It’s a balancing act, but the fact is: getting enough shut eye can lead to:
- Optimal mental performance
- Better physical performance
- Heightened physiological function.
Physicians, executives, researchers and professional athletes have been my clients over years. Trying to correct the sleep cycle of very busy people, shift workers and people with certain health conditions can be tricky.
Sleep always seems to be the last thing on the “to-do-list” for highly motivated, driven individuals. Some people actually see sleep as a hinderance, as if time was the enemy of getting things done. But instead of thinking of sleep as the enemy, I try to get people to see that sleep is the friend they can not live without.
How can I get help to improve my sleep?
Many of the tools that brain doctors use can help people who are working from home, traveling or on the hospital floors. Some of these tools use what is called sleep cognitive behavioral therapy.
Often, the initial sleep assessment comes by finding out if the amount of sleep that you get is actually the amount of sleep that your body needs. The tell tale signs can be the dependence on coffee or energy drinks, decreased productivity during the day, low energy, falling asleep during the day and mental fogginess.
After an initial sleep inventory, anticipated travel, training time or work and school demands are assessed to build in dedicated time to get the total hours of sleep that the brain needs, even if it means a nap during the day. Sometimes, naps can help my clients reach that 7-9 hour goal that is recommended for adults. However, napping past 30 minutes, as per the medical literature, may have opposite effects on daytime energy.
What are some ways to promote better sleep habits?
You need to get to stage 4 sleep, to get the full benefits of the sleep process, including:
- Consolidating what you have experienced and learned during the day,
- Filtering out irrelevant information,
- Clearing out toxins from the brain.
If possible, sleep in a comfortable, distraction free sleep zone. Cell phones should be on do not disturb, TVs should be completely off, and headphones should be out of the ears. This is because these electrical devices affect how are neural circuits work whether we “feel it” or not.
I encourage that my clients start to try and get their mind and activity level lower to deconstruct about 30-45 minutes before they intend to go to sleep. It helps to avoid caffeine past 1pm , and avoid drinking, particularly alcohol, past 7pm (so, no bar time when trying to reset your sleep patterns).
When my clients travel, I advise them to prepare for time zone changes by shifting mealtime and activity as soon as possible. I have them realize how obstacles that come up during the day that create stress may certainly impact their ability to unwind and sleep, and I discuss ways to diffuse that stress of traveling.
A trip to the brain doctor is also advised so that underlying medical problems, such as sleep apnea or medications that may be contributing to sleep problems are investigated.