We visited Dr Staneczek - FMH certified specialist in pulmonology and internal medicine at clinique la prairie, to find out which common sleep mistakes we are making and how to fix them.
1. Eating too much for Dinner
Going to bed hungry isn't comfortable, but neither is going to bed feeling full. Indeed, the digestive system works best when we are in an upright position because gravity helps move the food through the process. Some foods also take more digestive energy, which prevents the body from relaxing.
Solution: It is not as much the time when one should stop eating but the composition of the meal that matters. Heavy dishes slow down the digestion, for instance, but we should also reduce carbohydrates in the evening and eat more in the morning to fuel up for the day ahead.
2. Drinking alcohol before bed
Because of alcohol’s sedating effect, many people believe that drinking a glass or two before bed promotes sleep. Yet, in reality, it is a very bad “sleeping pill”. Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but once it has been transformed by your body, it begins to affect the overall time and quality of your sleep.
Solution: Avoid drinking alcohol just before you go to bed. On average, it takes an hour for the body to process one unit of alcohol which leads to disruptive sleep. Keep in mind that drinking a glass of wine with dinner is fine as long as it is 2-3 hours before your bedtime.
3. Exercising late in the evening
Exercising regularly is essential for overall health but it becomes counterproductive when it occurs late in the evening. I had patients running 7km at 10pm and find they couldn’t sleep before 1 a.m.
Solution: Try exercising in the morning to boost your energy levels for the day. Indeed, working out boosts the production of endorphin, the “happy hormone”, which triggers a positive sensation and promotes relaxation. In the evening, opt for a relaxing activity, such as a short walk outside, but definitely nothing intensive.
4. Using digital devices before bed
Our body depends on two fundamental signals to sleep and wake; darkness and light. Yet, with the recent arrival of flat screens and phones, all the artificial UV light confuses the brain into thinking it’s not bedtime. Indeed, UV light goes to the retina and informs the brain that it is daylight. This leads to the suppression of melatonin production, which is the hormone that informs your body that evening has arrived and thus sleep should be scheduled.
Solution: Quit using digital devices about 90 minutes before you go to bed and switch off all parasite lighting from your room. New IPhones have the “Night Shift” mode, which is an approach to less UV light, but it doesn’t suppress it completely. I tell my patients to work on their laptops up to about 8pm.
5. Not taking the time to prepare for bed:
We tend to use our evenings to do all the unfinished chores of the day, which results in putting our minds and body in full speed just before sleep. Yet, it is unrealistic to expect to fall asleep soundly without slowing down first.
Solution: Take the time to slowly shift into “Sleep mode” to let the body produce enough sleep neurotransmitters in order to release sleep hormones. Creating a ritual can be a great way to inform your mind and body that it is bedtime by listening to soothing music, dimming down lights and removing all electronic devises. But a perfect night of sleep starts with a perfect day. All the things you do during the day will have consequences on your sleep. Thinking about good sleep at 11 pm is too late. And the other way around too; if you’ve had a bad night, you will have a bad day.
6. Using sleeping pills to fall asleep
Sleeping pills mask the underlying sleep problems and do more harm than good. Many sleeping medications have high negative effects on the natural architecture of sleep –– slight sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep –– thus are counterproductive as the patient thinks his sleep is improved whereas it’s actually worsened.
Solution: Sleep is not a monosynaptic issue; there is an average of 50 points that lead to good sleep. And there are various types of sleep issues such as periodic limb movement, insomnia, instable sleep or psychiatric issues, which means treatment needs to be tailor-made and dealt with at the core. Seeking medical help is the best solution.
7. Ignoring sleep disorders
Sleep is vital to health. And it is its quality that determines our health on the long term and prevents illnesses such as Cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, infections, chronic diseases, low immune system and metabolic symptoms.
Solution: Created by our Medical team at Clinique La Prairie, the Better Sleep program treats erratic sleep patterns with a unique synergy of medical diagnosis and holistic therapy. The comprehensive and personalized program goes beyond helping you enjoy a good night’s sleep thanks to its advanced medical approach led by multidisciplinary specialists in Neurology, ENT, Pulmonology and Psychology. By identifying and treating our patient’s sleep issues, we help them regain healthy sleep patterns and sustain long term wellbeing with the learning and practice of sleep-hygiene techniques through therapeutic treatments, fitness coaching and dietetic consultations.
Learn more on Clinique La Prairie’s Better Sleep Program