Countdown to better sleep – 10 tips from a local family doctor | Fitness tips of the day

Nicholas Cohen, MD

A good night’s sleep is the cornerstone of health, and as a local family doctor, I’m passionate about helping my patients sleep better.  The benefits of quality sleep are vast, including enhanced energy and mood, lower blood pressure, reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease, and even a longer life.

To help you achieve deep, restorative sleep, I’ve put together a countdown of 10 actions, starting from waking up at a consistent time (Tip #10) to going to bed at a consistent time (Tip #1). By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a deeper and more restful sleep.

Tip #10: Maintain a Consistent Wake-Up Time

Consistency is key. Set a regular wake-up time, even on weekends, to regulate your internal body clock, giving you more energy during the day and making it easier to fall asleep at night.

Tip #9: Use a Sleep Tracker

Utilize a sleep tracker, such as Fitbit, Apple Watch, or Oura Ring, to assess the quality of your sleep. These devices offer valuable insights into improving your sleep, allowing you to see the results in an improved sleep score as you make changes.

Tip #8: Welcome Morning Sunlight

Exposure to early morning sunlight calibrates your circadian rhythm, boosts daytime energy, and helps you fall asleep more easily at night. On cloudy or wintry days when direct sunlight isn’t available, consider sitting in front of a light therapy lamp for 30 minutes in the morning.

Tip #7: Stay Active During the Day

Staying physically active throughout the day helps you feel more tired and sleep more soundly when you lay down at night. Give yourself a step goal each day, and track your progress with a wearable fitness device. 

Tip #6: Avoid Daytime Naps

Napping during the day can disrupt your nighttime sleep, making it harder to fall asleep when you need to.

Tip #5: Limit Caffeine 6 Hours Before Bedtime

Avoid consumption of caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime.  This includes coffee, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate.

Tip #4: No Food or Alcohol 3 Hours Before Bedtime; Limit Alcohol to One Drink Per Day

Eating within 3 hours of bedtime can lead to indigestion and heartburn, disrupting sleep quality.  Drinking alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime can cause sleep disruptions.

Drinking more than one alcoholic drink per night not only impairs sleep but also negatively affects mood, raises blood pressure, damages the liver, and shortens lifespan. 

Tip #3: Establish a Bedtime Ritual 1 Hour Before Bedtime

Adopt a screen-free bedtime ritual during the hour before sleep to help you relax. Remove the TV from the bedroom, and avoid using your phone in bed. Consider listening to an audiobook, with a sleep timer set to shut off at your bedtime, to unwind before sleep

Tip #2: Create a Cool, Dark, and Quiet Bedroom

Ensure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. The ideal bedroom temperature for sound sleep is between 60-65 degrees. Use black-out curtains, an eye mask, and earplugs to create the ideal sleeping environment.

Tip #1: Stick to a Consistent Bedtime

Maintain the same bedtime every night, even on weekends, and aim for at least 7 hours of sleep. Our bodies need a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night to function at their best and remain free of disease.

If you or someone you know experiences symptoms like snoring, temporary cessation of breathing during sleep, shortness of breath when lying flat, or frequent nighttime awakenings to urinate, it might indicate an underlying medical problem. In such cases, I recommend consulting with your primary care provider.

Prioritizing your sleep can lead to a host of health benefits and a happier, healthier life. The practical tips I’ve shared can guide you toward better sleep. Sweet dreams and good health to all!

Dr. Nicholas Cohen, MD, is a board-certified family physician affiliated with the Tahoe Forest Health System. To book a visit with a primary care provider at Tahoe Forest, call (530) 582-6205.

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