It’s that time of the year again… back to school! If you’re anything like me and my little 3-month-old, you know that sleep is one of the most important things in our daily lives. And… if you’re like me, you know that to keep all of our sanities intact, we need to plan in advance. Did you know that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society specifies that adults aged 18 to 60 years should sleep seven or more hours per night on a regular basis? Currently, nearly 30 percent of adults in the United States report sleeping six or fewer hours per day. In observational studies, short sleep duration has been associated with a variety of adverse health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and all-cause mortality. Additionally, lack of adequate habitual sleep results in daytime sleepiness, irritability, decreased concentration, attention deficits, reduced vigilance, distractibility, poor motivation, fatigue and malaise, lack of energy, restlessness, and incoordination.

So where do we start? Sleep hygiene has been recommended as the first-line approach to improving both sleep quality and quantity.

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. As we get ready for school, planning a week or two in advance with set schedules can prevent those first morning headaches!
  • If you can’t fall asleep or can’t get back to sleep, try getting out of bed and do a calming activity in low light. Reading is a great option, but not in bed!
  • Make sure your bed and bedroom is only used for sleep. Create a restful environment; did you know that setting your temperature to 68 degrees Fahrenheit or less allows most people to go to bed 30 minutes faster!
  • Remove all electronic devices from the bed and bedroom. Turn off the blue light from your phone or set a timer for this to happen automatically at a specified time each night
  • Exercise daily, but avoid exercise for 3 hours before bed. Daily outdoor exercise can actually promote improved nighttime sleep more than indoor activity.
  • Try to avoid any daytime napping. If you do have to nap, attempt to keep it no longer than 20 minutes.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime; also avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before bed.
  • Avoid alcohol, THC, nicotine, or snacks directly before bedtime

Do not get down on yourself if these interventions don’t work right away! Like any training, sleep quality and quantity will improve over time if you are consistent. If you do not see the results that you are looking for, please begin a sleep diary and bring it to your primary care physician to review and work with you further.

Written by: Aaron Purser, MD, MedLink Georgia Family Medicine Physician