Tips and Tricks for Better Sleep: How to Improve Your Sleep for Optimal Health
Article by Danny Bruns, PA-C
Certified Functional Medicine Physician Assistant at KanodiaMD
Why do we focus on optimizing sleep?
In our fast-paced modern world, sometimes we view lack of sleep as a badge of honor, however, it’s actually quite the opposite. There have been countless studies that clearly demonstrate how vital sleep is to every aspect of our physical, mental, and emotional health. For many of us, sleep is the only time when we allow our body and mind to truly rest, repair, and reset.
How much sleep do I need?
The gold standard to knowing you are on a good sleep schedule is that you can wake up without an alarm clock (at whatever time you need to start your day) and that you feel well-rested when you awake. Some people do well with seven hours, and others with nine. If you are consistently requiring more than 10 hours to feel well-rested, this can tell us a couple things. It usually indicates that you need to make some adjustments to your sleep routine—your body and mind still have significant imbalances that are requiring extra time to heal.
What is blue light and why is it so important to limit it before bedtime?
Humans have made great advances in technology in a very short amount of time from an evolutionary standpoint. Our brains are still wired to interact with our environment the same way we did back when we were a hunter-gatherer society. Each one of us has a deeply ingrained internal clock known as our circadian rhythm. When our eyes and skin are exposed to certain “daytime” wavelengths of light—including blue light—our brain is signaled that we need to be awake, dampening our melatonin production. Being exposed to indoor lighting, TVs, phones, and laptops at night tricks our body into thinking it is daytime, and this can have a significant impact on our sleep.
Try These Tips and Tricks for a Good Night's Sleep
Reduce Blue Light
- Candles — A simple strategy is to use candles in your bathroom and bedroom while getting ready for bed.
- LowBlueLights — This brand and other low blue light bulbs are specifically designed to limit wavelengths of light that can make it harder for us to fall asleep. Additionally, LowBlueLights offers blue light blocking glasses, blue light screen covers, and night lights.
- Motion Sensor Low Blue Night Light — Try lighting your bathroom before bed and during the night using these low blue light night lights—great for llate-night restroom trips!
- Automated Dark-Sensing Low Blue Night Lights — If you are looking to light your hallways at night, try these out. They are not motion sensors, so they will stay on throughout the night. They can help you to avoid turning on bright lights closer to bedtime.
- Blue Light Blockers — We recommend avoiding blue light from TV, laptops, phones, or other electronic screens at least two hours prior to bedtime. If you cannot do that, check out some red-tinted blue-light-blocking glasses at LowBlueLights and TrueDark.
- Decrease Device Use — Most phones and computers now have “night modes” to help limit the stimulatory light wavelengths around bedtime. These can make the screen appear orange or red, which is well worth it to nurture a healthy sleep cycle.
Take Sleep Support Supplements
Melatonin is a great supplement that can help regulate your sleep cycle. We also recommend PS 150 which contains a nutrient that stops the production of cortisol and allows for more restful sleep.
Try Sleep Writing
- Before going to bed at night, write down everything that is on your mind—worries, concerns, to-do lists, etc.
- When done, close the journal, set it aside, and let your thoughts and worries stay confined to the journal. Doing this will allow your brain to relax and naturally process your thoughts and emotions while you are having restful sleep. You may even find that you wake up in the morning with the solution you were looking for!
- If you wake up in the middle of the night and your mind is racing, open your journal and write down what you are thinking. Be careful not to turn on a bright light. It is best to use a low blue light bulb in your bedroom at night.
Relax with a Spoonk Mat
A Spoonk Mat is an acupressure mat that rebalances and relaxes the whole body, especially if you have a tight neck, shoulders, or back muscles. Our patients report that it makes them turn to jelly. They really love this one! We have tried other acupressure mats on the market, and Spoonk Mat is our favorite.
Head to Bed Before Your Second Wind
Do you ever find yourself getting tired around 9:00 pm or 10:00 pm, but then you stay awake doing other things and can't get tired enough to fall back asleep until hours later? If we don't allow ourselves to fall asleep when our bodies are signaling us, our brain thinks there must be some very important reason for us to not fall asleep, and it will dutifully order a cortisol surge to keep us alert for any lurking threat. So try heading to bed prior to your second wind—catch the first wave and drift off to sleep.
Visit Chilisleep or other companies that offer cooling sleep products for temperature-controlled sleeping. Staying cool at night can be a key factor in helping improve your sleep quality. If you aren't able to keep your room cold at night or stay cold, Chilisleep pads can make a huge difference by circulating cool water.
Getting good sleep requires a multifaceted approach, we've found that these very achievable lifestyle modifications—like light exposure, mental state, temperature, and supplements—can really help to get you on the right path to a restful night. Use these tips to create a custom sleep strategy for your own personal needs. Sweet dreams!
If you're struggling with sleep or other medical conditions, we’re happy to discuss your health needs and how we can help get you feeling better and living better. Just contact our office to set up an appointment.