This is the time of the year that, even during COVID, we are running around trying to get all of our work done, go shopping, spend time with family and our sleep suffers. This year, in particular, we have all been through so much. Some have lost their jobs and income, some have lost loved ones from COVID. And we are all struggling to maintain some sort of work/life balance while telecommuting and being homeschooling parents. Needless to say, this year has taken its toll on all of us. I know my patients have been struggling with getting a good night of sleep to recharge.
We can't help others unless we help ourselves first and getting quality sleep is one of the best ways to take care of your body. So check out my five tips for getting a restful night of sleep!
1. Wavy Gravy
If you are a current or past patient, you probably know what this exercise is. Wavy gravy is one of my all-time favorite exercises and I give it to pretty much all of my patients. It's one of those exercises that can be done almost anywhere at any time with minimal effort. This breathing exercise massages your organs and nerves. It also brings awareness to the breath and gives you a chance to be mindful and also allows you to get that proper wind-down time. Try laying down in bed and working on the wavy gravy exercise for a few minutes every night before heading to bed.
2. Good Pillows
Having the proper sleeping buddy is so important, and I'm not talking about your pet or significant other. I'm talking about your PILLOWS. Having quality pillows can make even the most unideal mattresses seem comfortable. My favorite pillows are 100% goose down feather pillows and I typically like the medium firmness level. The ones I buy are from Pacific Coast and you can find those here. But if you've found 100% goose down feather pillows at your local Bed, Bath & Beyond, I'm sure those will work great too! Having a pillow that truly molds to your body without pushing back too hard like memory foam or even some kinds of cotton pillows can allow your body to be in a neutral position while you sleep. This will minimize any strain on your body and prevents tossing and turning.
3. Sleep Posture
The position you sleep in plays an important role in your sleep quality. What might feel comfortable in the moment may not be the most comfortable position long term. Remember, you're ideally staying in the same position for 6-8 hours so it better be a good one.
If you're going to sleep on your side, make sure you support your ribcage with a pillow and put another pillow between your legs to support your hips. That simple adjustment alone can make or break your sleep quality. If you want to get super fancy with it, put another pillow under your upper arm's armpit and across your body for something to hug. Make sure the pillow supporting your head is a good height to keep your spine in a neutral position!
If you fancy back sleeping, put a small hand towel under your lower back to give you some lumbar support. Also, put two pillows under your legs to give your knees a little bend. It feels great on your hips, back and knees! Once again, if you want to get extra cozy, fold some bath towels to put under your shoulders to support your neck, shoulders and arms!
4. Cut Out Blue Light
Most of us wind down from work by sitting down on the couch or in bed and watch TV or play on our cellphones/tablets. This means we stared at a computer all day and then stared at a different screen during our leisure time too. That's a lot of exposure to the harsh lights on display screens. Excessive exposure to blue light can cause eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, macular degeneration, damage to light-sensitive cells in the retina and last, but certainly not least, difficulty sleeping. This is because it throws off our circadian rhythms. It tricks your body into thinking the sun is still up and, therefore, you should still be awake too.
To combat this, try avoiding screen time an hour or two before bed. You can also purchase blue light blocking glasses for use during the day or to wear if you must look at a screen before bed!
5. Cherry Juice Concentrate
My old reliable supplement cherry juice concentrate has SO MANY health benefits. I typically recommend it to patients for its anti-inflammatory properties, but today I'll be recommending it for a different reason. Cherries actually contain NATURAL melatonin, which regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Taking 1-2 tablespoons of cherry juice concentrate about an hour before bed can give you that little extra boost of melatonin your body needs to drift off to sleep! Remember, always consult a physician before adding a supplement to your health regimen. You can find cherry juice concentrate on Amazon here, or at most local health food stores like Sprouts, Vitamin Shoppe, GNC etc.
Hopefully, these tips will have you sleeping like a baby in no time! With Christmas coming up next week, you have to be able to sleep through the night. Otherwise, Santa might not come! So try out your sweet new sleep set up and let us know what you think!
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season!
Dr. Justin C. Lin