Author: Kara Schuft, PT, DPT
The longer I practice as a physical therapist the more I ask my clients about how they are sleeping. Sleep is a very restorative and healing process that we go through every night. When people are not sleeping well it goes along with a whole host of other issues. Of course, in my career, many people are missing out on their slumber because of pain or injury. Regardless of the reason, one of the best things you can do to help regain some rest is to stick to a schedule with sleep. Following is a list of healthy sleep habits, part of what’s referred to as “sleep hygiene.” They can help get your nights back on track. Know, however, that sometimes sticking to new routine is harder than it seems.
1. Go to bed at the same time every night. Regardless of the day of the week.
2. Even more importantly, wake up at the same time every morning. Again, regardless of the day of the week.
3. No caffeine or stimulants after 3pm.
4. Take 30-60 minutes before bed to limit all screen time. All of it. Computers, phones, and televisions all emit a light that sends a signal to our brains to “wake up!” This is the last signal we want active before trying to sleep.
5. Try creating a bedtime routine. This can help prepare your body to sleep. Maybe during that period you are avoiding checking your phone before bed, you take a shower, change into pajamas, get some water and read a book for 15 minutes. The more often you do a routine like this the more you will condition your body to be ready for bed.
6. The bedroom, and this is important, is for sleep or sex only. No television or computer in the bedroom if at all possible. I know this is much harder for people living in a studio apartment or a single room in a shared home. However, even creating a separate workspace is better than watching TV or looking at a computer in bed. You do not want to associate “wake up” signals with where you are trying to catch some zzzz’s.
7. When you find yourself waking up at night, try not to just lie there ruminating for hours at a time. If it has been 20 minutes, get up out of bed. Have some water, briefly walk around the room, perhaps even read for a little bit. Again, this is so that your body doesn’t get used to being awake in bed when it would be better to be sleeping.
8. Think about the room environment. Is there something that continuously wakes you? Is your room dark enough? Some people do better with black out curtains. For those who wake up from sudden sounds, a white noise machine or fan in their room can be helpful. If the room is too cold or too hot it will often cause the body to make temperature adjustments at night that can wake us up. It is often recommended that a room should be between 65-72 deg Fahrenheit. What is comfortable for one person may not be as comfortable for another.
If you decide to try these suggestions out, know that these types of habits can help people achieve better sleep, but they are not a magical “fix” for sleeplessness. Sometimes it takes more than adopting new sleep habits. There are doctors who specialize in sleep studies and helping people sleep better. If you do try these habits out, give yourself some grace. It’s hard to make all of these changes at once and it takes time for your body to adjust and really get used to the new routines. For now, I will be wishing you all a deep and dreamy night’s sleep!