6 Ways to Improve Sleep Before You Medicate
Posted 7/6/2016 by UHBlog
Have you ever had one of those nights were you couldn't fall or stay asleep? The next day, it's likely that you feel unfocused and less productive.
“Sleep issues are a growing problem,” says psychiatrist Francoise Adan, MD. “Studies show that about 35 to 40 percent of Americans have short-term and transient insomnia at any one time, with about 10 to 15 percent of people experiencing chronic insomnia.”
Lack of sleep takes its toll on your energy, mood, health, well-being and ability to function. It can contribute to serious health problems and cause you to become a safety hazard. For example, drowsy drivers take the blame for at least 100,000 police-reported crashes in the U.S. annually.
According to Dr. Adan, transient insomnia often occurs as a reaction to stressors in your life or as a result of poor sleep hygiene. If it goes on long enough, some people will seek a quick fix.
“A lot of people will think that the easiest way to fix the problem is to take a sleeping pill or have a nightcap,” she says. “The problem is, that's likely doing them more harm them good.”
It's important to address the underlying causes, she says. To improve your sleep without medicating, Dr. Adan offers these six suggestions:
- Practice good sleep hygiene habits. “It's important to start here,” Dr. Adan says.
Some areas to consider are:
- Ensure the room is dark and cool enough
- Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages in the afternoon and too much alcohol in the evening
- Eat lightly the closer to your bedtime it gets
- Stay away from any electronic device that emits a blue light, such as a cell phone, tablet, computer and television
- Develop a ritual. “Make sure your bedtime activities are conducive to falling asleep,” she says. For instance, some people relax with a hot bath or by rubbing aromatherapy oils on themselves. Others listen to soothing, calming music or read quietly before bed.
- Seek out mind-body therapies. “There are many techniques that work,” Dr. Adan says. “Acupuncture is a great therapy for relaxation and may be helpful in treating insomnia. Guided imagery can be used to induce relaxation and invite restfulness.”
Other therapies to try include massage, which promotes relaxation, and yoga therapy, which can facilitate a good night's sleep. Additionally, some people practice mindfulness to thwart disruptive thinking that can interfere with sleep.
- Try herbal over-the-counter remedies. In addition to aromatherapy oils to help soothe you before bed, you may want to drink herbal teas, such as chamomile or lavender.
- Learn stress management skills. If your stress is interfering with your sleep, a Stress Management and Resilience Training (S.M.A.R.T.) program can help. Developed by University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network, the workshop helps you develop simple practical tools to build your stress resilience and learn to create an effective stress management practice.
“Even though you can't avoid stress, you can learn how to respond to your stressors differently,” Dr. Adan says. “This will help improve your ability to react positively to stress and enhance your overall well-being.”
- Rule out a medical condition. Sometimes, disorders in various systems of your body cause sleep disorders. For example, obstructive sleep apnea is a respiratory disorder while narcolepsy is a neurological disorder. Pain and inflammation can also interfere with your sleep.
“If you're having problems sleeping, it could be a sign of a medical condition,” Dr. Adan says. “It's always good to consult with your doctor to rule that out.”
Francoise Adan, MD is a psychiatrist and the medical director of UH Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Dr. Adan or any UH Connor Integrative Health Network provider online.