Not getting enough sleep – or not enough quality sleep that leaves you refreshed and ready to take on the day? Instead are you fatigued, irritable and ready to crawl right back into bed? A major health issue could be in your future: chronic pain. In fact, your odds of suffering chronic pain due to poor quality and/or quantity of sleep may increase by a factor of two or three compared to people who experience better sleep.
I have some tips for great sleep hygiene!
- Get regular. Go to bed and get up at more or less the same time every day, even on weekends and days off!
- Sleep when sleepy. Try to only sleep when you actually feel tired, rather than spending too much time awake in bed.
- Get up & try again. If 20 minutes pass and you’re still wide awake, get up and do something calming or boring until you feel sleepy. Sit quietly somewhere with the lights off to tell your brain it’s time to shut down.
- Avoid caffeine & nicotine. Avoid consuming caffeine or nicotine for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed. These act as stimulants and interfere with the ability to fall asleep.
- Avoid alcohol. It’s also best to avoid alcohol 4-6 hour before bed. It may seem relaxing and helpful but actually interrupts the quality of sleep.
- Bed is for sleeping. If you use your bed as a place to watch TV, eat, read, work on your laptop, pay bills, and other things, your body will not learn this connection.
- No naps. Avoid taking naps during the day to make sure that you are tired at bedtime. If you absolutely have to nap make sure it’s before 3pm and less than an hour.
- Sleep rituals. It can be helpful to do relaxing stretches or breathing exercises for 15 minutes before bed. Even sitting calmly with a cup of caffeine-free tea can be helpful!
- Bathtime. A hot bath 1-2 hours before bed will raise your body temperature causing you to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops again.
- No clock-watching. Frequently checking the clock during the night can wake you up and reinforce negative thoughts about sleep time.
- Exercise. Regular exercise is a good idea to help with good sleep, but try not to do too much within 4 hours before bedtime.
- Eat right. A balance diet will help you sleep well but timing is important. It’s difficult to go to sleep on an empty stomach so having a light snack may be helpful.
- The right space. A cooler room with enough blankets to stay warm is best. Curtains or an eyemask are great to block out the light as well as earplugs to have complete quiet.
- Keep daytime routine the same. Don’t avoid activities because you feel tired. Try to keep them the same as you had planned making sure to not reinforce insomnia.
Developing these good habits can provide long-term solutions to sleep difficulties. Of course there are many medications used to treat insomnia, but these tend to only be effective in the short-term. Ongoing use of these medications may lead to dependence and interfere with developing good sleep habits independent of medications.
Chronic pain isn’t something to mess with, but you don’t have to. Let’s discuss any pain you’re experiencing and don’t forget to mention any sleep issues. Whether poor sleep is causing your pain, or pain is causing poor sleep, I can help determine the cause and correct it. Now that’s called a win-win.