One Healthy Thing: Stick to a sleep schedule

Each day during January, Via Christi is offering One Healthy Thing you can do to create a better 2014. Today’s tip comes from Marvin Sih, MD.

Most people underestimate the value of a sleep schedule. As urbanization grows and society gets busier, there are more and more things that can be (and will be) done at night.

People of all ages can be affected, the most prone of which are those who has a tendency for, or who already have, insomnia. There are physiological changes that happen to all of us as we age, such as the sleep getting “lighter” and more fragmented — things which we cannot do much about.

There are also behavioral changes that we learn and develop along the way that make the situation worse. Studies have suggested that people who sleep less than five hours or more than nine hours per day tend to have more medical problems and die relatively earlier than those who sleep between five to nine hours.

Take the case of the next-door grandma who goes to sleep early at night, wakes up early in the morning, and naps intermittently during the day — “because there is not much else to do.” Or the college kid who doesn’t sleep until the wee hours of the morning because of *insert activity here* (e.g. studying, partying, social media, playing video games, etc.). When I see them in the Via Christi Sleep Medicine Clinic, they may already be taking one form or another of a sleeping pill, which may or may not be working, and which may or may not be causing side effects.

If there is one thing that you can do for your sleep, I would recommend making a realistic schedule and sticking to it. There always will be the occasional social or work-related time to deviate from it. But if you define a bed time and make yourself a bedtime

Dr. Marvin Sih

routine to wind down, you’ll have a better night’s sleep.

Other suggestions:

  • Only go to bed when you are sleepy.
  • Avoid using technology with screens and LED screens (cell phone, tablet, TV) prior to going to bed and in bed — this will just shift your body clock more, making you more not able to sleep.
  • Wake up and get out of bed at your defined waking time.
  • Avoid napping during the day (napping in by itself is not bad, but doing so transplants some sleep into the daytime hours, to the detriment of having a more consolidated sleep at night).

Doing these behavioral techniques may not satisfy the “quick fix” mentality of popping a sleeping pill, but when successful, these tend to have more durable effects in the long run. And there are no pills to run out of!

Now, help yourself and start getting yourself a much-needed shut-eye!

— For more information, visit the Via Christi Sleep Medicine Clinic.

About Terry Rombeck

I am the digital manager for Via Christi Health, father of a toddler boy, husband of an awesome occupational therapist, and lover of baseball.
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