A good night’s sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet. Research shows that poor sleep has immediate negative effects on your hormones, exercise performance and brain function
Sleep quality, unlike sleep quantity, refers to how well you sleep. Quality is better than quantity when it comes to sleep. You’re better off getting six hours of high-quality sleep than a longer period of low-quality sleep.
If you want to optimize your health or lose weight, then getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do.
Getting Rid of Substances That Affect Sleep
Many of your clients may be addicted to caffeine, which is readily available in coffee, pills, and soft drinks. As earlier stated, caffeine can interfere with the sleep cycle. Being a stimulant, it causes wakefulness, and should not be taken at least 4-6 hours before the proposed bedtime. In addition, smokers should be advised to not smoke after the late evening, as this may affect sleep (20).
Some clients may be using alcohol as a crutch to help with sleeping. While alcohol can initially serve as a depressant, it behaves like a stimulant after a couple of hours (20). It increases the amount of time a person wakes from sleep and results in a poor quality of sleep. With this knowledge, you can best advise your client that while alcohol can help initiate sleep, it disrupts the sleep cycle. A good suggestion is limiting alcohol intake to less than 2 drinks a day, and not drinking alcohol near bedtime (9).
Creating The Right Environment
The importance of a calm, serene, cool and dark sleeping environment cannot be overstated (21). This will help your client to actually fall asleep. Encourage your clients to decrease noise, or replace external noise such as the TV, with white noise equipment. As previously mentioned the brain receives light signals and processes it as needing to wake up. Using thick curtains that block the sunlight and eye masks should be used to prevent this from happening. Maintaining a cool environment, at the right temperature is essential, with proper ventilation. In some cases, using a firm mattress and pillow may provide the needed comfort. Suggest that your clients remember to change mattresses on occasion, as some mattresses lose their comfort after about 10 years (20).
It may be necessary to suggest the removal of any distraction from the room. If a client has a pet that normally disrupts their sleep, it may be a helpful suggestion that the pet sleep outside the bedroom. Distractions could come in the form of TVs and other electronic devices, as well as any work-related furniture (file cabinets do not belong in a bedroom, for example). The key is training the brain to form an association where the bedroom is seen as a place of rest and sleep.
Step Outside During The Day
The body’s circadian rhythm helps control the sleep-wake cycle. Sunlight synchronizes these rhythms, so it helps to step outside daily (20). This allows your brain the ability to be able to differentiate between daylight and nighttime and release the appropriate hormones as needed.
Developing a Sleep Routine
It is important to prepare for sleep, giving sufficient time for the body to wind down. Discuss with your clients ways to develop a sleep routine that fits their own lifestyle. The routine you map out for them is a strategy that should take place over a span of an hour before bedtime. A good suggestion is taking a warm bath as this helps to cause drowsiness due to the change in body temperature (20)/
Other suggestions include reading, listening to soothing music, meditating or praying. Clients who are married or living with others should be advised to avoid stressful conversations at this time. Caution clients against trying to do any intense work, including working out. High-stress activities lead to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked with wakefulness (20). Creating and maintaining a bedtime ritual will train the brain to associate that ritual with bedtime, and help promote sleep (21). The brain secretes the sleep hormone melatonin 30 minutes before a person’s bedtime.
Sleep When It Is Time To Sleep
“Counting sheep” may not be so great after all. According to the experts, laying in bed and being unable to sleep only leads to increased despair (20). Clients should not spend more than 30 minutes struggling to fall asleep. If our clients are unable to sleep, it may be best to discover a relaxing task for them that increases their fatigue level without being too strenuous. This does not mean working out, as this increases levels of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This, of course, would keep your client alert and awake (21).
Stress management is crucial to getting good quality sleep (21). Figuring out healthy ways of managing stress will help your client develop good sleep hygiene. This may include keeping a “to-do” list of tasks, prioritizing and removing time-wasting activities.
Avoid Looking At The Clock
If you have ever tried falling asleep to no avail, as the clock ticks, you understand the frustration with that experience. It is advisable that your clients should avoid looking at the clock, either when initiating sleep, or when trying to fall back asleep after waking up at night. Again, if your client complains about the inability of falling asleep after waking up at night, encourage them to engage in relaxing activities that will allow them to feel sleepy. It is also important to remember to keep the lights either off, or dim, so as not to activate the master clock in the brain (20).
Use Your Body’s Internal Master Clock
While most people tend to use an alarm clock to wake up, the most suitable way would be to use your body’s internal clock to regulate your sleep-wake cycle (20). Encourage your client to keep a habitual sleep schedule. This helps with guaranteeing great quality sleep. It is important to sleep and wake up at the same time, even on the non-working days like the weekends and holidays. Consistency is key. Maintaining a stable routine is beneficial and helps to stabilize the internal clock.
To Nap Or Not To Nap
Many people see naps as a normal routine to their day. This may be in the form of a quick power nap. This may sound ideal, but for the person experiencing difficulty sleeping, napping may be part of the problem. If your client likes to nap, it may be better to schedule it for earlier in the afternoon and to keep it short. The experts suggest 10 to 30-minute naps, which should be done in the mid-afternoon (21).
Dinner and Late Night Snacks
Having your client provide a detailed eating history may be helpful in correcting insomnia. Looking through this list of intake can be useful in determining if the food choices made by your client may be the culprit. Eating dinner too late – or too close to bedtime – can also affect digestion and cause sleep disturbance. If your client works late and has to eat late, lighter meal selections can be suggested. If the client has late night snack cravings, then choose options that will not affect sleep. A good suggestion is a glass of milk or a slice of cheese. It is not advisable to go to bed hungry or too full. Drinking fluids should be done in moderation, to prevent sleep disturbance due to waking up to use the bathroom.
Exercising Earlier In the Day
Earlier, exercise was mentioned as possibly disrupting sleep if done too close to bedtime. This is as a result of the release of cortisol, which stimulates the brain (21). Exercising earlier during the day can help with one’s sleep drive. When done several hours before bedtime, it can make the individual tired, which leads to increased sleepiness, and the ability to sleep through the night.
Remember your client is an individual and based on their own personal schedule, some of these suggestions may be easier to implement than others. Present the available options to them and tweak your strategies used to suit the individual needs of your client. Applying the various options as a planned strategy should bring about considerable improvement in sleep quality. Nonetheless, some sleep issues may be due to actual sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, and narcolepsy. These will be addressed in the next section.
How You Can Help
When you become a Certified Sleep Science Coach, you will learn how to help your clients dramatically enhance their metabolism, memory, creativity, immune function, hormone balance, hunger management, disease prevention, sports performance, accident avoidance, memory, reaction time, good judgement, surgery recovery, happiness and over 100 additional functions and behaviors.
Our programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.
That’s it for now.