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Better Sleep for a Better Life

IN: Emotional intelligence.24 AUGUST, 2020
Better Sleep for a Better Life

Have you experienced insomnia, or do you have trouble waking up in the morning? Do you normally feel energized or tired? Do you prefer to work in the morning or in the evening? In this article, I will share with you what I’ve learned so far about the science (or art) of good sleep!

I’ve always been a great fan of sleeping long hours, and fortunately insomnia is not common for me. However, I’ve always felt that my nights weren’t resting enough, I sometimes (almost) fall asleep reading, working, or driving, and I feel tired all the time. This hurts my productivity and my overall wellbeing.

During the last months, I’ve also had trouble falling asleep at night, with thousands of thoughts spinning around my head. Wishing to change that, I contacted a sleep specialist, Dr. Sandra Marques, to learn more about how I could improve my sleep. 

 

Is my sleep good enough?

 

 

First of all, we need to know what we are talking about. Here are six statements for you to check if your sleep is good, according to the Sleep Foundation1:

  1. You fall asleep within 15-20 minutes of lying down.
  2. You regularly sleep seven to nine hours in a day.
  3. While in your bed, your sleep is continuous—you don’t have long periods of lying awake.
  4. You wake up feeling refreshed, as if you’ve “filled the tank.”
  5. You feel alert and are able to be fully productive throughout the waking hours
  6. Your partner or family members do not notice any out of the ordinary behavior from you while you sleep, such as snoring, pauses in breathing or restlessness.

My score is currently 2 yes out of 6, which does not constitute a good sleep. What about yours?

 

Not everybody is lucky enough to have a good sleep. According to the Portuguese Society of Pulmonology, an online questionnaire carried out in 2019, with a sample of 653 Portuguese people with age equal or higher than 25 years old, found that:2

Where are you in these statistics?

 

 

Why do I need to sleep well?

 

 

Sleep affects our health and quality of life in ways you and I never imagined. It influences countless processes and systems:

 

After doing a sleep study, in which I had a device measuring several indicators of my body during a night, I discovered I have several sleep issues: sleep apnea (disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts), bruxism (teeth grinding), and restless legs syndrome (a nervous system disorder that causes an overpowering urge to move your legs). 

 

Apparently they are relatively common issues and many people, like me, have them without realizing. These issues prevent proper rest and hurt the quality of sleep, so they should be diagnosed and treated with specialists. What about you, have you checked if you have any of them?

 

 

How can I improve my sleep?

 

Now that we have learned about the importance of good sleep, we need to know how to get there. I’ve collected a number of tips given by specialists on the best ways to improve our sleep’s quality. 

 

1. Stick to the same schedules

 

Several scientific studies have found that it is essential for quality sleep to keep similar schedules of going to bed and waking up (including weekends and holidays), because your brain will recognize when it’s time to sleep. 3, 4

What about the right time to do that? According to Dr. Christopher Winter, Director of the Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine Center, “There’s no right or wrong time to get up. If you want to tackle the day at 7 a.m. or 10 a.m., either is perfectly fine, just stick to that time.” 4

So, are you already making an effort to keep the same sleeping schedules, or do you change them all the time?

 

 

2. Prepare yourself to sleep

 

Our brain usually needs 30 to 60 minutes to wind down before it’s ready for bed, so prioritizing a routine before your target bedtime avoids getting into bed while your mind is still active4. Here are some good practices to try:

 

 

How many of these practices are you already using?

 


 

3. Set the right conditions for sleeping 

 

Our body needs a few conditions to have the best night sleep possible, such as darkness and warmth. Here are a few tips to set the perfect conditions:

 

 

Do you usually have all these conditions before sleeping?

 


 

4. Engage in practices that calm your mind

 

Many people, like me, suffer from stressful thoughts when they are trying to fall asleep. As you can imagine, it is quite counter-productive, since our goal is to calm down. Here are some tips to overcome that:

 


 

Which of these tips did you find useful for your nights?

 

 

 

What do I need to avoid to have good sleep?

 

 

 

There are a few habits you can make an effort to avoid, in order to have better sleep. Some might be easy to skip, others can be harder:

 

Are you doing any of these habits currently? Consider stopping them in order to improve your sleep.

 

 

 

What can I do during the day for a better night?

 

There are also a few things you can do during the day that have been proven to help you sleep in the night! Some of them are:

 

 

Creating new habits

 

 

Now that we’ve learned all of these possible habits to develop, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and think that it’s impossible to implement all of these changes. I feel that way sometimes! My suggestion is to choose a few new habits that aren’t so hard to implement, and later on adding other ones. Sounds good to you? Let me know how it works out for you!



 

Inês Freire de Andrade


 

References:

  1. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/shift-work-disorder/shift-work-you/what-healthy-sleep
  2. https://www.sppneumologia.pt/noticias/quase-metade-dos-adultos-com-mais-de-25-anos-dorme-menos-de-seis-horas-por-dia
  3. https://www.pnas.org/content/106/11/4453
  4. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/nighttime-routines-morning-routines-sleep-better/
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1087079218301552
  6. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dormir-pouco-e-com-pouca-qualidade-tem-consequ%C3%AAncias-sandra-marques/
  7. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/calm-racing-mind-sleep-nighttime-routines-tricks-negative-thoughts/
  8. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/pdfs/GratitudePDFs/2Wood-GratitudeWell-BeingReview.pdf
  9. http://sleepeducation.org/news/2013/08/01/sleep-and-caffeine
  10. https://www.henryford.com/blog/2018/03/connection-between-sleep-nicotine
  11. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/food-sabotage-sleep
  12. https://www.amazon.com/Sleep-Solution-Why-Your-Broken/dp/0399583602
  13. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757