Eight tips to get better, more restful sleep | Healthworks

FALLS CHURCH, Virginia – Ideally, adults should get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night, doctors say.

But, according to a national poll, about one in three American adults says they sleep a lot less on most nights.

For some people, day-to-day work and family responsibilities just don’t leave enough time to sleep through.

For many others, however, the lack of sleep is due to a lifestyle or medical problem that may require healthier daily habits or long-term treatment from a doctor.

Long-term sleep problems can affect your mental health, relationships, quality of life, and your performance at work.

“If you have persistent problems with poor sleep or insomnia affects your quality of life, you should seek professional help,” said Anne Dobmeyer, Capt. (Dr.) of the US Public Health Service, currently a sleep expert in the DHA’s Heads of Behavioral Medicine, Development and Education in Primary Care.

Sleep problems are often cited as one of the top reasons soldiers visit a local military hospital or clinic, according to data released by the Armed Forces Health Monitoring Department.

Sleep is healthy

Getting enough sleep is not a luxury. “It’s something people need for good health,” say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, a third of American adults say they typically get less than the recommended amount of sleep, the CDC says. The ideal amount varies for individuals, but is usually between seven and eight hours per night for adults.

Not sleeping properly is linked to many chronic diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. It can also increase the risk of injury – for example, in car accidents.

Treat sleep problems

A variety of factors can contribute to insomnia, including poor sleep habits, depression, anxiety, illness, ailments (such as too hot or too cold); or irregular working hours as in military operations. Fortunately, there are ways to diagnose and treat insomnia.

Behavioral counselors in primary care clinics across the military health system offer behavioral treatment for insomnia. Called Brief Behavioral Treatment for Insomnia, or BBTI, it involves changing sleep-related behavior during the day to promote restful and lasting sleep at night.

“We can improve our night sleep by changing our waking behavior,” said Dobmeyer.

BBTI generally requires around five bi-weekly sessions of 20-30 minutes.

“Appointments at BBTI typically include monitoring sleep patterns, making changes to evening and bedtime routines, and changing the sleep schedule (sleep and wake times) to encourage better sleep,” she said.

Treatment teaches patients to adopt certain behaviors that lead to better sleep and to adapt other behaviors that may contribute to poor sleep. The aim is to develop an individual recipe for sleeping and waking hours and to change it over time as needed, says Dobmeyer.

Even people without a clinical diagnosis of insomnia can benefit from improvements in sleep-related behavior. She recommends the following eight tips for better sleep:

• Do a regular routine before bedtime so you can relax and unwind.

• Avoid taking naps during the day.

• Avoid physical activity before going to bed; Exercising in the late afternoon or early evening is better.

• Avoid heavy meals, alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco just before bed

• Reserve the bed mainly for sleeping. Avoid watching TV, reading, working, or playing in bed. Over time, these bed activities train the mind and body that the bed is a place of wakefulness, not drowsiness.

• Avoid using blue light screens, such as cell phones or iPads, within two to three hours of bedtime. Blue light suppresses the brain’s melatonin production, making it difficult to fall asleep.

• Go to bed and get up at or just before the same time each day. Maintaining a constant wake-up time is particularly important.

• Do not stay in bed if you have trouble sleeping. Instead, get out of bed and do a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. Then return to bed.

Understandably, on-duty service staff on active duty may not have the space or time to adopt completely healthy sleep patterns. In this case, Dobmeyer recommends adopting as many of these recommended behaviors as possible and talking to your family doctor if you have persistent sleep problems.

Sleeping pills

Dobmeyer warns against relying heavily on sleeping pills.

“While sleeping pills can be helpful for short periods of time in certain circumstances, many sleeping pills have side effects and are not intended for long-term use,” she said.

Often times, the benefits of the drugs only last as long as the patient continues to take them. So people find that sleep problems come back when they try to reduce or stop taking medication, she said.

With behavioral therapies like BBTI, individuals can instead learn to rely on themselves to make the lifestyle changes necessary to improve their sleep. Just as a person can change their lifestyle to begin an exercise program to achieve an athletic goal, so can a person learn to change their lifestyle to retrain their body to achieve restful sleep.

For people who don’t get sufficient improvement from BBTI at the primary care level, MHS patients can seek out a specialist at a behavioral clinic for more intensive treatment called Cognitive Behavioral Treatment for Insomnia, known as CBT-i.

CBT-i includes the components of BBTI plus additional training in relaxation techniques and cognitive approaches to improve sleep, such as: B. Lessening worries or negative thoughts that disrupt sleep. According to Dobmeyer, this includes “teaching patients to recognize thought patterns that negatively affect their sleep”.

The CBT-i treatment usually comprises eight to twelve appointments with a duration of 45 to 50 minutes in a specialized health office.

There are other treatments for physiological sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts again. (These are covered in more detail in later articles.)

For more information, see the DHA A Better Night’s Sleep podcast or speak to your GP.


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