Despite what you may have heard, there is no "normal" amount of sleep that you need: everyone is different and so are their needs for sleep; however, the typical American gets six-plus hours according to David Engstrom, Ph.D., ABPP at the HonorHealth Bariatrics Center. More than 70 million Americans are affected by sleep problems. If you're one of them, brush up on Engstrom's Golden Rules of Sleep:
1. Use a sleep log to record:
- Total time in bed.
- Total sleep time.
- Relaxation practice.
2. Watch your habits.
- Reduce caffeine.
- Don't drink alcohol.
- Stop smoking.
- Be careful about taking naps.
- Reconsider sleeping pills.
3. Keep a regular schedule.
- Generally get up at the same time.
- Sleep in a half hour (no more) on the weekends.
- Go to bed within one hour of your normal schedule or when sleepy.
- Create a routine for the evening.
4. Take control your sleep environment.
- Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable.
- Make your room quiet, cool, and dark.
- Keep your bedroom as a space for sleeping and intimacy only. Don't watch TV, eat or get on your phone or laptop there.
5. Look at your diet and eating patterns.
- Finish dinner at least three hours before bedtime.
- If you snack in the evening protein and calcium are best.
6. Let exercise work for you.
- Exercise is always good.
- Start gradually and use time or distance as goals.
- Time your exercise for best sleep results.
7. Get the "chatter" out of your brain.
- If you think some of the "racing thoughts" may be linked to depression or anxiety, reach out to a doctor for help.
- Examine unhelpful thoughts.
- Talk about your worries and concerns.
- Write all your feelings down in a journal. You don't have to be a great writer to do it, just write your thoughts in a stream of consciousness fashion.
8. Learn and practice stress management in bed.
- Stress management can include breathing, imagery, meditation, and muscle relaxation.
- A small speaker in your room can be used for guided meditation at bedtime.
9. Never "try" to sleep.
- If you awaken, use relaxation techniques first to get back to sleep.
- Never stay in bed awake for more 30 minutes.
- Get up do something boring until you're sleepy if you don't fall back asleep within a half hour of waking.
10. Restrict your sleep.
- This is a last resort, but it really works.
- Simply shift your go-to-bed time later by 2-3 hours.
- Get up at your normal time, no matter what.
Remember, if you're suffering from insomnia, you're not alone. Keep trying new strategies to combat it and consider talking to a primary care physician about the issue.