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Expert Tips: Preparing for a Good Night’s Sleep

Monday, July 03, 2017 9:52 AM

Are you waking up feeling unrested? It could be that your sleeping habits aren't as effective as you think they are. Recently, NorthShore Sleep Specialist, Dr. Joya Paul answered some common questions about sleep, and shares more useful tips for bedtime below.

How much time should there be between when you last eat and when you get ready for bed? Should you avoid any types of food/drink?
Usually, we recommend that you avoid a heavy meal within 2 hours of bedtime. A light snack may be okay.

It is best to avoid particularly spicy, acidic foods as well as foods that are high in sugars prior to bed. You should also try to avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages at bedtime.  

What activities can be helpful in getting the body and mind ready for sleep?
Generally, you should take part in activities that you find relaxing (which is different for everyone). For some, they watch TV, which is fine as long as it is in a different room and not in bed. For others, they like reading. Listening to calming music and mediation are also great. We usually recommend that people spend 30-60 minutes unwinding like this outside of bed, and then get into bed once they feel relaxed and sleepy. Warm showers/baths are also a good idea.

How long before bed should electronics be turned off?
It is best to avoid bright lights and a lot of “screentime” (phones, iPads, etc) after it becomes dark outside to avoid excessive stimulation from the light that is emitted from these devices. TV is usually okay as long as it is in a different room because it is far away and not directly in front of your face/eyes. Other than TV or an e-reader that is dimmed down low, it is advisable to avoid bright electronics at least an hour prior to bed.

Should the room be a certain temperature? Does it matter how hot or cold a person is when they sleep?
Studies have shown that the ideal temperature to fall sleep at is around 62-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Generally, people sleep better when their core body temperature is lower; however, this varies from person-to-person, as some people find it very difficult to sleep if they are feeling cold.

Ideally, how much light should there be in the room?
No light in the room is best. Getting black out shades and/or using an eye mask may help with this, especially if you are trying to sleep after it gets light out.

Is there a certain type of good sleeping posture?
There is no particular sleeping posture that has been studied to be better than the other.

How many hours of sleep do you really need each night?
The recommended amount of sleep is 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Studies have shown that getting consistently less than 6 hours of sleep per night or more than 9 hours of sleep a night is linked to different health problems and conditions.

If you have trouble falling asleep, what are some options to make it easier?
There are many different reasons that people have for having difficulty falling asleep, and the first order of business is to figure out why. Once that is figured out, a specific treatment can be recommended by your primary care physician or a sleep specialist.  Some general rules to follow are the following:

  1. Try to spend some time relaxing and unwinding in a different room other than your bedroom 30-60 minutes prior to going to sleep
  2. Do not go to bed until you actually feel sleepy
  3. Try not to look at the time and focus more on relaxation. We often advise that you set your alarm for the morning, but then turn your clock around so that you have no concept of what time it is in the middle of the night
  4. Try to get out of bed and start your day around the same time every morning

Does it matter if you sleep at the same time every night?
Not usually. It is actually better to focus on what time you wake up every morning more than what time you go to bed. It helps create a good sleep pattern and routine if you focus on getting out of bed and starting your day around the same time every morning, and thus wake time is more important than bed time. That being said, it is good to keep a relatively consistent sleep schedule/pattern as much as possible.