Managing Sleep: Part II
April 28, 2020
Dr. Charles Schmittdiel, PhD
Healthy sleep habits can significantly affect your quality of life. The quality of your sleep is just as important to your health as exercise and eating healthy. People today are more likely to be sleep-deprived than in previous generations, and unfortunately, there are many things that can interfere with sound sleep.
What you can do to improve the quality of your sleep
- Increase bright light exposure in the morning after getting up and minimize bright light exposure at night after dusk to keep your biological clock in sync.
- Research consistently indicates that human beings who are sleep deprived routinely underestimate their level of cognitive and/or motor impairment. That is a major contributor to workplace errors/accidents and motor vehicle collisions. Make sure to allow yourself an adequate amount of sleep every night, and start setting limits on nighttime activities that promote staying up longer than planned. Find another time in the day or evening to have “my time” rather than interfering with sleep opportunity.
- Realize that you cannot make yourself fall asleep, but good consistent sleep habits are more likely to facilitate sleep. When people become anxious and preoccupied about making sleep happen, the opposite tends to occur.
- The biological signal that it is time to sleep is when you actually feel sleepy and drowsy, not simply tired.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night, avoid looking at the clock (particularly if that means lighting up the screen of your cell phone). Clock watching triggers a number of sleep anxiety thoughts which increase arousal (e.g. calculating how many more hours you have left before you have to get up). It really does not matter what time it is if you use a reliable alarm system.
- Lying in bed for long periods of time awake usually results in an activated mind, and then an activated body, neither of which are conducive to falling asleep. An active mind is a horrible bed partner, and frontal critical thinking functions do not work well in the middle of the night. Get out of bed if you cannot sleep and engage in another time-limited wind down activity in another room.
- If your bed partner tells you that you snore excessively, or appear to stop breathing at night, do not ignore that, and get a referral to a sleep medicine clinic. Those indicators, and/or excessive daytime somnolence, raise concerns about obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In the short run, OSA promotes daytime sleepiness and cognitive interference, but in the long run increases lifetime risk for cardiovascular accidents.