Finding Your One Thing: Getting Enough Sleep and Keeping a Schedule

As many of you know, sleep tests are primarily looking for sleep apnea. Yes, they do test for other things, but primarily for sleep apnea. Through my years working as a sleep technologist, I recognized insomnia outside of sleep apnea. Yes, sleep apnea can cause insomnia, but there are other triggers as well.

So I created a list of ways to help with insomnia. But when I first started educating people on these principles, I would unload 15 ideas on them. I failed to recognize this might feel overwhelming and cause the patient not to get started.

Lesson learned from my patients

I began to encourage them to try 2 to 3 principles from my list and add others once the initial principles became staples. But as I reflect back, maybe 2 to 3 principles were even too much. I should have started at one.

Why just one, you might wonder? Aren’t I compromising, you may think? I can understand that perspective, but perhaps success on one principle might be the cornerstone to do the rest.

Choosing your one thing

I will create a list of good sleep hygiene principles, but as you read through them, don’t think about them all at once...rather, think to yourself, what’s my one thing?

In other words, what’s one thing on my list that seems simple and will help improve your sleep hygiene?

Getting enough sleep

The National Sleep Foundation says that adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep.1 Yes, I understand that some people are exceptions to that rule, but most aren’t. You might think, I can’t sleep 7 to 9 hours; I only sleep 4. I understand that thought process, but here’s a couple of ways I’ll push back on that.

How much sleep did I really get?

First, people sleep more than they think they do. Countless times when running sleep studies, I’ll need to enter the room to fix equipment, and the patient will be sleeping. I’ll need to wake them needing to fix the equipment, and I’ll say, "Sorry I had to wake you." Many times the response is, “I wasn’t asleep,” despite the brainwaves clearly showing they were.

Making time for sleep

The second reason would be time allotment. Even if you aren’t sleeping well, it’s important to make the time for when you do begin to sleep well. In other words, you are preparing for what’s to come. Sleeping well is essential for your health in many ways.

Maintaining a sleep schedule

Just as it’s important to create a space in your schedule for 7 to 9 hours of sleep, it’s equally important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Why? Because our body has a biological clock, something internal that helps us shut down at night.

If that biological clock isn’t consistently going to bed and getting up at similar times each day, your body won’t sleep as well as it should. Let’s say you go to bed 2 hours before your normal bedtime – what’s bound to happen? You’ll struggle to sleep. Why? Because you're operating outside of your normal rhythm. Besides, you never miss your morning coffee...this is equally important to that.

This is the first of several articles to come. Is either of these suggestions your one thing? Please comment below!

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