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Craving A Better Night Of Sleep? A Crash Course On Sleep Hygiene.

Some Tips From Your Local Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner


As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, I hear a lot about people who can't sleep. Medications can certainly help, but honestly, it's a last resort. If your kiddo is not sleeping and you're telling me they're up all night on their tablet drinking Monster energy drinks and snacking on takis..that just might be the issue, not their medication.

Here are some tips that can help, along with some of my favorite products that I personally use and highly recommend..and a couple I haven't tried but are on my list.

Sleep Hygiene 101

Stop with caffeine! A lot of people don't realize that the soda they have with dinner, their late night tea or chocolate they snacked on earlier in the evening contains caffeine. Caffeine can delay your ability to fall asleep. Nicotine (vaping, smoking, patches) and alcohol also significantly disrupt sleep. Figure out your bedtime. Six hours before that time, stop using caffeine, nicotine and/or alcohol.

Set a schedule and stick to it. If bedtime is 8:00pm Sunday through Thursday and 4:00am on the weekends...that is an issue. Pick a time somewhere in the middle, and stick to it. You should also pick a time on average to wake up in the morning and stick to that. Over time, your body will learn that routine and adjust to it.

Stop with the naps. Naps can be energizing and wonderful. They can also ruin your sleep. Limit naps to 20-30 minutes (set an alarm!) and do not nap after 3pm.

Limit screen time before bed. Your child playing games on their tablet is not helping them sleep. Browsing tik tok and instagram is not helping you sleep. Limiting TV, tablets, video games and phones 1-2 hours before bed can be a huge help. Blue light is a real thing that we are all learning more about. It genuinely does mess with our brains and tell us "hey, it's daytime!" If you're absolutely opposed to stopping, you can try out these blue light glasses which are supposed to help with protecting you against the bad effects of electronics.

Exercise and sunshine during the day can genuinely help you later. Try to keep exercise to earlier in the day, and expose yourself to some natural sunlight. It will help you with energy during the day and restful sleep at night. However, avoid exercising too late -- exercising 2-3 hours before bed can make you feel more awake.

Make your room ready for an awesome night of sleep. Are you constantly throwing yourself around trying to get comfortable or sweating? That can be the issue. Make sure your sheets and mattress are comfortable. Replace your pillows every 1-2 years with a firmness and size you prefer. Blackout curtains can be helpful to keep the room dark. The temperature should be kept cool. This can mean keeping the windows cracked in cooler weather, turning a fan on or keeping the thermostat at 60-68 degrees can make a huge difference. Remove electronics. Keep it quiet, even if that means getting a white noise machine. Kiddos may enjoy dreamcatchers or fun sheets or comforters. If you're on the holistic/spiritual side, I hear keeping some amethyst by your bedside can help with sleep quality and dreams.

Weighted blankets are amazing. I didn't believe it until I got one. My husband then demanded one after trying mine. If you find the right one, they aren't hot, sweaty or uncomfortable. It helps calm the sensation of feeling restless and uncomfortable. It is especially great for those with ADHD, anxiety, sensory issues or autism. I have this one and I couldn't be happier. You can price shop, but I really liked the colors and this one is good for people who are hot sleepers.

Stop using your bed for school, games and work. Your bed should be used for sleep. Should you lay in bed and check your phone, play video games, work on your laptop or do your homework? No. Your bed is for sleeping. That is it. Your brain will learn that too, and soon when you get into bed, you'll be falling asleep way more quickly.

Relax: make a bedtime routine and follow it. This is especially important for kids and teenagers. Find a way to wind down -- put on cozy jammies, take a warm bath, have a warm cozy beverage (without caffeine) or a light snack and end with reading a book (+ points if it's together with family). Pop on an eye mask. This can be helpful to relax and start to calm your mind. There are apps like Headspace and Calm that can also help wind down. Calm even has bedtime stories for kids and adults to fall asleep to!

Think about your diet and water intake. If you are having a ton of heavy meals with fried food, high fat food, citrus or spicy food, it may be affecting your sleep. The more healthy your meals are throughout the day, the better your sleep will be. Plan dinner and major meals 3-4 hours before bed. If you keep waking up to pee, stop drinking fluids so late. Small snacks are okay, but you shouldn't be having a huge plate of food and a jug of water before bed. Stay hydrated throughout the day and don't wait until 5pm or 6pm to start drinking fluids.

Are your pets waking you up? Kick em out. If your beloved dog, cat or other pet sleeps in your bed and keep stepping on your might be best to give them their own bed. My cat, Moose is the worst at night. She steps on my face. I always wake up tired. Somehow I haven't taken this step yet.

Other Recommendations

Essential oils. Spray some lavender oil on your pillow or use a roll on for essential oils. Chamomile and lavender are supposed to be helpful for sleep. Be careful if you use these (or an infuser). While they can be helpful, some oils can be toxic or lethal to dogs or cats.

Melatonin. I'm a HUGE fan of melatonin. I'd much rather have people use this rather than take RX medications. If you have a hard time staying asleep, melatonin ER may be more beneficial, but otherwise, I'm a HUGE fan of zzzQuil since it also has valerian root, lavender and chamomile.

Magnesium. If I'm not recommending melatonin, I'll be recommending magnesium Calm powder. I've used this and loved it. It's a little fizzy and some people are a little turned off by that, but honestly I think it tastes great. It also comes in gummies and capsules which I have yet to try. Magnesium is AMAZING for relaxing your muscles, improving sleep quality, and calming'll also help with constipation. If you take too much, you'll be pooping so start slow.

CBD gummies, oil or lotion. I've seen a lot of people no longer need their anxiety or sleep medications because they found the right dose/brand of CBD (with no THC). I haven't tried these gummies but they look great. On nights I've been anxious, this oil has been helpful for sleep and anxiety.

Lighting Devices. I haven't gotten to try this Hatch Restore, but I'm fairly interested and hoping to maybe get this for my husband for his birthday. It apparently comes with a white noise maker but most importantly -- it mimics natural light. So the light starts to dim, then slowly comes back on like a sunrise which helps you more naturally wake up.


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