The first step in solving our nationwide sleep crisis, pulmonary physician Khalid Eltawil, MD, believes, is recognizing the importance of a good nights’ sleep and vowing to make it part of your overall healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips from him and other experts:
★ Establish a sleep routine
“This means going to bed at the same time every night,” Dr. Eltawil explains. “Also getting up at the same time and creating rituals, such as meditating, deep breathing, reading, taking a bath or shower.” A pre-sleep routine lets the body know what’s coming. And that in turn regulates your circadian rhythms—key to healthy, all-night snoozing.
★ Clean sleep hygiene
Make sure your room is completely dark (not even a speck of light, according to Andrew Weil, MD), quiet and cool. Turn all electronic devices off; in fact, the UCLA Sleep Research Center suggests not even looking at a screen for two hours prior to bedtime. Open the windows. And do everything to make your bed comfortable to you, whatever that means. Feather beds, waterbeds, down comforters and pillows; just get cozy.
★ Avoid sleep saboteurs
Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and recreational and prescription drugs all can disrupt your somnolent efforts. “Alcohol becomes a problem because people get dependent on it. It does make you sleepy,” says Dr. Eltawil, “but then as it wears off, that disruption can keep you awake. Don’t ingest caffeine (coffee, tea, soda) after 2 p.m. It’s also best to avoid large meals just before bedtime, but have a light snack so that hunger doesn’t rouse you in the middle of the night.”
And the jury is out on how marijuana might change the stages of sleep. Research in the U.S. has not been allowed the past few decades, so it’s too early to say whether it helps or hurts.
Finally, try not to worry about not getting enough sleep. “Anxiety and stress are some of the biggest issues causing insomnia,” says Dr. Etawil, adding that if these tips don’t work, you should seek professional help. There are behavioral techniques such as relaxation and breathing exercises that a pro can teach you. It’s all about controlling your environment and setting the stage for a good night’s sleep.
Khalid Eltawil, MD is a member of Torrance Memorial Physician Network. He can be reached at 310-517-8950.