While we are all stuck at home, it may seem like the perfect opportunity to catch up on some rest. However, there are many things you should take into consideration to reap all the benefits of a good night’s sleep. If you are having trouble getting to sleep, our Acupuncturist, Dr. Stephanie Madden, DACOM, shares some of her top tips.
Hygiene typically makes people think of cleanliness, which can make the phrase sleep hygiene a bit confusing. Reposition your perspective to look at hygiene as a personalized system of self-care with a specific goal in mind. For sleep, it is incredibly important to have an individual routine that puts you to rest soundly each night. Having good sleep hygiene starts with preparing for sleep and ends with getting out of bed in the morning. Once the day gets started, things can be unpredictable, your sleep hygiene should be the opposite. Good sleep hygiene can improve your mood, health, personal motivation, and of course sleep.
Physical Environment of Your Bedroom
The first thing to consider with your night time routine is the physical environment of your bedroom. It is critical to have good physical boundaries between the space where you intend to sleep and everywhere else in your home. For people that have a classic bedroom, keep the door closed after leaving for the day. This can be challenging for those of us who live in big cities with studio or loft apartments. In this case, first identify how much physical space you have for your sleeping area. Physically measure and mark the space on the ground with an object or chalk. You can reinforce the separation of your bedroom and other spaces in your home with colors as well. Our eyes are especially sensitive to blues, the sight of a soothing blue decreases blood pressure, heart rate, and encourages a sense of calm. If you are not ready to paint, consider blue bedding or art in your sleeping space.
Keep your bedroom simple and symmetrical. The goal of a bedroom is place to fall asleep easily, stay asleep, and wake easily. Try as much as possible to have your bedroom goal oriented towards sleeping, meaning everything thing in that space should be specifically there to help you have the best nights rest.
Time In and Time Out
Limiting the time in your bedroom is important to training your mind on what the space is used for. With proper sleep hygiene there are only two reasons you should be in your bedroom, sleep or sex. When you start spending time in your room to do other things that require more mental activity the mind will associate this space with being awake or productive. Leave that energy for the rest of the house.
Consider the elements in your room: lights, sound, and air. Make sure your sleeping space is dark. If you have any electronics in your room, makes sure they are off or the lights on them are hidden from the view in bed. Using black out shades or sleeping mask can be very helpful for eliminating light. Also, consider the sounds in your room. White nose, binary delta or theta waves can be very helpful to setting the mood. Give yourself something calming to wake up to if you use an alarm. Many people choose the loudest most obnoxious sound to get going in the morning. There’s really no need. When we wake, our cortisol levels (stress hormones) are appropriately rising. If we over stimulate our stress response in the morning we can expect to have more stress throughout the day. Try waking to soothing music that gradually increases in volume.
Investing in the air quality can be a game changer for many that struggle with sleeping. Adding plants to your sleeping space helps in several ways. Firstly, it can sharply determine the boundary between sleep space and the rest of your home. Plants naturally remove toxins from the air. Some plants have a beautifully relaxing aroma that soothes the nervous system. If you have allergies, I would be mindful of any flowering plants in the bedroom. Jasmine, gardenia and lavender are great aromatic plants for sleep. Peace lily, snake plant, and English ivy do a great job cleansing the air.
The most important part of sleep hygiene is creating a routine. Start by going into your bedroom for sleep around the same time every night and leaving at the same time in the morning. Around two hours before bed, you should finish eating and drinking for the day. It is important to let your digestion rest before sleep but not be hungry. Also, you do not want to continually disrupt your sleep with having to urinate during the night from too many liquids.
Start getting ready for bed at least one hour before heading into the bedroom. Meaning wash your face, brush your teeth, get changed. Lights in the bathroom tend to be bright and the stimulation of touching your face can wake you up so it is important to do this with plenty of time before trying to fall asleep.
The final step to creating a routine is being in the right state of mind for a successful night of sleep. Using specific products like lotions, body oils or doing breathing exercises, meditation, or stretching sequence before bed can help prepare the body for sleep. Be as consistent as possible though and make this part of your routine something that you only do before bed. So if you have lotion that you use during the day, use something different before bed.
If you are someone that really struggles with sleep, using a natural sleeping aid is a great addition for your personal sleep routine. Simple herbs like mint and chamomile, catnip, valerian, rose hips help regulate the nervous system. If you are interested in taking herbs or other supplements for sleep, you should consult with your health care provider. We offer herbal consultations with our board-certified herbalists. These consultations can be done from the comfort of your own home and over the phone. Click the button below to get started.Schedule an Appointment
Not Getting Enough Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can have catastrophic effects on your wellbeing. Even one night of poor sleep has shown changes in mood, balance, learning, and memory. Continuous poor sleep hygiene can increase major health concerns such as increased blood pressure, weight gain, increase chances of heart disease. Sleep deprivation also leads to a weaker immune system making it more likely to get sick more frequently. Individuals who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases and severe mood disorders often have a history of insufficient sleep. On the other end, people who do have healthy sleep are more motivated and tend to have better physical and emotional health.
If you are trying to make any changes in your life, start with a good sleep hygiene. It is nearly impossible to change your lifestyle during the day if you did not have a good nights rest.
Work with a Professional
Implementing good sleep hygiene in your life can be complicated if you are already struggling with your routine or sleep. As a doctor of Chinese Medicine, I work with patients daily on improving their sleep. First, it is important to help manage any manifestation of the sleeping problem such as weight management, mood disorders, or weakened immunity. Also, I can create custom herbal formulas specific to each patients needs to help promote their circadian rhythm. Finally, creating good sleep hygiene with a professional helps hold people accountable and brainstorm to make an individual plan that will create a long lasting healthy relationship with sleep.
About Dr. Stephanie Madden, DACOM
Dr. Stephanie Madden is an acupuncturist at the West Loop location for Aligned Modern Health. She completed her doctorate and masters degree at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine in Austin Texas. As a part of her doctoral research, Dr. Madden helped implement acupuncture into the Veterans Affairs Clinic in order to decreased and eliminate the need for opioids for many patients. Dr. Madden has also practiced at Apple Inc. in their Wellness Center, Austin Recovery, and Seton McCarthy.
Stephanie‘s practice specializes in acute and chronic pain resolutions, mood disorders and emotional imbalances, fertility and maternity care.
In her free time, Dr. Madden loves spending time with her two puppies, traveling, and exploring Chicago.
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