Tossing and turning at night isn’t ideal for anyone. But when you’re living with Multiple Sclerosis, a little bit of lost sleep can leave a significant impact. So how do you improve your time in bed and wake up ready to start your day? There are some key factors at play and specific ways to work on them.
7 Healthy Sleep Habits
1. Set the alarm – to sleep. Ok, you might not need to be that strict with it, but you need to have a set schedule for bedtime, even on the weekends. Consistency in your sleep is the first step to improved sleep. And since we want to be consistent…
2. Have a set wake up time. Even on the weekends. Going to sleep and waking up at a consistent time strengthens your “sleep muscles.”
3. Use naps sparingly. If you need to nap, by all means, nap. But try to limit your time asleep to a half an hour. Let’s be honest here, a 3 to 4-hour nap isn’t a nap; it’s sleep. And when you sleep in the middle of the day, your quality of sleep at night will suffer.
4. Move every day. Sometimes people tell me, “Aaron, I’m not sleeping well already, I’m too tired to exercise.” I get it. It feels counter-intuitive. But trust me, getting into a routine of regular exercise will do wonders for your rest. Activity consolidates sleep and improves energy levels. And believe it or not, regular exercise will help you accomplish habits 1, 2 and 3.
5. Watch your water. If you want to sleep well, decrease your fluid intake during the second half of your day. Many people will drink fluids right up until they go to sleep. When you do that, it’s no wonder the call of the bathroom is rousing you out of sleep.
Tip: Drink most of your beverages in the first part of the day, do a hard stop after dinner so that you’re not going to get a full bladder while sleeping.
6. No nightcaps allowed. Stay away from caffeinated drinks and alcohol in the evening. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it will keep you up.
Alcohol might sound like a great way to unwind, but it will wear off. So while it will put you to sleep at first – it won’t be restful sleep.
7. Your bed should be for two things: sleep and intimacy. Your bed isn’t where you read, watch TV, or do homework. If you’re doing this, you’re training your body and mind that your bed is another place to spend time awake.
It can be a hard habit to break. Here’s my best advice: If you’ve been in bed for 20 minutes and can’t fall asleep, get out of bed. Sit at the foot of your bed or in a chair and do something relaxing, like reading a book or magazine. Don’t get on your phone or computer. The light from devices will stimulate your pineal gland and wake your brain up.
If you get back in bed and still can’t sleep after another 20 minutes, get back out of bed and do something relaxing – again. It might feel frustrating to do this, especially if you’re watching the clock and counting the hours until when your alarm will go off. But what you’re doing is training yourself to sleep when it’s bedtime. It might take a few days or a week, but it will be worth it.
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Dr. Aaron Boster is a board-certified clinical neuroimmunologist specializing in multiple sclerosis (MS).
Dr. Boster knew he wanted to become an MS specialist since he was 12 years old when his uncle was diagnosed with the disease. This personal connection and experience inspired him to treat MS patients and their families differently. His relentless focus on not just patients, but also their families, means they receive individualized and longitudinal care.
He received his undergraduate degree from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio and his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Boster completed his internship and neurology residency through the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He continued his training at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, where he completed a fellowship focused on clinical neuroimmunology and multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Boster is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and is a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
When he is not treating patients, Dr. Boster enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, weightlifting and playing chess. A self-proclaimed “foodie”, he also likes trying new foods.