Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do to improve your health and well-being. That’s one of the reasons our doctors and health coaches put such an emphasis on making sure our patients are getting enough shut eye.
The quality of your sleep has profound health implications. Research shows that sleep deprivation can increase our risk of developing chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, overactive thyroid , stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Treating insomnia is not as simple as taking a prescription pill. You may sleep 8 hours when you’re medicated, but the quality of your sleep suffers and can cause a negative impact on your long-term health.
One of the things I am constantly telling my patients is that the time you go to sleep matters. Whether you consider yourself a night owl or an early lark, the biochemistry doesn’t lie. Studies show that our bodies repair the most between 10 pm and 2 am. Even if you get 8 hours of sleep, it is not as restorative if you sleep midnight to 8 am versus 10 pm to 6 am.
One of the first things I recommend is for my patients is for them to set a bedtime alarm.
Count backwards from the time you need to get up in the morning by 7.5 hrs. This amounts to five 90-minute sleep cycles which is the ideal amount for a good night’s sleep. Now add 1 hour to that. It should be around 8 or 9 PM. This is your ideal time to start a new bedtime ritual.
Example: If you need to wake up at 6:00 AM, set your bedtime alarm for 9:30 pm to make sure you are asleep by 10:30 PM.
But what’s a bedtime ritual? It’s about powering down your brain before you actually get into bed so that you’ll be ready for sleep. This means turning off your screens. The light from computers and phones actually tricks our brain into thinking that it’s still daytime. It can mean meditating, reading a book, having a quiet chat with your partner—anything that puts you at ease before you actually try to fall asleep.
If you give yourself the space and time for a good night’s rest I promise you’ll see a major difference in the quality of your sleep.
Dr. Tiffany Lester is a board-certified Integrative Medicine Physician who has practiced a holistic approach to health for over a decade. She is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, where she completed her training in internal medicine. She also graduated from the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona with Dr. Andrew Weil, and has extensive training in functional medicine through the Institute of Functional Medicine. Dr. Lester is also featured as a teacher for the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and regularly contributes to national wellness publications.