Several months ago I had the opportunity to see Adriaan Louw speak. I really enjoy Adriaan’s perspective and appreciate the work he’s done in the areas of chronic pain understanding and rehabilitation. His books are excellent for patients and if you’ve never heard him speak. His info is equally informative, immediately applicable and incredibly entertaining.
One thing that Adriaan spoke about that I’ve been wanted to share for some time was sleep hygiene. What’s interesting about sleep is that it’s going to be beneficial for just about everyone. We have plenty of research to support this and it can be very valuable for both athletes (Looking for optimal performance) and patients in chronic pain (To get out of pain).
I think most people understand this (Maybe not in the chronic pain population as a means to help decrease pain) but don’t always implement this knowledge into their athlete’s program or patient’s plan of care in a practical way.
Changing behaviors is our priority and knowledge is not always enough. Take for example our current obesity epidemic. We have an enormous problem here but really no lack of information on how to change the problem. Everywhere you look there is a book or doctor or trainer out there espousing how to lose weight. Knowledge doesn’t always change behavior. If this was true we wouldn’t have this problem on our hands. Putting that knowledge into action is the key. This also goes for something like getting better sleep at night.
One thing I’ve been recently doing is sending patients home with this information and making goals for them to incrementally reach those goals. Adriaan gave a nice practical and comprehensive program for increasing hygiene and that’s what I’m going to share today. He recommends trying to implement one of these strategies each night until you’ve accomplished and implemented all of these strategies.
1) The Bedroom Should be for 2 Things Only
And I think you can guess what those 2 things are… Get everything else out, that means phones, ipads, computers and televisions.
2) Keep Your Bedroom Dark and Cool
Invest in some nice and heavy black out blinds. Make the room a bit cooler at night with air conditioning. No lights or electronics should be showing at night. The amount of light your body is exposed to can effect cortisol and melatonin levels, 2 hormones vital for sleep and alertness. Bonus points if you can expose yourself to some early morning sun to get the cortisol levels going.
3) Set the Same Sleep Time Every Night
Adriaan explained that going to sleep closer to when the sun goes down and waking when the sun rises can also be beneficial for cortisone / melatonin cycles. He recommends getting to bed before 12 (Obviously the sun usually sets before then in most areas). A steady bed time and rise time will help regulate your sleep/wake cycle.
4) Slowly Calm Down Before Bed
The idea is to slow down a bit before it’s time to sleep. This means several hours before bed to stop using electronics. Dim the lights some or potential use candles. Do things that help you relax, potentially try meditation.
5) Sleep 7-9 hours per night
Getting enough sleep has a myriad of benefits including improving efficiency and productivity. The amount of sleep needed probably differs from person to person but I doubt some people operate best on just 4 hours. Sleep can be trained. Get in bed at the same time each night. Stay in bed until your chosen wake time regardless of whether or not you’re actually asleep. Eventually you’ll be sleeping the prescribed times.
6) Keep a Notebook by the Bed
Many people have difficulty sleeping because they can’t control their thoughts at night Write them down (to do list) and make an effort to complete them the next day.
7) Snorer Leaves the Room
Having a sleeper next to you who can’t stop snoring does not help sleeping at all. Adriaan’s recommendation was to have the snorer leave the room and sleep elsewhere.
8) Taper Water Before Bed
For obvious reasons. Peeing 7 times per night because you drank a gallon of water before bed time isn’t good.
9) Limit Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol can help relax your body and prepare your body for rest. However, too much alcohol can disrupt sleep as your body is processing the alcohol.
10) Take Naps of 20 Minute or Less (Stay in Phase 1)
Our sleep occurs in cycles. We slip into deeper sleep cycles as we sleep for longer durations. When we first fall asleep this stage is closest to our normal brain activities and as we sleep further the brain activity changes. This is why you may feel groggy after a several hour nap but feel ready to go after a shorter nap. Keep your naps between 10-20 minutes to minimize this effect. Also keep in mind that if you take long naps during the day you may disrupt your sleep cycle at night. Again, you may have to find what works best for you.
I was asleep when I wrote this entire article,
Dan Pope DPT, CSCS
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