Sleep: It does not always come as easy

Sleep: It does not always come as easy

Vance Bachelder, MD, medical director, St. Luke's Sleep Center

March marks Sleep Awareness Week, and for those who suffer from insomnia—the most common sleep complaint—it is a good chance to pause and get tips on what can help ensure a great night's sleep.

According to Dr. Vance Bachelder, medical director of St. Luke's Sleep Center, one of the most frequent causes of insomnia is something people should have some measure of control over–what's known in the medical world as poor sleep hygiene.

Sleep hygiene covers everything from the environment in which a person sleeps to the activities they do in the hours before bed.

Dr. Bachelder's top tips for good sleep hygiene include:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Limit caffeine intake to less than two cups of coffee (or equivalent) per day.
  • Avoid daytime naps.
  • Give yourself time to relax before bed—working, eating or exercising too late does not help.
  • Ensure your bedroom is comfortable, dark and the right temperature. Minimize noise (unless white noise helps you sleep).
  • Sleep in the same room and the same bed every night.

Another key, he recommends, is getting up if going to sleep takes more than 10 minutes. Try doing something restful, such as reading a book or watching some TV, and then try again.

Ultimately, says Dr. Bachelder, "You are trying to train your brain that your bedroom is a place where you gear down and fall asleep; it's not a place where you get frustrated trying to fall asleep."

Of course, everyone experiences the occasional night of interrupted sleep. But good, regular rest is more important than you might imagine.

"If you are getting less than six hours of rest per night, there is an increased mortality risk," says Dr. Bachelder. "The amount of sleep that your brain wants is genetically predisposed. What one person's sleep number is, as far as number of hours goes, is going to be different from someone else's. Seven to nine hours is where most people tend to fall in."

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