Five Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

Earlier this month, Delaware Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride introduced controversial legislation to keep his state in Daylight Saving Time by moving to the Atlantic Time Zone. Such a change faces an uphill battle, as it would require buy-in from New Jersey and Pennsylvania among other entities, but it reignites a debate over the merits or drawbacks of the decades-old practice of “springing forward” and “falling back.”

Whether or not you’re in favor of keeping Daylight Saving Time constant, one thing is certain – being sleep-deprived not only means less ability to focus the next day, but it is also linked with heart disease and stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and other chronic health problems. 

To find out how much sleep is actually enough for most adults and how to maintain healthy sleep habits as the seasons change, the Drexel News Blog checked in with Anita Ko, MD, an assistant professor in Drexel University’s College of Medicine, for some quick tips to make sure we are well-rested.

As a Drexel Medicine physician, Ko and her colleagues treat patients suffering from a wide variety of sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders. Many of those patients may also struggle with poor sleep habits, such as using electronics close to bedtime, excessive napping, or drinking caffeine late in the day.

If you are often guilty of this or other bad habits limiting sweet slumber, here are some tips from Ko:

Make sleep a priority.

“Just like we focus on eating better and exercise, if we get enough shut eye at night, our bodies will function better too,” Ko said in a recent PHL17interview

Have a consistent sleep schedule.

Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is essential for your circadian rhythm. Inconsistent bed times and wake times can result in the brain being confused about the time of day and result in jet lag-like symptoms. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can be especially difficult in the summer, but it is no less important than it is during any other time of the year. 

“Some people may have more difficulty sleeping in the summer, because our bodies prefer cooler temperatures for good sleep,” Ko said. “Hot, humid weather can make it especially uncomfortable to sleep at night.”

Pleasant weather during summer evenings, coupled with a later sunset, makes staying out late and altering your sleep schedule all too tempting. Although a regular schedule isn’t always possible, especially for those performing a shift work schedule, Ko urges her patients to follow a regular schedule whenever possible.

Figure out how much sleep you need.

More than a third of Americans report getting less than the seven hours each night recommended for adults by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. Some individuals need more than seven or eight hours of sleep, while others may be “short sleepers” and require less sleep. Ko urges patients to listen to their bodies to figure out how much sleep they need to wake up comfortably – without feeling like you want to hit the snooze button – and feel well-rested throughout the day. 

Start winding down early.

Many of Ko’s patients stay up late planning the next day, watching television, getting kids to sleep, etc., but she encourages everyone to start preparing for sleep an hour or two before getting into bed. The body and mind need to relax in order for drowsiness and sleep onset to occur. Too much stress and stimulation keep the body and mind active and can interfere with falling asleep.

“Occasionally, if I am excited about an event for the following day, it might be difficult for me to shut off my mind,” Ko said. “My tricks include practicing deep breathing, counting backwards from 10 quietly and repeat as necessary to quiet my brain and drift off to sleep.”

Limit bright lights and electronics.

The optimal temperature for sleep is quite cool – between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Blackout curtains can help keep a bedroom cool and dark during the summer. 

On occasion, those exposed to a lot of blue light from electronic devices or other artificial light may benefit from 3-5 mg of melatonin about 1-2 hours before bedtime. Melatonin is never a substitute for controlling your light exposure to electronics before bedtime, however.

If you still find yourself struggling to sleep at night, Ko recommends looking at other possible sleep disruptors that might be present. 

“Many other factors can be detrimental to healthy sleep, such as stress, anxiety, medications and some medical conditions as well,” Ko said. “In certain cases, a consultation with a board-certified sleep medicine specialist may be warranted.”

Media interested in speaking with Ko should contact Greg Richter at gdr33@drexel.eduor 215.895.2614

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