Who could use more sleep? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who would say no to that question. I think as a whole, most of us are sleep deprived, whether it is lack of time to sleep or just poor quality. Sleep is very important for brain function. I like to think of sleep as the reset button for your brain. Just like our phones or computers that tend to slow down or freeze when you have them on for long periods of time, our brains are similar. You need to reset your phone or computer every once in a while. When it comes to the brain, you need to reset it every night.
There are some medical issues that could affect your sleep. The first step is to rule them out with the help of your medical provider. For example, sleep apnea is a very common cause of poor sleep quality. If you snore, wake up unrefreshed, and feel tired or fatigued all day, you may have sleep apnea. You’ll need a sleep study where they can actually monitor your sleep patterns and then start treatment with a CPAP machine. Sleep apnea robs you of the deep restorative stages of sleep. Or if you have hyperthyroidism, you will likely have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. These are conditions that your medical provider will investigate and then treat.
There are some things you can do on your own to help improve your sleep quality and quantity. The goal is to increase the amount of stage III and REM sleep, which are the most restorative stages of sleep.
- Have a bedtime routine. Pick a bedtime and stick to it. You want to be as regimented as possible. Once it hits that time, then your bedtime routine starts. Do the routine in the exact same order as well. So, brush your teeth, wash your face, change into pajamas, then go to bed. Rinse and repeat the next night. This may take some time, but you’re basically rewiring your brain.
- It’s very important to stick to the time and the routine. This way your brain will eventually understand that once it hits your designated time then it’s time to shut down.
Have a morning routine. Wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. I know it’s tempting to sleep in, but that interferes with your sleep-wake cycle. You want to keep your rest patterns as predictable and routine as possible.
- Manage your light exposure. Light is great for when you wake up but not when you’re winding down and going to bed. This is where minimizing use of the television or smartphone comes in to play at night. In the mornings, you can start the day with a nice jog outside in the morning sun or utilize a light therapy lamp before you start your day.
- Keep the bedroom as a sleep only location. Do not read in bed, use your computer, look at your smartphone, watch television in bed, etc. If you are constantly doing different activities in bed, your brain does not know what you want it to do when it’s bedtime. Is it time to read? Is it time to watch television? You’re retraining your brain to realize that it’s time to shut down and go to sleep.
- Have a regular exercise program during the day, just not close to your bedtime. Not only has it been shown to specifically help with rest quality and quantity, it also helps by helping to treat sleep apnea. If you are overweight, you are at higher risk of developing sleep apnea.
- Avoid naps during the day. The more you sleep during the day, the less tired you’ll be at night. I have countless patients who complain about not sleeping well at night, but then they admit to taking two to three naps daily. Naps are sometimes necessary but try to keep them to twenty minutes in duration. The goal is to not need them by improving your sleep quality and quantity at night.
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption. Caffeine remains in the body for several hours, and caffeine and alcohol will rob you of rest. Also remember that caffeine can be found in different products like coffee, soda, and tea, but also in places you might not realize like chocolate.
- During my training, I was always taught that keeping your bedroom temperature cooler at night will help with sleep as well. Anecdotally, it has helped some of my patients, and I know I definitely sleep better in cooler temperatures than warm.
- Incorporate meditation into your bedtime routine. This helps to calm your mind to prepare for sleep. In addition, it has been shown to help mental health as well. There’s no one way to meditate. It may mean you simply review the events of the day or you try to empty your mind and concentrate solely on your breathing. However you do it, it can help calm you and get your brain ready for sleep.
- Lastly, you can try an over-the-counter treatment called melatonin. I typically recommend 0.5-1mg nightly, about two hours before your bedtime. You can gradually increase if this is not enough after one to two weeks. The melatonin can tie in to your bedtime routine. Physiologically, your body’s melatonin level rises about two hours before your circadian rhythm tells your body to sleep. So taking this supplement tries to boost your natural circadian rhythm for sleep.
Keep in mind there is no quick fix for sleep issues. It takes time. If you stick with the above recommendations, you’ll eventually find yourself sleeping better and sleeping longer. By improving your rest quality and quantity, this will help improve your memory and mood as well. In a nutshell, good quality and quantity of rest helps clear out the gunk in the brain and gets you ready for the coming challenges of the next day. Sleep deprivation is additive as well. Your mind, memory, and mood will get worse and worse with every poor night of sleep. So, make sure you stick with your bedtime schedule. Your mind, mood, and energy level will thank you for it.
Sometimes we need help to kick start the rest recovery process. That’s where some of the above-mentioned suggestions can be useful. In addition, intravenous vitamin supplementation and functional medicine can help. At RevIVe Wellness, we strive for whole body health. We offer ketamine iv infusions for depression and other mood disorders, and we can provide IV vitamin supplementation for a boost in mood. As sleep impairment disrupts people’s moods, it is important to address and is a key component of the RevIVe Wellness treatment strategy.