mind: you’ll sleep better knowing that things are in place and that you have a game plan.
4. Bedtime ALARM CLOCK
Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time each morning. This includes weekends. Set an alarm clock so you’ll know when to start your sleep routine (just like you set one to wake up!) I set my Google Home to remind me at 8:30PM every day to prepare for sleep.
5. RESTORATIVE exercises
Consider relaxation techniques (like meditation, yoga, deep breathing). These techniques create a state conducive to sleep. One method to try is 4-7-8 breathing.
6. Warm bath or feet soaks
Take a warm bath before bedtime. If you cannot, just soak your feet in warm water. Try a few drops of lavender oil in the water or behind your ears.
7. Make your room RELAXING
Air filter, eg HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters), or a plant can allow you to have fresh clean air in your room.
Make sure that it is not an ion device (negative ion generator) as ion devices have debatable health benefits and can form lung-irritating ozone.
Acupressure, a form of self-massage that targets specific points on the body, can be an effective way of self care to promote better sleep.
Massage each of these points for about 2 minutes before sleep. You can repeat this as many times as you find helpful (or about 3 times every night as part of your routine). Alternatively, you can also use a warm pack to stimulate the points. Learn more about acupressure locations for sleep here.
9. Relaxing Teas
The Dont’s for Optimal Sleep
1. Don’t go to bed with cold feet
Warm feet can promote improved sleep. Put on a pair of socks or soak your feet in warm water before bedtime.
2. Don’t eat a big meal before bedtime
A large meal 2 hours before bed can cause heartburn and insomnia. If you’re hungry at night time, try a low-fat snack with complex carbohydrates. These include whole grain cereal, whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter, or some yogurt with half a banana or berries. Avoid sugary or greasy food. (Lean more about healthy plate).
3. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol bedtime
Alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycle. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it can make it more difficult to STAY asleep and decrease your sleep quality.
The nicotine in cigarettes is actually a stimulant, which makes it harder to fall asleep. If you smoke or vape, don’t do it before bed (actually, stop all together!)
4. Don’t nap for longer than 30 minutes.
Avoid napping for longer than 30 minutes during the day as this can make it harder to fall asleep at your normal bedtime. Excessive napping interferes with nighttime sleep.
5. Don’t charge your phone by your bed
People have been using their phone as their primary alarm clock. Try not to do this! Having your phone next to you makes it harder to disconnect from your day. Try to charge your phone far away from your bed or even outside the bedroom so you can protect your sleep.
Consider getting a cheap $10 alarm clock like back in the old days; they’re extremely reliable.
6. Don’t exercise right before bedtime
Extensive cardio and exercise can stimulate your rather than calm you down. Try to jog, dance or cycle earlier in the day. Studies show that people who are physically active sleep better than those who are sedentary. The more energy you expend during the day, the sleepier you will feel at bedtime.
7. Don’t drink water right before bedtime
Try to make sure your last glass of water is 1-1.5 hours before bedtime so you don’t need to wake up to use the restroom.
8. Avoid screens and bluelight!
Screen time and sleep time do not mix. Try to avoid screen at least 1 hour before bedtime. The bluelight from the computer, TV, laptop, phone can interfere with melatonin release in the body and impact sleep.
If you MUST use your phone or computer, make sure it is on a night shift mode. Alternatively, you can try the bluelight blocking glasses. However, realistically, it is better to just avoid screens all together.
9. No caffeine after noon.
Drink non-caffeinated tea or water instead.