As any nurse knows all too well, sleep is really important. Whether you are a nurse working the day shift or the night shift, everyone needs to be alert and ready when they are on duty. And while all nurses understand how important sleep is, getting a good night’s (or day’s) sleep is sometimes easier said than done. Here are some tips and tricks on how to get better sleep, the best sleeping positions, sleeping mistakes, and why sleep deprivation is so bad for us all.
Ways to Help You Sleep Better
- Go to bed around the same time every day – This will set your internal system so your body knows it’s time to sleep. If you stay up later than usual, your body will get a second wind and it will be even hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Avoid caffeine or sugar before bed – Try and avoid downing that energy drink 4-6 hours before you go to bed.
- Exercise or other physical activity – Some moderate activity while you’re awake will help make your body tired so it can rest when you go to bed. So pretty much walking around the hospital and checking on patients covers that.
- Have a routine – Before you go to bed, do the same thing every time. Brush your teeth, wash your face, or read a book. This will tell your body to get ready to sleep (but for real, you should always try and brush your teeth).
- Sleep in a cool, quiet and dark room – The best temperature is between 65-70 degrees for sleep. And keep sound and light out the best you can. These conditions will help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Avoid bright lights – 3 hours before you go to bed, dim the light on your phone and the room you’re in.
- Avoid eating 3 hours before you go to bed – This way your body can digest food and you can sleep soundly.
- Avoid drinking anything before you go to bed – This will help you not have to wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- Take melatonin – Melatonin is a natural sleep aid. It’s a hormone produced by your pineal glade and regulates sleep and wakefulness.
- Put lavender senses near your bed – Lavender is a calming smell and can help you relax and fall asleep easier. Use lavender oil on your pillow case or near you when you sleep.
Sleep Positions that are the Best for Rest
- Sleeping on your back id the best sleeping position – This position helps prevent with back and neck pain and acid reflex. As a bonus, it helps minimize wrinkles since your face isn’t pressed against the pillow.
- Sleeping on your side is also a good sleeping position – This position reduces snoring and acid reflex. It’s great for pregnant women because it is considered the best for blood flow.
- Sleeping in fetal position is not good – This position increases arthritis pain, especially in your neck, spine, and knees. It puts stress on your chest area which can cause breathing problems.
- Sleeping on your stomach should be avoided if possible – Your neck and spine aren’t in a neutral position, which can result in nerve irritation. This position also causes headaches from your head and neck being in the wrong position. One positive, however, is that it opens your airways.
- Using your phone, tablet or laptop before bed – We’re all guilty of it. Some of you may be reading this on your phone in bed right now. Electronic devices emit a blue light that confuses the body and natural circadian rhythm. That’s why it’s best to try and stop using your devices an hour before you plan on sleeping. But if you have to read a few more Game of Thrones fan theories before bed, most phones and tablets have a night mode that produces a warmer light more conducive to sleep.
- Having a nightcap – Alcohol reduces your REM sleep, which causes drowsiness during the day.
- Caffeinated or sugary midnight snacks – These types of snacks and drinks can block your neurotransmitters causing insomnia.
- Leaving the TV on while you sleep – This causes poor quality of sleep and encourages you to stay up too late. Plus it can be very disconcerting to wake up to a random Alf rerun.
- Sleeping with pets – Pets are great, but unfortunately, not for sleep. They can wake you up in the middle of the night and force you into an odd sleeping position.
- Hitting the snooze button – As tempting as it is, hitting the snooze button doesn’t lead to an extra ten minutes of good quality sleep. This extra subpar sleep can actually make you more drowsy later in the day.
- Catching up on sleep – Unfortunately, five hours of sleep each night during the week can’t be made up by thirteen hours of sleep on the weekend. This is a common misconception. Catching up on sleep throws your body off its sleep cycle and causes more fatigue and tiredness.
The Dangers of Not Getting Enough Sleep
- Higher levels of anxiety – Lack of sleep raises your brains anticipatory reactions which raises your overall anxiety.
- Higher levels of depression – Lack of sleep decreases neurotransmitters which regulates your mood.
- Impaired cognition – Sleepiness impairs your memory, your ability to think, and your ability process information.
- Disruption of your natural alarm clock – This leads to poor white blood cell health which then weakens your physical stress response.
- Higher risk of stroke – Lack of sleep negatively affects your cardiovascular health.
- Higher risk of hypertension – Sleeping only 5-6 hours a night increases your risk of having high blood pressure.
- Higher risk of heart disease – When we sleep, our blood pressure drops. So when you don’t sleep, it raises the risk for heart disease.
- Higher risk of breast cancer – Late night exposure to light is directly related to a reduction of melatonin production in your body. This disturbs estrogen production which can promote the growth of breast cancer.
- Higher risk of diabetes – The stress response triggered from lack of sleep releases stress hormones which are related to insulin resistance.
- Higher risk of injury – When you are sleepy and not fully aware of your surroundings, you are more prone to injure yourself.
- Unhealthy cravings – Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry.