Written by: Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Julia Haarhuis, Ellen M. Martin
Living with a chronic disease is demanding. Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, depression, and autoimmune diseases, go along with deprived sleep. Symptoms of poor sleep are not always obvious, because even though people may spend at least the recommended minimum 7 hours in bed, they may have trouble falling asleep or don’t reach deep sleep for a long enough time. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the signs of deprived sleep are as follows (1):
- Feeling tired during the day, even after spending sufficient hours in bed.
- Waking often during the night.
- Experience feelings such as fatigue during the day, difficulties to fall asleep, and waking up during the night.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommends adults, aging from 18 to 60 years, to sleep at least 7 hours per day (2). However, on average, 30% of employed U.S. adults reported that they obtain less than 6 hours of sleep per night (3). Our health is affected by sleep deprivation, as it can cause sleepiness during the day, deprived cognitive capacity and mood swings (4, 5), and a host of other deleterious effects (see illustration). We want you to be your healthiest self, so we researched the best ways to improve your sleep in a natural way – focusing on sleep routine, lifestyle and movement as alternative options to standard sleep medicines.
Prepare The Way to Sleep
Let’s start with the preparation of your sleep. Sleeping in the right environment can remove some of your sleeping issues. So, how do you create the right environment? A bedroom that is dark (really dark: no tiny electronic lights or half-lighted windows), quiet and at a comfortable temperature will create the best sleeping circumstances. Tools that can come in handy are a sleeping mask and ear plugs. So if you don’t have them yet, these tools could be a worthy investment! Furthermore, restrict your exposure to blue light before bed: turn the TV off at least an hour before sleep time, don’t stare at a cellphone or other screens, and use orange light software (f.lux, is a good one) or orange-tinted glasses.
Additionally, a pre-sleep routine that includes a warm bath or shower might be helpful, it relieves you from stress and the warm temperatures can make you a little more sleepy. Meditation, prayer or affirmations can also be a helpful part of your pre-sleep ritual. Try for example Kundalini Yoga, a good stress-relieving exercise you might want to add to your pre-sleep ritual.
“It might seem hard if these are one of your habits, but sometimes being healthy requires persistence!”
Another life style factor that might contribute to improving your sleep is food. What about a glass of cow’s milk – you must have heard about this old trick before – to fall asleep faster? Research has shown that it indeed works, in this article about Food Therapy to improve your sleep we explain why! Besides cow’s milk there are other sleep-promoting food products, which we will tell you about in that article.
Surprisingly, also the way you breath is important. In this article about oral posture, we talk about oral posture and we help you to find out whether you are a mouth breather or a nose breather. Being a mouth breather can cause an elongated face and even lead to more restricted airways, which is associated to sleep apnea. So, when you are not talking or chewing, the best way to maintain a healthy oral posture is to keep your mouth closed, teeth lightly touching, and tongue pressed to the roof of your mouth.
For more information, read our next post on sleep: “How To Use Food Therapy To Improve Sleep”, about sleep-promoting foods and which foods to avoid prior to bedtime!
- CDC. How Much Sleep Do I Need? Last visited on July 8th, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
- Watson NF, Badr MS, Belenky G, Bliwise DL, Buxton OM, Buysse D, et al. Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: a joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research SocietyCdc-pdfExternal. Sleep. 2015;38(6):843–844.
- CDC. Short Sleep Duration Among Workers — United States, 2010. Last visited on July 8th, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6116a2.htm
- Taveira, KVM, Kuntze, MM, Berretta, F, et al. Association between obstructive sleep apnea and alcohol, caffeine and tobacco: A meta‐analysis. J Oral Rehabil. 2018; 45: 890– 902. https://doi-org.ezproxy.library.wur.nl/10.1111/joor.12686
- Kline, C. E. (2014). The Bidirectional Relationship Between Exercise and Sleep: Implications for Exercise Adherence and Sleep Improvement. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 8(6), 375–379. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827614544437
- Feng Shui Society. History of Feng Shui. Last visited on July 8th, 2019, https://www.fengshuisociety.org.uk/history-of-feng-shui/
- Peppard, P. E., Austin, D., & Brown, R. L. (2007). Association of alcohol consumption and sleep disordered breathing in men and women. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 3(03), 265-270.
- National Sleep Foundation. The Best Exercises for Sleep. Last visited on July 10th, 2019, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/best-exercises-sleep