If you prefer to listen than read, check out this blog’s podcast episode, “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? How To Sleep Better and Why Sleep Is So Important.”
Today we’re talking about a really important health topic. This is a topic that over 70 million Americans have an issue with. If you’re not optimized in this thing, you’ll have
- increased chances of injury,
- poor recovery,
- increased susceptibility to chronic disease and mental illness, obesity, and depression
- increased general pain, and
- overall decreased quality of life.
I’m talking about your sleep. In particular, I’m talking about your ability to get into a circadian rhythm. There are multiple circadian rhythms in our body. And the sleep wake cycle is the one that most people think about when they are referring to circadian rhythm. It regulates a lot of our systems, from our metabolism to the ability to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.
Really, circadian rhythm is kind of the key to having strong immune function, healing after an injury, and modulating pain. It allows for better cardiovascular health, which leads to better cognitive function, which leads to better ability to learn. This can be anything from learning things cognitively or even motor skills.
So if we’re talking about youth athletes and athletes that don’t sleep enough, they will have a harder time learning motor skills in practice and will fall behind their peers. Youth athletes can be at a particularly high risk for burnout. In your everyday workplace, you’re not retaining information as well, you’re not engaged in meetings or at work, and you’re just overall experiencing a reduced quality of life.
This is probably one of the number one things that we need to optimize when it comes to recovering from injury and living a long-lasting and healthy life. Having solid tissue function where we are not susceptible to injury as we try to increase the amount of stress that our bodies can actually handle requires sufficient sleep.
Today we’re going to talk about some of the best ways to get these benefits of good sleep that we recommend to our clients here at The Doctors of Physical Therapy in Scottsdale to get a better night’s sleep.
We are not licensed in sleep, but we do have some simple tips and tricks. If you are experiencing a real sleep disorder, it is important to get help from your physician and ask for resources and do a sleep study to help you get a better night’s sleep.
This is hands down one of the most impactful points of your health that you can control.
1. Get Sun Exposure For Better Sleep
Strategy number one is to seek out sunshine during the day. A lot of us go from house to car to office. Maybe your office has windows, maybe it doesn’t. Then back from the office to the car to the house, and we don’t spend more than 30 seconds actually in the sun.
It’s important to have exposure to natural daylight, especially early in the day, because it helps reinforce the strongest circadian cues. That light helps you to wake up and be alert and refreshed. The sunlight is what cues your mind and body to stay awake.
2. Consistency Is Key To Fall Asleep
The second thing is to get on a consistent sleep schedule. Go to sleep at the same time every night, wake up at the same time every day. If you’re unable to get to sleep at the same time one or two nights of the week, you still want to try to wake up at the same time the next day to make sure that you’re still maintaining the best rhythm that you can.
When you vary your bedtime or morning wakeup time it can really hinder the body’s ability to adjust to that stable circadian rhythm.
3. Exercising for Better Sleep
The third thing that you can do is get daily exercise. Intense exercise 75 minutes a week or moderate-intensity exercise 150 minutes a week has been shown to really increase your ability to sleep.
It’s been shown to help your body maintain a high level of alertness and awakeness throughout the day despite not having that sleep. So it enables you to be more engaged during the day and then you can catch up on your sleep the next night.
4. How Late is Too Late To Have Caffeine? After 2pm
The next thing is to avoid caffeine past 2pm. A lot of people don’t know this one, but caffeine has a half life. Basically, that means that caffeine lasts in your system for eight hours after you have it. So if you have it at two, it lasts until 10pm. So if you have it past 2pm, say 3pm, and you go to bed around 10pm, your brain is still going to be awake for one to two hours before you actually start experiencing any sort of progression into RAM, which is the deep sleep where you actually start to heal and repair tissues. This is the sleep where you solidify cognitive functions.
So if you learn something new that day, your brain won’t start solidifying those functions while you sleep. If you’re drinking caffeine past 2pm and that’s one of the reasons that you can’t go to bed at the same time every night, this can be a simple way to improve your ability to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep in one fell swoop.
5. Skip Alcohol Before Bed For A Night of Better Sleep
The next thing is to avoid alcohol right before bed. Especially wine. A lot of people will drink a glass or two of wine before bed. If you do this on a regular basis, you may start to notice yourself waking up in the middle of the night more frequently.
When you drink wine before bed, your blood sugar spikes up, and then somewhere around 2am, your blood sugar drops, you wake up, you’re a little bit sweaty, and your heart’s beating a little bit faster. Those are the signs. Plus, most people struggle to fall back asleep after that.
6. Wear Blue Light Glasses
There’s a lot of research around blue light glasses. You can order glasses with a blue light tint that filters out blue light. Blue light keeps your mind awake similar to caffeine for several hours.
It could be the phone, it could be the computer screen, it could be the television… all of these electronics give off blue light, which stimulates your brain’s activity level and can interfere with your circadian rhythm.
Instead, dim the lights and put down electronic devices leading up to bedtime for a couple hours. Or, use a blue light filter on your phone or invest in some blue light lenses so you can still have some screen time without the blue light.
7. Naps Make It Harder To Get Good Sleep At Night
The next tip here is to keep naps short. A lot of people like to nap throughout the day or even on your weekends. And when you do nap, all you really need is about 30 minutes. And you can get really refreshed off of that when you start to go past 30 minutes, it can really alter your sleep schedule, because it makes it more difficult for you to get tired, so your bedtime gets pushed back. So it throws your sleep schedule entirely off kilter.
These are our best tips for falling asleep faster and getting the most out of your Zs for optimal functioning and performance. These strategies are a fundamental part of our treatments for our performance-oriented clients. Like we say all of the time here at The Doctors of Physical Therapy in Scottsdale, your body does not operate as separate pieces. It all works together. Your entire body and health picture must be accounted for when you’re working to achieve goals, recover from injury, and generally live a high-quality life that you love.
We hope these tips have helped! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your tips for better sleep! We love sharing our community’s communal knowledge.
Live Life Today!
Dr. Tom Padilla