April 10, 2023

Often overlooked, sleep is key to our health and well-being. Sleep Medicine experts recommend that adults get an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Here’s your sleep hygiene guide!

Lisa Davidson MD

Sleep Center

1. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Your body has an internal clock based on a 24-hour circadian rhythm cycle. This cycle guides your body’s sleep and wake cycle. To regulate your clock, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.  If you like to nap, keep naps to 20 minutes or less so you can still fall asleep at your normal bedtime.

2. Unplug from screens at least 30 minutes before bed. Blue light from cell phones, TVs and tablets suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. People often watch TV to help them sleep. Research shows that sleeping with the TV on leads to less sleep and poor quality sleep due to the light and sound. In fact, the brain continues to process dialogue instead of doing other jobs it needs to do during sleep. Try creating a relaxing routine such as music, meditation, prayer or reading.

3. Make your bedroom a sleep retreat. Studies show people sleep best when their room is dark, cool, quiet and comfortable. If your room is too light, try room darkening shades or curtains. If your room is noisy, the white noise of a fan can be helpful while keeping you cool too!

4. Limit caffeine and alcohol. Skip the caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Limit alcohol before bedtime too. While a drink before bedtime can help people fall asleep faster, alcohol often disrupts your sleep later and causes light sleep. Avoid late, heavy meals too and give your body time to digest food before bed.

5. Be active. Daily exercise increases the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep which aids dreaming, emotional processing, and healthy brain development. Being active during the day can help us fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply. Exercising outside is even better! Avoid vigorous exercise late in the day.

Expert Advice

When we don’t get enough sleep, we say we feel run down. When we sleep well, we feel refreshed and ready to take on the day! That’s because good sleep restores us to improve our mood, promote heart health, regulate blood sugar, support the immune system, relieve stress, maintain a healthy weight and restore our muscles. It helps us think more clearly and solve problems.

Sleep apnea is a common cause of poor sleep. Symptoms are loud or frequent snoring, pauses in breathing, choking or gasping sounds, fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, insomnia and headaches.   

If you or a loved one notices these signs, you may benefit from a sleep study. Sleep studies are often done in a sleep center such as Mankato Clinic’s J. Scott Sanders Center for Sleep Medicine. Getting a sleep study is similar to checking into a comfortable hotel room. Before bed, sleep technicians will put you at ease while they place small sensors and wires that connect to a computer. We monitor your brain and body’s activity while you sleep.

Home sleep studies are also a viable option.

As a board certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist, I review the sleep study, diagnose and prescribe treatment. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is a common treatment. The CPAP keeps your airways open so you can receive optimal oxygen and quality sleep. The device even transmits data to your doctor so we know how well treatment is working.

If you have sleep apnea symptoms, talk with your primary care provider. You may also call Mankato Clinic Neurology at 507-389-8568 or visit our Sleep Center.