We all know how important sleep is for a variety of aspects of our lives.
Poor sleep quality can contribute to weight gain, anxiety and depression, hypertension, brain fog, lack of energy, and more. Consider sleeping as your body’s way of cleaning out the cobwebs, tidying up your brain function, and recharging your vital health functions every night. The team at Aspen Valley Primary Care provides some tips that will help you achieve better sleeping habits and fix your sleep schedule.
Fixing Your Sleep Schedule
If you’re having trouble sleeping through the night, a good first step is to fix or adjust your sleep schedule. Our sleep schedules and patterns can get off track quickly, especially with the temptations of streaming services, binge watching, social media, and travel. To reset your sleep schedule, try the following steps:
- Set the schedule. Commit to 8 – 10 hours a night with the caveat that if you can’t do that, seven is the bare minimum to maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
- Set a go-to-sleep alarm.
- If you struggle initially, try to get to bed 10 – 15 minutes earlier every night.
- Try to wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Good sleep every night is better than playing catch up on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
- Don’t nap! The mid-day short snooze can be tempting but taking a nap – even a very short one – during the day can prolong your ability to drift off at night.
- Meditate for sleep. Meditation for sleep can help calm your mind and focus your energy on the task at hand. Your meditation style is up to you. There are a variety of apps available to help guide meditation before bed or queue up some relaxing spa-style music and essential oils!
These tips for a more reliable and attainable sleep schedule are elemental to good sleep hygiene.
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Tips for Improving Your Sleep
Good sleep is crucial at all stages of our lives. Some of the benefits of sleep include, but certainly aren’t limited to: improved concentration and productivity, a stronger immune system, heart health benefits, healthy body weight management, and lower stress levels. Here are some tips for improved sleep:
- Allow yourself ample time between exercise and bedtime. For obvious reasons, exercise gives us a great burst of energy and endorphins, and to that end, it can keep us awake. Aim to finish any exercise at least two to three hours before your head hits the pillow.
- Turn off the tube. And for that matter, hide your phone. Without getting too medical, light exposure to the eye releases a hormone in our brains, orexin, which signals us to wake up. It’s why we typically wake with the dawn. Limiting exposure to screens and stimulating technology in the hours before bed is an easy way to begin preparing the mind and body to turn off and check out.
- Avoid sleep-altering foods and beverages. Foods to avoid before bed for better sleep include:
- Heavy foods, such as fatty, fried foods that can cause indigestion. Save the cheeseburgers and fries for lunch, and opt for lighter, plant-based fare for dinner.
- Alcohol. While a few glasses of wine, a couple of beers, or your favorite nightcap can help you fall asleep, alcohol can ultimately lead to sleep disruption and/or sleep apnea in the middle of the night as your liver enzymes metabolize it and your blood alcohol level increases. Try avoiding alcohol four hours before you head to bed.
- Caffeine. Coffee, soda and caffeinated teas are known sleep disruption culprits. Cut them out several hours (preferable no later than 2:00 p.m.) before sleep to contribute to a healthy sleep schedule.
- Improve your breathing. One simple technique that can calm your body and reduce your heart rate while you’re counting sheep is the 4-7-8 technique. Simply breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds and then exhale for eight seconds. If this is too much to start, begin 4-4-4-4 or square breathing – inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and then hold your breath for another four seconds before starting the cycle again.
- Prepare for bed earlier. Brush your teeth and get into your PJs an hour earlier. Try to give your brain as many cues as possible that it’s time to go to bed 1 – 2 hours before bedtime.
- Address your stress. Speak with your primary care provider or mental health provider if you are feeling overwhelmed. Anxiety and depression can cause sleep disturbance, often waking us up between 2:00 – 3:00 a.m. with the mind racing.
Improving Sleep at Altitude
It’s that time of year – the snow is flying; the lifts are spinning and the slopes are calling hard. If you’re making your way to Aspen, Snowmass, Buttermilk or Highlands for some skiing or snowboarding, you might experience some altitude-induced sleep disruption. Make sure you make the most of your time in the Roaring Fork Valley with these tips for better sleep at altitude:
- Prepare your body before you go. When it comes to a visit to higher altitude, especially if that visit includes strenuous physical activity, it’s best not to just phone it in. Aspen Valley Hospital Physical Therapist Lucy Morgan offers some strength training ideas to help strengthen your muscles before you go, which in turn helps you sleep better and more pain free once you’re here.
- Drink plenty of water. Proper hydration will make you a happier camper during the day and at night. Dehydration can quickly lead to sleep disruption.
- Once again, skip the alcohol. Or at least opt to have that glass of wine or beer or aprés cocktail early enough in the day that your body has plenty of time to metabolize it before bed (at least four hours).
- Consider sleep apnea. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor if you have extreme daytime sleepiness, brain fog, weight gain, hypertension, low mood and/or energy, disturbed sleep breathing, or other sleep apnea symptoms. They could be a sign of sleep apnea. High altitude can cause someone who was previously asymptomatic at seal level to become symptomatic. Check with your dentist for an oral appliance evaluation.
Talk with Your Doctor
A good night’s sleep is crucial to our general well-being. Incorporate the suggestions above and talk to your doctor about healthy sleep hygiene if you’re having trouble. There are many strategies to enhance your sleep routine, live a healthier lifestyle, and support to help you adopt the practices that will help you get more rest!
If you would like to schedule an appointment, Aspen Valley Primary Care’s team of internal, family and pediatric physicians are here to help you get the sleep you deserve. Call today to schedule and appointment on 970.279.4111.