We spend one-third of our lives sleeping, yet a restful night is elusive for so many of us.
The effects of poor sleep are vast, ranging from increased inflammation and pain, loss of productivity and focus, irritability, anxiety, overeating, and diminished regulation of the immune system. Just think of the last time you tossed and turned, woke up un-refreshed, tried to go about your day, and then finally felt like collapsing from fatigue. Not fun.
And that’s from just one day. Now imagine this scenario over and over, and you can see why some of us are really struggling. Sleep problems quickly escalate into a cycle of fatigue followed by anxiety, worry about sleep…and just about everything else that pops into your mind.
It’s clear, then: Improving your sleep quality and receiving the restorative powers that it brings is an important wellness goal. Good habits and lifestyle practices can make all the difference between an “okay” night and one that really brings a rested, grounded feeling to your day, and beyond.
Let’s start by determining how much you already know about sleep. Grab a pencil and take my Sleep Quiz.
Answer each statement True or False:
- You can get by with only 4 hours of sleep.
- Drinking alcohol will give you a better night’s sleep.
- Short daytime naps could be a fantastic idea.
- Showing up at work with a sleep deficit is like arriving drunk.
- Exercising before bed is never a good idea.
- Counting sheep doesn’t really work.
- A coffee break during the day can keep you up at night.
- You can catch up on your sleep over the weekend.
- Screen time is okay as long as you’re lying in bed, relaxed.
- Tossing and turning will eventually lead to sleep.
- Looking for a snack before bed? Try turkey for tryptophan.
- According to Chinese Medicine, the best time to go to sleep is 10:30 at the latest.
- Acupuncture can help with imbalances, sleep disturbances, and stress.
Ready to up-level your sleep regimen—and your life—from an East/West perspective? In fact, both approaches have much to offer us in the quest for the best night’s sleep!
- “You can get by with only 4 hours of sleep.”
False. If you’re in the 2-3 percent of the population who can survive healthfully with so few hours of sleep, then proceed to the next question. However, for most of us, 7-8 hours is the “sweet spot” for sleep—and makes a huge difference in our alertness, moods, productivity, and overall wellbeing. That 24/7 “no sleep needed” mentality, on the other hand? It quickly takes a dangerous toll on your health and mood.
- “Drinking alcohol will give you a better night’s sleep.”
False. While a drink or two may help you fall asleep quickly, alcohol often leads to lighter, less restorative sleep and increased wakefulness during the night. It’s a good idea to even restrict liquids in general during the hours close to bedtime.
- “Short daytime naps could be a fantastic idea.”
True. If they’re possible in your routine, naps are a great way to re-energize and improve performance in the workplace. Just be sure to keep the naps short (20 minutes or so), or they will interfere with nighttime sleep.
- “Showing up at work with a sleep deficit is like arriving drunk.”
True. Studies have shown that having too few hours of sleep produces the same alertness deficit as being legally drunk. (And I know you wouldn’t dream of showing up at work that way—so get your ZZZs!)
- “Exercising before bed is never a good idea.”
False. I used to think that that was true, but for some of us, late evening is the only exercise time available. As long as you allow proper opportunity to wind down afterward, your workout can be scheduled before bed as “better late than never.”
- “Counting sheep doesn’t really work.”
True. Sorry, Grandma, studies prove that counting sheep doesn’t seem to work as tradition might state. What’s suggested instead is to visualize a calm, lovely scene, like a beach, to wind down. Another idea is write out what’s on your mind, then reflect on what you’re happy about. A great way to end the day’s mental activities.
- “A coffee break during the day can keep you up at night.”
True. Whether from coffee, tea, or any other source, caffeine can remain in your body for 6-8 hours after you consume it—or even longer if you’re a particularly caffeine-sensitive individual. This can certainly have an effect on your sleep later. Keep that in mind when you stop for an afternoon cappuccino.
- “You can catch up on your sleep over the weekend.”
False. Sorry—sleeping in doesn’t do the trick. In fact, it makes getting to sleep on time Sunday night to start your week more difficult. Instead, stick to a routine and schedule to ensure regular, restful sleep. That means waking up at approximately the same time every day, including the weekend, give or take an hour.
- “Screen time is okay as long as you’re lying in bed, relaxed.”
False. Nice try! Screen time is never beneficial before bed because of the flickering blue light it projects. Turn off your devices an hour before bed, ideally, and keep the room free of light and screens.
- “Tossing and turning will eventually lead to sleep.”
False. Tossing and turning is a worrisome, anxiety-ridden activity, in which the clock is not your friend—and you don’t have to put up with that. Studies show that getting out of bed after 20 minutes of restlessness is the way to go. Just leave the room, pick up a “boring” print book (resist the temptation to look at a computer), and then try again. Another thing to consider: When was the last time you replaced your mattress?
- “Looking for a snack before bed? Try turkey for tryptophan.”
True. Turkey is indeed a good choice. Tryptophan, the compound that leads to more serotonin, the feel-good chemical that lends peacefulness, is one reason. Lean turkey also makes a wise bedtime snack because it’s protein-rich and satisfying, yet not heavy. While other meats and proteins contain tryptophan as well, a sweet or greasy choice won’t be helpful for your sleep from a scientific or Chinese Medicine perspective, and will likely cause sleeplessness and weight gain. Double trouble.
- “According to Chinese Medicine, the best time to go to sleep is 10:30 at the latest.”
True. In Chinese Medicine, the organs all have a two-hour window of peak activity during the day, and your gallbladder’s peak time for detoxing and destressing is 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Go to sleep early, and you give it the time it needs to perform its job while keeping the smooth flow of qi intact. By the way—yes, you have a Gallbladder Meridian even if you don’t have an actual gallbladder, so post-surgical individuals are not excused from early bedtime. (Wink!)
- “Acupuncture can help with imbalances, sleep disturbances, and stress.”
True. Of course, I’m not impartial here. In fact, acupuncture is an ideal modality for helping people to calm their systems and correct energy imbalances. Acupuncture is comfortable and definitely worth a try for those seeking natural relief. Your treatment may be different from that for others who experience sleep difficulties because many variables must be considered in each individualized treatment. Along with its effectiveness, that personalized approach is the beauty of acupuncture.
I hope you enjoyed the Sleep Quiz and gained some takeaways for better, more restorative slumber. But if you’re still not convinced, consider this:
Arianna Huffington recalls a time when she was in crisis and realized that she was truly exhausted. She commented, “I would say now I do end every day 95 percent of the time by getting eight hours of sleep, and that has transformed my life. It has brought so much joy and creativity into the next day. And without question, I can say I have been a much more effective leader at The Huffington Post because of that, as it’s been clearer for me where we need to go.”
Now that is a ringing endorsement of the power of sleep! I wish you sweet dreams and restful nights—and you can have both if you take control. Rather than thinking of sleep as a passive activity, it’s time to give this necessity its due for all that it does for your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.
If you’d like to discuss your own sleep issues from both the East and West perspectives, please write to Support@Robertamittman.com . I’m here to guide you on your own journey toward greater calm, peace, balance, and vitality.