Top 5 Ways To Get Better Sleep
5) Build a consistent bed time
This endeavor is considerably more difficult for some than others due to distractions that may or may not be related to you… I can hear the parents of young children laughing as they read this one. Children are just as susceptible to habits as the rest of us are though, so whether you are just looking after yourself or others are depending on you, setting a goal of when you'd like to be in bed ready for sleep (not scrolling facebook or instagram) is an excellent place to start.
4) Observe your current pre-bedtime habits
What you do in the few hours before bed can make or break the quality of sleep you get, which leads to a less productive next day and next day and so on. The single best thing that I've found personally (and the science is there to back it up) is cutting off screen time at least an hour before bed. It turns out that the blue light produced from your phone/tablet/tv/laptop activates your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight or flight response, and can keep you from utilizing the resting and digesting portion of your nervous system called the parasympathetic system. If we want the resting portion of our nervous system to be in full swing when we're ready for bed, it'd be a good idea to limit device use and/or put on a bedtime filter that is available on most modern devices to limit the blue light production. Keeping lights low and shutting off devices prepares your nervous system for sleep and can have a huge effect on how quickly you fall asleep and how deep you sleep!
3) Exercise during the day
The benefits of exercise are well documented and most people know that it leads to being healthier, happier and in better shape. Lesser known however, is the powerful affect it has on sleep quality. When you think about it logically, it makes sense that you would be more tired after exercising than if you didn’t exercise. That tiredness doesn't usually take effect right away though, exercise actually increases the amount of energy you have throughout the day and the infinitely intelligent body knows that sleep will be extra important and will increase the quality of sleep as long as we don't interfere.
2) Meditate before bed
Part of the reason many people don't sleep well is because when they lay down their minds are still obsessing over all of the things that happened that day, or what might happen tomorrow. It's no wonder we sometimes find it difficult to sleep with the sheer amount of thoughts that flood our mind especially if we haven't had any quiet time during the day. Meditation is one of the most powerful things we can do to quiet our mind and gain peace and clarity, which as a bonus also activates our rest and digest portion of our nervous system! It can be a difficult practice to begin because if you're like me, your mind will come up with a dozen excuses for why it's a waste of time. I promise you I don't regret any time I have spent meditating and if there's only one thing you try from this list, this is the most powerful.
1) Sleep with a neutral spine
Whatever position you prefer to sleep in, you are in that position for a very long time… If you average 8 hours per night then you would be in that position for close to 3,000 hours every year! So it is pretty important to pay attention to the way you sleep and its effect on your spine and nervous system. Science suggests that side sleeping and supine sleeping (on your back) are preferred methods, which I agree with, but if your spine is not in a neutral position there is a risk of creating structural shifts in the spine. If there's any time that you don't want to add to the stresses of gravity and life experiences, it's when you are recuperating during sleep. Picking the right type of pillow makes it easy though!
· Side Sleep: Head pillow that keeps your head and neck in line with the middle of your chest, (which usually means pretty thick) plus a thinner pillow between your knees to ease the pressure of the weight of the top knee.
Back Sleep: Head pillow designed for the cervical spine. These have a thin middle section and thicker bottom and top, which supports the natural curvature of your cervical spine. Also, a pillow under the knees helps if you have any pressure in your low back.
· The Cervical and Lumbar sections of your spine have a natural curve that makes them much stronger than if they were flat. Think of a banana, it's also got a natural curve that makes it stronger. You wouldn't straighten it out, well unless that's the way you eat them…
Here's to great sleep for all of us!
-Dr. Jake Long, DC