As I mentioned in the last blog, Dr Matthew Walker’s book, “Why we sleep: the new science of sleep and dreams” is an excellent book that much of this information is gleaned from. Here, I will emphasize a few things. Humans, in today’s action packed modern society, need 8 hours of sleep to function at their best. People who get very little sleep, and are still able to function optimally, are extremely rare: less than 1% of the population. For example, there are 2 very famous politicians who felt sleep was overrated: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. They both got about 5 hours of sleep per night. Both of them also developed dementia. Here’s a study that shows that after only 36 hours of sleep deprivation, amyloid levels, linked to Alzheimer’s disease, increased by 25-30%: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29220873.
See below a checklist for improving your sleep:
- Set up a regular sleep schedule. Your body’s circadian rhythm works on a loop with sunrise and sunset. Keeping the same sleep pattern helps your melatonin levels and is good for your circadian rhythm. Try to sleep and wake up at the same times every day.
- Don’t use alarms if possible. Alarms cause a huge stress reaction just as you wake up.
- When you wake up, get as much bright light as possible. 30 minutes of sun exposure as you get up is best. This sets your circadian rhythm.
- Avoid as much caffeine and nicotine as possible. Caffeine has a very long half life (it stays in your system for about 10 hours), so try not to have caffeine after noon.
- Exercising regularly helps with sleep. However, it can be counterproductive if done within 3 hours of sleep.
- Try not to nap after 3PM. This typically makes it harder to be able to sleep at night time.
- Drinking alcohol is not good for your sleep! You get a less restful sleep after drinking, especially at night time. If you are going to drink alcohol, it’s better to have it earlier in the day so that it’s completely metabolized by sleep time.
- Eat large meals earlier in the day. Eating late interferes with your circadian rhythm while increasing indigestion and acid reflux. Also, try not to drink too many fluids close to bedtime to help avoid night time urination.
- Have a dark house for a few hours before you go to bed. This works really well to help make you sleepy. Blue light from electronics and other sources like LED lights are the most harmful. Try to do all of your screen time earlier in the day.
- Having a cool room/environment is also good for your sleep.
- Sleeping pills are not good for your sleep. Avoid them at all costs.
- Train yourself to only use the bedroom for sleep. Don’t do other activities in bed like watching TV. Your brain will associate those activities with your bedroom. If you can’t fall asleep, go to another room and read, or do something quiet and relaxing, until you feel sleepy. If you stay in bed while trying to fall asleep for long periods, your brain will also associate not sleeping with your bed.
Wishing you regular, long, and restful sleeps.
Braeside Dental Centre