Dr Ron Ehrlich talks with radio host Brent Bultitude about sleep hygiene.
Dr Ron: People come into the surgery, obviously thinking of oral hygiene. Of course we take the opportunity to check whether they’re brushing and flossing, and we’re also checking on how they’re sleeping as well as other general health factors.
We see our patients every three to six months. This is an opportunity to ask three fundamental questions about sleep, which affects so much about our overall health.
Is it easy for you to fall asleep at night?
Do you wake up through the night? If you just wake up and roll over and go back to sleep, that’s different from waking up and going to the bathroom.
Do you wake up feeling refreshed? And part B… do you wake up with a headache?
Sleep Hygiene Is Important
Sleep hygiene is about making sleep an important priority in your day and a valuable part of your daily health routines.
When your dentist or hygienist ask questions about sleep, your answers give insights as to whether there’s a sleep problem which can also point to other health concerns.
“Sleep is your built-in non-negotiable life support system and it’s free.“
~ Prof. Matthew Walker
University of California
Professor of Neuroscience & Psychology
Author ‘Why We Sleep’ (International best seller)
Sleep is not only accessible and cheap but actually impacts every aspect of your life, in quantity and in quality. Be sure to make the most of your sleep!
Sleep Research Brings New Insights
Sleep has become the subject of expanded research in recent years. And it just takes a little bit of time for the findings to filter to the professions and the community.
Dr Ron: I’m often surprised how many people are on anti-depressants, but few practitioners are really exploring the quality and quantity of these patient’s sleep.
Brent: When you work a midnight-to-dawn shift on the radio, you get a lot of people that ring you and they invariably say they can’t sleep. It seems to be an almost epidemic level.
According to the CDC in the US, over one in three people aren’t getting enough sleep. It is a significant problem. Statistics in Australia are similar – a large proportion of our population isn’t getting enough sleep.
Breathing Well Supports Good Sleep
Good breathing, while you’re asleep, is essential too. It’s one thing to get enough sleep with your head on the pillow for the required seven to nine hours. But when you put your head on the pillow, you’ve also got to be breathing well while you’re asleep.
Sleep-disordered breathing conditions are now much more common. The most common problem experienced is snoring, and another one is obstructive sleep apnoea.
Is Your Approach To Sleep Serious Enough?
The most important step to take for good sleep hygiene is to make sleep a priority in your day. You need to take a long-term approach to get good sleep consistently.
There is no need to get obsessed with sleep as this can actually stress you so that you can’t sleep. Take a step back, don’t be too hard on yourself. Recognise sleep is a really important part of your life. And eventually, with good sleep hygiene, you will have a consistently good night’s sleep.
The Importance of Routine When It Comes To Good Sleep Hygiene
Routine is so fundamental for our brain. Dr Ron recounts when he had his first daughter…
“The paediatrician gave us what was probably the best bit of advice any health practitioner has ever given me throughout my entire life. And she said you have to teach your child to sleep in the first year of life.
And routine, routine, routine is the key.”
This wasn’t just good advice for a newborn baby!
There’s something wonderful about routine for all of us. The sun comes up every morning and goes down every night, it is so valuable to support the routine for our bodies. There’s a body clock we have inside ourselves, a circadian rhythm. This built-in body clock is a really important driver for sleep.
Going to bed at a similar time every night and waking up at a similar time every morning is a really important part of a good daily routine.
Sleep is not only accessible and cheap but actually impacts every aspect of your life, in quantity and in quality. So be sure to make the most of your sleep!
Create Your Ideal Sleep Environment
The atmospheric conditions of your bedroom are critically important to getting a good night’s sleep.
Your Ideal Sleep Environment Checklist:
Technology should be away from your head – at least two metres away, out of the room.
Don’t be checking all your devices before you go to bed!
Ensure the environment in which you sleep is dark and cool.
The ideal sleeping temperature is around 18-20 degrees centigrade, or even a little bit cooler.
Get your bedding and yourself organised so that you can maintain a comfortable temperature.
Ensure you can have a quiet, peaceful sleep without background noises.
Ensure there are no dust mites and mould in the bedroom.
These can cause all sorts of allergic responses and makes it difficult to sleep soundly.
Put your bedding out in the sun regularly.
The sun is a wonderful cleanser and one of the best killers of dust mites.
Wash your bedsheets and pillow cases once a week.
Use warm or hot water and you hang them out in the sun if you can. We shed skin while we sleep and that’s why dust mites love feeding off our dead skin.
Ideally, vacuum the mattress once a month to collect the dust mites, using a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner.
Replace pillows regularly.
Your bedroom environment is where you spend eight hours a day, a third of your life in bed, so it is worthwhile investing in good bedding.
Avoid alcohol before bed for the best sleep.
It may make you go to sleep easier, but it definitely will not get you into the deeper levels of sleep that you need to have.
Sleeping on your side is best. Sleeping on your stomach is a real problem for your head, neck and jaw muscles, and also for your airway. And sleeping on your back can allow your lower jaw and tongue to drop back and block the airway and cause you to either snore, which is a restriction of the airway or completely block your breathing, which is what is called an apnoea.
Thanks to Brent Bultitude for Hosting Dr Ron on 2HD Radio