Going the distance

Don't deny yourself the gift of restorative sleep

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. March 11, 2016

Centuries ago the Greeks understood the importance of the mind/body connection. They recognized that you can't separate spiritual well-being from physical well-being.

Today we know that taking care of your physical health helps you cope better with psychological stress. And a good night's sleep is a key part of the equation.

Overwhelming data demonstrate that when you don't get predictable and restorative sleep, you're more likely to suffer from irritability, anxiety, depression and a number of other health problems, including heart conditions.

So what can you do to get a good night's sleep? Experts recommend:

  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine. You can't go full-speed all day and then expect to simply turn off the light and fall asleep. You need to set aside time, at least half an hour, to allow yourself to wind down from the events of the day.
  • Maintain a consistent bedtime. Within reason, you should go to bed and wake up on a consistent schedule. If you don't have some major sleep disorder, you can sometimes catch up by sleeping an extra hour or two on a weekend, but don't use that as an excuse to chronically short-change yourself on sleep.
  • Keep your sleeping area dark, cool and quiet. If you're in a place where you can't control the light, try this tip: Use padded eyeshades to block out light. If noise is an issue, consider noise-blocking earplugs or headsets.
  • Prevent interruptions. Ask family members and roommates to respect your need for uninterrupted sleep. Remind them that sleep is not optional and explain that sleep deprivation can have serious consequences — as witnessed by the number of single car accidents in the early morning hours.

It's become a badge of honor in today's driven society to push the envelope and burn the candles at both ends, but you can only do this so long before you flame out. To protect your quality of life, give yourself the gift of restorative sleep.

Originally published June 6, 2013.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

March 11, 2016