7 posts tagged “sleep and health”

Getting back in the groove — 5 hacks + hints for routines that work

Posted 2 weeks ago by

Even if you haven’t been a student for several years, back-to-school season feels like the time to get back into a routine. What’s involved in a good routine? And what are the potential health perks of a basic regimen? See what the research shows, and join PatientsLikeMe to swap ideas with other members in this forum chat.

How can routines help?

In the business world, countless books and blog posts have touted the importance of routines when you want to succeed.

Many PatientsLikeMe members have talked about the value of routines in coping with a health condition (log in and check out thousands of mentions of “routines” in the forums).

“For me, having a routine with a chronic condition is a must,” says one member with fibromyalgia. “I don’t have to think what I have to do, it is already in my routine.”

Health-wise, having a regimen can help people of all ages. Studies of preschoolers have shown that family routines (with regulated meals, bedtime and screen time) may improve kids’ emotional health and reduce the risk of obesity.

Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that healthy habits and routines help older people, as well. See their seven-year study of people ages 44 to 84 who significantly reduced their heart-health risks by adopting and sticking with certain healthy behaviors (like being physically active for 30+ minutes most days of the week).

What’s involved in a good routine?

Humans are creatures of habit, so routines offer the structure we crave and can help relieve stress. So what goes into a (generally) healthy routine? And what can you get out of it in return?

  • A solid sleep schedule — with the same bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends — helps regulate your body’s internal clock and sleep more soundly at night, according to the National Sleep Foundation (learn more in our recent write-ups on circadian rhythm and bedtime routines).
  • Healthy, regular meals (home-cooked, if at all possible) mean you’ll have the energy you need and won’t reach for fast food or junky snacks too often. Some people swear by a weekly meal prep day. Research also shows that when we eat (not just what we eat) can impact our circadian rhythm and longterm health. For example, eating over the course of a 15-hour window each day (rather than an 8- to 10-hour span) may throw off your metabolism.
  • Building in time for physical activity and self-care can help boost both mental and physical health. Studies have found that even light exercise is beneficial. Calming activities, like guided meditation and affirmations, or writing or sketching in a journal, are a nice way to start or end the day.
  • Embedding your medication regimen into your daily routine may also help you stick with your treatment plan. One study found that an activity- or cue-based system, such as taking medications while your coffee is brewing or during the weather report on the morning news, works well for some people, rather than just relying on the clock.

Check with your health care providers for personalized advice, of course.

5 hacks and hints for routines that stick

Have you struggled to stick with routines in the past? Consider these fresh ideas and approaches:

  • Stock up on supplies to help keep you on track (just like students do!), such as a daily planner, or colorful sticky notes and pens to jot down reminders and keep tabs on taking medications. You can find lots of nifty gear these days to help you store medshit your hydration goals and more.
  • Turn to technology, such as smartphone alarms and smart home devices to give you a nudge. From wearable activity trackers to apps that remind you it’s bedtime and alarm clocks that mimic the sunrise, there are more and more products geared toward healthy habits.
  • Try weekly routines with catchy names, like “Meatless Mondays,” if you’re trying to cut back on meat, “Takeout Tuesdays,” if you want to limit restaurant meals to just one day a week; “Long Walk Wednesdays,” and so on. Having an achievable motto for each day can keep things fun.
  • Set up cues and mini-rewards for yourself when you’re trying to weave a healthy habit into your routine. For example, if you’re forgetful about taking your meds but you love wearing jewelry every day, put a note in your jewelry box that says, “meds before bling.”
  • Tap into the PatientsLikeMe community! Join the site or sign in to access the following links. In the Mental Health forum, members have been tracking their daily goals together as a community for years. Consider adding to that thread, starting a similar one in your own condition forum or simply posting daily updates on the site to spell out what you’re hoping to accomplish today.

The “best” routine varies from person to person, but ultimately it involves a series of actions that have the potential to become automatic and (ideally) help you live better today. Think: autopilot.

What’s in your daily routine? Have you had success or trouble with getting into good routines? In this forum discussion (psst — join us or log in!), members are swapping ideas and offering support.

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Lights out: Bedtime tips to help you sleep through the night

Posted 4 months ago by

Do you have a bedtime routine? Sleep is a challenge for many members in the mental health community — over 3,000 PatientsLikeMe members say they have difficulty sleeping through the night.

Establishing a regular bedtime and better sleep hygiene is one way to help manage restless nights. Check out some pointers from around the web, and hear from other members about their nighttime rituals.

Setting aside “worry time” and other sleep hygiene reminders

Along with getting into a consistent sleep-and-wake cycle, building these habits into your nightly ritual might help:

  • Set aside worry time— A few hours before you go to bed, take time to address and contemplate all you have on your mind (vs. letting it keep you up later).
  • Go to bed only when you feel tired enough to sleep
  • Prepare your brain and body for sleep with a signal it’s time to wind down, whether that’s a warm bath, dimming the lights or listening to soothing music
  • Stop screens (phones, tablets and computers) an hour before bedtime
  • Skip the book: “I don’t read in bed (that was a hard habit to break — I LOVE reading in bed),” says one member. Beds should be kept for sex and sleep, not reading, watching TV or looking at your phone.

Make your space suit you

  • Research shows the perfect sleep temps are somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your preference. A room that’s too hot or too cold can keep you up at night.
  • Keeping the room as dark as possible helps. Try black out curtains or an eye mask.
  • Invest in a good mattress. Understandably, mattresses aren’t cheap, but the more money you are willing to put into your mattress, the better nights sleep you can expect to get. After months of searching, we recently bought a queen mattress and it is one of the best purchases I have made.
  • Turn that neon alarm clock toward the wall so you don’t know what time it is. Ticking off the minutes can lead to more anxiety about how you’re not sleeping.
  • Some folks swear by white noise machines (with sounds from nature, like frogs or rain). Find the right white noise that works for your, even a fan or air purifier can help.

Long before lights out: Tips to keep in mind throughout your day

It’s not only about what you do right before you hit the hay — see how other actions throughout your day can help (or hurt) your sleep quality at night.

Exercise

Yoga or other types of relaxation exercises, like mindfulness meditation can make falling asleep easier, but some members go for something more rigorous..

  • “Another thing that helps is getting pretty serious exercise (1 hour of heart rate at or above 130, for me at least) five or six days a week,” says a member. “That’s not possible for everyone, but it definitely helps me.”
  • “I made the mistake of going for a run too late in the evening,” says a member. It only served to rev her up. Now she plans exercise well before bedtime.
  • Scheduling your exercise outdoors during the day can help some people. Sunlight helps establish your body’s sleep and wake cycles.

Eating and drinking

Drinking alcohol, which you might think will help put you out, actually has the opposite effect, and after a late night cocktail you can find yourself tossing and turning at 3 a.m.. Here are a few more pointers on food and drink from members

  • One member says skipping caffeine including coffee, tea and chocolate after 12:00 p.m. works best for her.
  • Eating meals at regular times also helps your sleep. “None of this dinner at 10 p.m. stuff, which can keep you up,” says a member.
  • “I know some folks who have had luck with Valerian extract, several drops on a sugar cube,” says another member. (Be sure to check with your doctor before trying Valerian or any other herbal remedy.)

Write it down

  • “When I write by hand in my journal every night, it is easier for me to just ‘word vomit.’ Of course, I can’t read anything I write afterwards, so it’s more an exercise of getting the feelings of the day out so I can go to sleep,” says another member.
  • “Writing is part of my bedtime routine, and includes my ‘gratitudes’ for the day, which I also find helps me wake up with a positive attitude in the morning,” a member explains.
  • You may find it helpful to go one step beyond just setting aside worry time (mentioned above) and writing it down or talking to a friend before settling in for the night.

Interested in joining the conversation about bedtime habits and sleep? Log in or join PatientsLikeMe.

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