Making Sleep a Priority Ensures a Good Night’s Rest

Premier HealthNet Physician Shares Six Steps for Getting to Sleep

DAYTON, Ohio (February 15, 2013) – From time to time, nearly every adult suffers through a night with little or no sleep, and that’s normal. However, when one sleepless night stretches into two, then three, then a week of sleepless nights or more, it’s time to try something new.

Making sleep a priority is the best way to begin getting a good night’s rest, according to Katrina Paulding, MD, a Premier HealthNet primary care physician practicing at Samaritan North Family Physicians.

“For most of us, we know that we have to get up, get out of bed and be productive, usually because we have to get to work,” Dr. Paulding said. “The same should go for sleep, because when we make it a priority, we begin factoring in those elements that compliment that priority.”

Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, the clinical definition of insomnia according to the National Sleep Foundation, is the most common sleep complaint among Americans. Dr. Paulding recommends the following six steps to help people fall asleep and stay asleep and establish a routine sleeping pattern.

  • Schedule a bedtime:  “Setting a bedtime sounds easy,” Dr. Paulding said. “But, people today are so busy that sleep has a way of becoming a non-priority. By scheduling an actual bedtime we are gearing down in preparation for a restful night.”
  • Put technology away: “Take the television out of the bedroom, put smart phones, tablets, lap tops and computers away too,” Dr. Paulding said. “You really should avoid using these devices in the evenings prior to sleep because they are mentally stimulating and can keep the brain ‘awake’ even when we are done using them.”
  • Make the bedroom a soothing place: “I tell patients, family and friends that the bedroom should be a place for sleep and intimacy and that’s it,” Dr. Paulding said.  “Set the stage for a good night’s rest by making the bedroom a relaxing room.  Dim the alarm clock, choose a muted color for the walls, such as a subtle blue, and make sure it’s the most orderly room in the house. If it’s messy, the brain interprets this as chaos and starts thinking about how to fix it.”
  • Relax before bedtime: “Do something soothing and calming during the hour before bedtime,” Dr. Paulding said. “Taking a bath or meditating to calm the body and mind before lying down will make falling asleep easier.”
  • Beware of napping: “A mid-afternoon power nap is refreshing for most people because our bodies have a natural down regulation at that time. However, taking long naps, or several naps throughout the day can negatively affect a person’s ability to fall asleep,’’ Dr. Paulding said.
  • Watch what you eat: “There is a long-held myth that eating before bed will cause calories to be stored as fat, but that isn’t true,” Dr. Paulding said. “What is true is that total caloric consumption for the day will determine how much weight a person gains. I don’t recommend eating right before bedtime though, because digestion can actually keep you from falling asleep.”

Primary care physicians are the first stop for diagnosing and treating sleep problems and disorders. Physicians can advise patients on healthy habits or prescribe medication to address sleep problems. Sometimes, however, additional observation and expertise is required, so a patient might be referred to a sleep specialist. The Miami Valley Hospital Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders and the Sleep Center are two places in Southwest Ohio where referred patients can go for sleep disorder testing and treatment. 

View frequently asked questions about sleep health.

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