Noel Peterson, M.D. FACC
Eastern Cardiology, Greenville, NC
Adequate sleep is essential for healthy living. In previous editions of the PCWJ we discussed the relationship between lack of sleep and heart disease, inflammation, and weight gain.
70% of Americans suffer from lack of sleep. What is enough sleep? This varies between individuals, but is generally between 7 and 9 hours. To determine your optimum amount of sleep pick a week or two (maybe when you’re off of work) and go to bed at the same time every night. Do not set your alarm clock and see what time your body naturally awakens. Once you determine the optimum amount of sleep that your body needs then pick a bedtime and stick to it – even on weekends and when on vacation. Just like you set an alarm to wake up try setting an alarm that alerts you that it is time to get to bed.
Preparing for sleep
- Limit your bedroom activities. Once you wake up – get out of bed. Don’t watch tv, work, e-mail, text while in bed.
- Limit caffeine. The half life of caffeine is 6 hours (time if takes for 50% of the caffeine to be eliminated from your system). Limit caffeinated beverages to before noon – and absolutley no caffeine within three hours of bedtime (chocolate contains caffeine).
- Don’t eat within three hours of bedtime. Try not to eat a large, fatty meal in the evening – it is better to consume your largest meal at noon. Avoid eating food with a high glycemic index (think bread, cookies, crackers, candy, ice cream) in the evening.
- No Naps.
- Make a to do list several hours before going to bed – this will help eliminate you laying in bed with thoughts of things that need to get done tomorrow interfering with sleep.
- Eliminate “blue light” 2 hours prior to bedtime. Our pineal gland which secretes melatonin, aka the make you sleepy chemical, is sensitive to light. Exposure to backlit objects (cell phones, computers, ipads, etc) within 2 hours of sleep cause our pineal gland to secrete 30% less melatonin – making it more difficult to fall asleep. In addition as we age our pineal gland secretes less melatonin, which accounts for people “getting up at the crack of dawn” as we age. Try not to get agitated or upset too close to bedtime. Keep in mind that evening news with disturbing images or political news shows – even upsetting e-mails may affect you as you lay in bed trying to fall asleep.
- Avoid drinking liquids within 2 hours of bedtime.
- Avoid exercising within 2 hours of bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol within 90 minutes of bedtime.
- Keep pets out of your bed.
- Taking a warm bath or shower before bed can help lower your body temperature and make you more sleepy.
- Setting the temperature in your bedroom to 68 degrees or cooler.
- If you can’t get to sleep after 20 minutes, get up read a relaxing book, or take a warm bath and then get back to bed.