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get quality sleep

What to avoid and embrace to get quality sleep – part two

Last month, we established some strategies for comfort, part one of our sleep series. How else can we create good quality sleep?

Much of sleep quality comes down to do’s and don’ts – basically, what you should avoid and what you should embrace. And while many are small and seemingly insignificant, my recommendations can individually and cumulatively have a large impact on how well you sleep.


What you should avoid

For starters, think about what you are eating and drinking before bedtime. No large meals or foods that cause indigestion too close to bedtime. Research suggests avoiding caffeine, alcohol or other sleep interfering chemicals at least four hours before bedtime. Chemicals to avoid include:

  • Antihistamines – can cause daytime drowsiness
  • Nicotine – can cause insomnia and result in light sleeping
  • Beta blockers – often cause decreases in the amount of REM and slow-wave sleep*
  • Alpha blockers – may increase daytime sleepiness*
  • Antidepressants – can promote insomnia

*Speak with your prescribing physician about how the timing of these medications may impact your sleep.

Long and late afternoon napping can also impact your sleep quality. Studies show that a 10 to 30 minute power nap during the day can have positive affects but anything longer than that can interfere with your sleep cycle. If you must nap to get through your day due to health problems, take your nap early in the day.

As hard as it may be in this day and age of smart phones, avoid using electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. Electronics reduce melatonin and keep the brain alert. This also includes readers, tablets and even television.

Believe it or not your water intake can impact your sleep quality. Don’t be so busy during the day that you fail to drink enough water causing you to “catch up” with water at night. This may create the urge to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Balance out your water intake throughout the day instead.

Finally, avoid being a “clock watcher” if you are struggling to fall asleep. This will just cause stress and anxiety. Instead, try to find a comfortable position and focus on how lovely it is to rest your body and mind through relaxation, even if it isn’t sleep. That in itself will help you to stop stressing enough to relax and fall asleep.


What you should embrace

Especially if you are someone who regularly struggles with falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night, you’ll want to consider embracing some behaviors and rituals to promote better sleep.

Remember last month how I talked about having the right bed and mattress? That’s’ a part of creating a soothing and relaxing sleep environment. Go out of your way to create such an environment. Start by allowing your room to be dark, quiet and cool. I think investing in bedding that is super-comfortable is well worth the extra expense.

get quality sleepI also believe that a pre-sleep routine is very helpful. My personal favorite includes taking a nice warm Epsom salt bath with essential oils. Other ideas include reading before bed, doing relaxation exercises or rubbing on some essential oils. You can read more about essential oils for sleep. One company that makes a quality essential oil product is doTERRA (I actually have a doTERRA account, so you can purchase yours from us if you like).

Establishing a consistent sleep schedule is also a huge benefit. People often make the mistake of staying up past the time they are naturally tired. In these cases, people often get a second wind due to adrenal imbalances and then they cannot shut off their mind when they have stayed up too late and truly need to go to bed. Some people enjoy a guided meditation for sleep or even biofeedback devices to relax in preparation for sleep.


What to do if you still struggle

If you try everything I’ve already mentioned and still struggle, there are some safe, natural products you can use for sleep – and we sell many of them in our office.

Lunora This product contains melatonin, a natural hormone that helps usher the onset of the body’s natural circadian sleep cycle and valerian root, a plant based herb known to assist in sleep.

Vasayo Microlife Sleep Micromyst This is a product that has a unique delivery system for its ingredients. It is a spray that is used in the mouth. Vasayo uses liposome technology which are like spheres or bubbles that surround nutrients. This helps the ingredients get through the digestive system intact for better absorption and use by the body. The key ingredient is

Melatonin, a natural hormone that helps usher the onset of the body’s natural circadian sleep cycle.

How do you choose between natural sleep products? We often start with Lunora as it is a very simple product with just two ingredients and is priced very affordably. That usually does the trick. However, if that doesn’t work, we stop the Lunora and move on to the Vasayo product which is a bit more expensive.

Some other options include:

GABA This supplement is a neurotransmitter that inhibits nerve activity in the brain, allowing it to slowly relax and support the normal sleep cycle.

NAC This supplement is an amino acid that decreases other compounds that stimulate the brain.

Vitamins B2 and B6 Finally, these vitamins help support normal neurotransmitter and hormone function.

I’m hopeful that with some of these recommendations you start to get the quality sleep that you deserve!

Dr. Sharman




improve the quality of your sleep

How to improve the quality of your sleep – part one

We’ve all heard that cliché, “You sleep for a third of your life”.… or at least you should be sleeping about a third of your life!

I think we hear that saying so often that we forget the vital role sleep plays in our physical and mental wellbeing. The quality of our sleep really is critical to our quality of life. Sleep deprivation or lack of quality sleep can negatively affect cognitive function, immune function, growth and development in children and even increase our risk of all kinds of chronic diseases of aging.

So what can YOU do to improve the quality of your sleep? For starters, you need to understand what defines “good quality sleep”.


Understanding good quality sleep

The National Sleep Foundation recently released the key indicators of good sleep quality, as established by a panel of sleep experts.

  • Sleeping more time while in bed (at least 85 percent of the total time)
  • Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less
  • Waking up no more than once per night
  • Being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep

Sounds basic, but actually achieving all four indicators can be a challenge. Comfort is actually a big part of this, and while fundamental, many people are not actually sleeping on the most comfortable mattresses or pillows. Let’s start there.


Choosing the right mattress

Mattresses can be a big investment, but I believe they are worth it. A mattress is a home product you are not only using almost all the days of the year, but something you use for 8-10 hours most days.

A proper mattress should be firm enough to support your postural curves but soft enough to give a little for your buttocks while on your back. When on your side, it should give a little for your shoulders and hips. Without that “give” or body-contouring, you may experience discomfort due to the pressure points created by lack contour.

Over time, I have developed a preference the Sleep Number bed. It is considered a hybrid and is comprised of foam and air chambers that have adjustable pressure you can adjust through a remote control. The firmness can be adjusted for your specific body and needs. Another plus is if you share a bed, your mate can adjust their side to whatever firmness meets their needs (including handling mates who snore). Sleep Number even has new technology that adjusts the firmness according to your positions at night and provides information about how well you slept. For those who have very specific needs that require their bed to be elevated into different positions, I believe that Sleep Number is the best in accommodating those needs.

RELATED: Why you should be improving your back posture

I am also a big fan of the Tempur-pedic mattress. The heavy foam contours just right to your postural curves to minimize pressure points. It also reduces motion transfer so your movement won’t wake your partner. Years ago, I had some patients complain that the heavy foam made it too hot while sleeping (actually a common complaint with foam mattresses). Tempur-pedic has been working on that issue, and I am told they have incorporated cooling and temperature-control technology into their mattresses.

Both Sleep Number and Tempur-pedic have a money back guarantee.  While both come with a hefty price tag, in my opinion either of these two are worth every penny. There are a host of other options out there with varying price points and this guide may help you in making a good mattress selection.


Choosing the right pillow

improve your sleep qualityThere are all kinds of great pillows on the market, but also some not so great ones. A lot of my patients buy pillows after hearing commercials and are often disappointed that they don’t live up to the claims. I recommend looking for a pillow that properly supports the neck and keeps the body in optimal alignment throughout the night.

We are distributors for two of my favorites and carry them in the office: the Therapeutica Pillow and the Pillowise pillow. Both of these pillows require a “fitting” to insure each patient gets the right pillow for their body. We take measurements for both back and side sleeping and put those measurements into the context of whether a person’s mattress is soft, medium or firm. Both of the Therapeutica and Pillowise pillows keep the neck and shoulders in optimal alignment during sleep. They each support the postural curve of the neck as well as fill up the right amount of space between the shoulder and neck while side sleeping.  We find that most patients love their pillows when they have been properly fitted!

improve the quality of your sleep

Patients with hip and low back pain often find that placing a pillow, also known as a leg spacer, between the knees while side sleeping is helpful. Leg spacers keep the spine and hips in better alignment taking pressure off of both! You can even choose one that has straps to keep it in place!

So get comfortable as your first step in gaining good quality sleep. Next month, I’ll share some additional insights on how to improve your sleep quality. Stay tuned!

Dr. Sharman