Neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and psychologists all agree, restorative sleep is imperative for well-being. Our physical, emotional, and social stability depend on consistent and high-quality sleep. Daylight Savings Time can lead to sleep disturbances for many, often lasting several weeks or more. At The Morton Center we tend to see an increase in client relapses and admissions in the spring, so we highlight the importance of proper sleep hygiene during seasonal transitions.
So, how many hours should humans sleep every night? The general scientific consensus is 7-8.5 hours per night. What does it mean to practice proper sleep hygiene? Here are the basics:
- Avoid caffeine after lunch. Caffeine interferes with sleep architecture for up to 10 hours after ingestion. A person may not have trouble falling asleep after a caffeinated beverage, but the substance can limit time spent in the deeper, restorative stages of sleep.
- Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Avoid watching TV or screen time in bed. The bedroom should be used for sleep and sex only.
- Avoid upsetting topics of conversation or media 2 hours prior to bedtime.
- Avoid staying in bed awake. After 20 minutes of tossing and turning, get out of bed and move to another room. Keep the lights low and read print (not from a screen) for a few minutes, then return to bed. Repeat this process as needed. The key here is training your mind and body that the bed is for sleeping, not being awake.
- Try a mindfulness exercise once you lay down. Examples include: slowly counting your breaths or focusing on each inhalation and exhalation. When your mind races, refocus your attention on the breath.
- Keep the temperature in the room cool, 66 degrees is ideal sleeping temperature.
- Use a white noise machine
- Refocus your mind on peaceful and grateful thoughts before bedtime. Even during periods of extreme stress or pain, try scanning your life for positive areas and gratitude opportunities.
- Avoid alcohol or other substances of abuse – which can interfere with restorative sleep.
- Exercise! If you struggle with insomnia, morning exercise is best to promote sleep readiness and decreased anxiety at the end of the day.
- Avoid snacking after dinner. The last meal of the day should be 3 hours or more before bedtime. Digestion requires a good portion of our energy supply and a meal or snack right before bed can be stimulating and lead to insomnia.
- Talk to your primary care doctor about the potential need for a sleep study or lab tests to rule out sleep apnea, primary sleep disorders, or hormonal imbalances.
- Consider reaching out to a therapist or psychiatrist if anxiety or a mood disorder is potentially causing or worsening your insomnia. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia is more effective long-term than prescription or OTC sleep aids.
Prioritizing restorative sleep is one of the best ways to improve overall health. All body systems benefit and very few acute or chronic illnesses can be properly managed without adequate rest. I hope this information did not put you to sleep but feel free to read it before bedtime if it helps! Wishing you all restorative sleep this spring…
Thanks for reading,
Ashley Peak, MD
Addiction Psychiatrist/Medical Director
Dr. Ashley Peak is an Addiction Psychiatrist who works with individuals and families struggling with substance use disorders and mental health symptoms to improve vitality, restore functioning, and promote resilience. Dr. Peak joined The Morton Center part-time in March 2015, in January of 2019 she was announced as Medical Director. She believes treatment plans must be evidence-based, individualized, integrative, and should address the loss of intimate connections in an individual’s life. Dr. Peak has worked in hospital settings, private practice, intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs, detoxification and rehabilitation centers, and is up-to-date on evidence-based medication management and psychodynamic therapy. She is board-certified in Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine and completed residency training at the University of Louisville. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Kentucky. Dr. Peak enjoys spending time with her family, reading, traveling, and playing the clarinet.