Resource: Sleep “Say Goodnight to Insomnia” Gregg D. Jacobs PHD

Sleep. The word itself makes us want to crawl into bed and get all hygge. But, in our culture of too much caffeination, too much screen time and too much stress, sleep is for most of us a “not enough.” We’re so busy, so stimulated and so exhausted, yet the one thing that seems to elude us is rest. More people than ever struggle with insomnia, which is loosely defined as trouble falling or staying asleep. Chances are you’ve encountered sleeplessness at some point in your life. Is there anything you can do to grab a few more zzz’s? Knowledge is power, so here’s a little Sleep 101 and some tips to help you have sweet dreams. 

Sleep 101

What is sleep and do we really need it? Sleep is a recurring dynamic biological activity during which our body recharges. Researchers can’t really agree on why exactly we need sleep, but there’s a theory that it’s a survival instinct rooted in a need to lay low when it’s dark outside. Back before electricity and night vision goggles, when the sun went down, we couldn’t really defend ourselves or get any work or hunting done. The solution was to go with the flow and sleep. 

According to most experts, there are Five Stages of Sleep, but, it’s only during deep sleep that the renewal really occurs. 

The Eight Hour Myth

Maybe there’s truth to when you’re grandpa said, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” If you struggle with shut eye, the good news appears to be you’re probably getting more than you think. A device like a FitBit can track this for you, even analyzing how long you’ve spent in each stage. Although the CDC recommends adults aim for 7-9 hours per night, it’s looking more like eight may not be the magic number. Gregg D. Jacobs PHD, author of “Say Goodnight to Insomnia” explains that “it is clear from the research we have explored that your daytime performance will usually not suffer significantly if you obtain 5.5 hrs.” 

So, just how much sleep do you need? Jacobs says to ask yourself:

  1. Do you need alarm clock to wake up?
    2. Do you habitually sleep late on weekends?
    3. Do you frequently fall asleep during meetings, lectures, boring or sedentary activities or while watching TV?

Answering “yes” to these questions means it’s probably a good idea to work on getting a little more snooze time. 

But, wait – insomniacs do exist

If you’re someone who really lives with insomnia, you might have already tried adjusting your sleep and wake times, berating yourself to try harder, reading or watching or tv in bed, taking naps, using alcohol and caffeine or reducing your activity. You might even have tried sleeping pills, but all of these methods appear to fail to treat the cause of your tossing and turning. Any improvement is likely temporary, or worse, may cause dependency.

You’ve got to change your mind to change your sleep

Insomnia appears to have emotions, thoughts and behaviors at root of its very core. Therefore gaining control over things like stress can be really helpful to mitigating sleeplessness. Exercise, yoga and meditation are all great endeavors proven to decrease stress, but actually changing your thought patterns is super effective too. According to Dr. Jacobs, “Negative Sleep Thoughts” like these can all sabotage a good night’s sleep:

“I didn’t sleep a wink last night”
“I must get eight hours of sleep”
“I’m dreading bedtime”
“I feel miserable because I didn’t sleep well.”
“I can’t sleep without a sleeping pill”
“How will I function today after such a horrible night of sleep?”

Try replacing those with “more accurate, positive thoughts about sleep and you will be less anxious and frustrated about insomnia. You will relax and sleep better.” It’s really about adjusting your mindset and the language you use around sleep. Find your inner Stewart Smiley when you try these affirmations Jacobs recommends:

“I always fall back asleep sooner or later.”
“I need less sleep than I thought”
“ My sleep is getting better and better”
“My sleep will be improving as I learn these techniques”
“If I get my core sleep I’ll be able to function during the day”


Sleep scheduling:
Besides positive self-talk, there’s no getting around trying to keep a regular sleep schedule. You’ve probably heard the buzz phrase, “Sleep Hygiene.” This is the routine that’s key to you sleeping well on the regular. That means getting out of bed around the same time every day including weekends, regardless of how or how much you actually slept. Dr. Jacobs recommends staying within 30 minutes of this time. We recommend veering from it as little as possible. Additionally, he suggests getting into bed close to your actual bedtime as you can to reduce the amount of time you “try” to fall asleep. In other words, if you’re writing mental grocery lists and worrying about work for more than 20-30 minutes, you’ve gone to bed before you were ready to actually fall asleep. Instead of waiting it out, get out of bed and go into another room to engage in something relaxing like reading. Keep doing this until you actually fall asleep. Also, if you take a siesta, limit your nap to under 45 minutes and get it done prior to 4pm. A dark and cool bedroom specifically for sleep and sex only helps too.

Exercise – the key to better sleep!

You knew we were going to go here. Exercise is essential for better sleep and health. Whether you do yoga, bootcamp, pilates, run, spin, walk, hike or do gym workouts, good sleepers are typically active. Heck, even cleaning the house or doing yard work counts! Here’s the science from Dr. Jacob’s book: “Exercise improves sleep by producing a significant rise in body temperature, followed by a compensatory drop a few hours later. The drop persists for two to four hours after exercise, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. These effect of exercise on sleep is greatest when exercise occurs within three to six hours of bedtime. Less than three hours before bedtime, can make it more difficult to fall asleep – body temp may be too elevated.” Got it? Sounds like an after-work fitness appointment should be on your calendar for a good night’s snooze! 

You are what you eat for sweet dreams
It’s easy to get caught in web of using caffeine to deal with lack of sleep.  We’re not going to tell you to give up coffee, just limit it to one to two reasonably sized cups in the morning. You should probably avoid that Venti Starbucks after lunchtime because its effects can last six hours or longer. Remember that caffeine is found in chocolate, tea and cold medicine too, so sip caffeine-free options and be aware of what you’re putting into your body.

It’s also natural to think that a glass of wine or a cocktail will help lull you to bed, but in reality alcohol has a detrimental effect on your pillow time. It makes sleep lighter and suppresses the later stages of the sleep cycle that are so key for rejuvenation.

There are some foods that may or may not be helpful to promote sleep. Dr. Jacobs promotes complex carbs (like whole grain bread) for their mild sleep enhancing effect through their increase of the sleep-promoting hormone serotonin. He says meat – which is high in protein – “inhibits sleep by blocking the synthesis of serotonin making us feel more alert.” Turkey may be the exception here, with its high levels of relaxing tryptophan.

Dr. Jacobs recommends eating a high carb snack (low in sugar) and avoiding protein immediately before bed. We think a half to a full serving of sprouted whole grain toast, old fashioned oatmeal or crackers with a light smear of nut butter (think 1 tsp) is perfect. 

 

Ready for bed? We thought so! Remember that being active is vital for sleep hygiene. Keep up your fitness routine right at work with on-site classes from Goomi Group and time them perfectly for a good night’s sleep by scheduling post-work workouts. You can also bring in a Lunch and Learn to educate the whole office on getting some much needed rest. Learn more at GoomiGroup.com. Here’s to sweet dreams!