6 Expert Tips for Better Sleep

Wife is texting in the night till her husband is sleeping

Local experts share tips to improve your sleep quality in honor of National Sleep Awareness Month.


On average, adults need seven or more hours of quality sleep each night — but it’s almost certain that all of us will occasionally struggle to hit that benchmark. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of U.S. adults report that they usually get less than the recommended amount of shut-eye.

That’s not good: Poor sleep is linked to several health problems, from an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and lowered immunity to obesity, depression and affected performance at work and school. The positive news is that there are ways to boost what doctors call sleep hygiene, defined by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as healthy sleep habits that help you fall asleep — and stay that way.

In honor of National Sleep Awareness Month, which kicked off on March 1, we looked at six common sleep dilemmas and asked Metro Detroit doctors and sleep specialists how to combat them.

Dr. Gary Trock-Henry Ford

Dr. Gary Trock

Dr. Meeta Singh

Dr. Meeta Singh

Dr. Philip Cheng

Dr. Philip Cheng









The issue: You don’t have a bedtime.

When it comes to lights out, your best bet is to pick a bedtime and stick to it. “Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends,” says Dr. Meeta Singh, a Novi psychiatrist concentrated in the applied science of sleep.

Speaking of weekends, we know those 10 a.m. wake ups sound enticing, but they’re causing more problems than you may think, says Dr. Philip Cheng, a clinical psychologist and researcher at the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Health System. “There’s a strong argument for making sure your sleep and wake schedules are predictable,” he says. “Biological systems like sleep are all on a timer. Your body anticipates certain events at certain times. And when we can be aligned with our internal clock, things go better.”

The issue: Your bedroom is a mess.

If you look around your bedroom and feel stressed out by the books cluttered on your nightstand or the piles of clothes waiting to be folded, it’s time to make some changes. Your room should be a place that fosters rest and relaxation — or, as Beaumont Health sleep specialist Dr. Gary Trock calls it, “a sanctuary for sleep.”

What’s more, it should be a place where the rest of the world fades away. “Keep your bedroom protected from psychological stress, worrying or thinking about your day,” Cheng says. “It’s not [the place] to think about your to-do list.” Aside from decluttering, you can also set the mood for sleep by keeping your room quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature. Between 60 and 67 degrees is a good range.

The issue: You have no bedtime routine.

Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you don’t need a bedtime routine. “When you were a child and your mother read you a story and tucked you into bed every night, [it] helped lull you to sleep,” Singh says. Bedtime rituals serve the same purpose in adulthood: “They prepare you for sleep and help signal the body and mind that it’s time for sleep.”

Singh recommends setting an alarm for 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime, which will remind you to start winding down. She suggests taking a hot shower or bath, dimming the lights, read-ing, or listening to calming music. Meditation and stretching can help, too. “Having a routine that is relaxing before bed is … as helpful for adults as it is for kids,” Cheng says.

The issue: You bring your electronics to bed.

Most of us are glued to our laptops, smart-phones, and tablets during the day, but bring-ing them to bed can hinder the ability to fall asleep. That’s because they emit a type of blue light that Singh says suppresses melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. “Screen time also stimulates the brain, making it harder to wind down,” she says, adding that she recommends powering down all devices at least an hour before bedtime.

If you have to check your email after hours, Trock suggests using a filter that changes the amount of blue light your device emits. iPhones and iPads have a night shift feature that will change the color “temperature” of the screen (the warmer it is, the less blue light you’ll see), while many Android devices also have a blue light feature.

The issue: You ate or drank too much.

Aside from making you uncomfortable, going to bed on a full stomach is disruptive to your sleep. “We have a clock in our GI system and it’s also programmed to rest,” Singh says. “If you eat late at night, it doesn’t get a chance to do that,” and your ability to fall asleep can be affected. (Sleep quality isn’t the only thing that’s impacted by late-night eating — Singh points to research that links bedtime snacking to an increased risk of heart issues.)

Trock also advises skipping that nightcap: “The worst thing you can do is smoke or drink right before bed,” he says. “Cigarettes are a stimulant that tell you to get up, and alcohol might get you to sleep quicker, but as it metabolizes, it wakes you up and that fragments your sleep.” As a rule of thumb, wait about three hours after your last meal (or drink) before hitting the sack. (And, it should go without saying, don’t smoke!)

The issue: You’re a parent.

OK, so we can’t really “solve” this one — you just have to live with the fact that having kids, especially very little ones, can wreak havoc on your sleep. Still, there are ways to cope until your child is old enough to snooze through the night. Singh suggests that sleep-deprived parents trade off nighttime duty, which theoretically allows each person to catch some sleep every other night. And heed that old adage: Nap when the baby naps.


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.