Sleep is difficult for most people, and if you have a chronic illness there can be even more that gets in the way, such as symptoms and side effects from medication. There are some ways, called good sleep hygiene practices, that can help improve your sleep quality that we explore in this episode.
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Welcome to the chronically living and how to make the most of it podcast. I'm Kelsey Harris, a chronic pain warrior here to inspire hope and strength to the spoonie community, get ready to lift each other up and find ways to live the best life possible. Hey, everyone, thank you so much for tuning into today's episode. Okay. So before we get into the topic, I just want to ask if anyone else ever feels like they get imposter syndrome about certain topics. Like even if you are more qualified than most to talk about them, or like you're actually qualified to talk about them. Like if you feel as though you shouldn't be because you could be more qualified or whatever. So I'm just wondering, like how many other people feel this way? I mean, like, obviously, with all our own experiences, with health, we're qualified to talk about, like, our personal health, always. But when I was looking at today's topic and trying to decide what to do, I was like, I really want to talk about sleep hygiene. But it's not like I'm an expert on the subject. But then, I remembered that I'm literally training to be a psychotherapist. Like I'm in my, in my practicum. And I teach clients proper sleep hygiene. So I guess this imposter syndrome is kind of silly. Which, by the way, imposter syndrome is pretty much always silly. Because I can totally speak to all of you about sleep hygiene. If I can teach people sleep hygiene, then why can't I podcast about it? You know, especially because this is a podcast, that's about health promotion. So people with chronic illnesses, including myself can live their best lives and, and I'm literally in a health profession. Okay, so after my very long ramble there, thank you for not shutting me off right now. I say we should get right into this whole sleep hygiene thing. So that hopefully we can all get a better sleep. So I'm gonna admit, first off, that my sleep isn't always that great. You know, I wake up in the middle night to pee, or sometimes I can't fall asleep, or stay asleep, whether it's from anxiety, or like, physical pain, or, you know, whatever, whatever reason, like I'm also all those people who like sleep on my arm, and then I'll wake up in the middle of the night, and it'll be all tingly, which is so uncomfortable. And like, I don't know why I do that. But what I'm basically saying is that sleep problems happen to literally everyone. And what we don't want to happen though, is for these problems to become worse leading to things like insomnia. Plus, we can also make these problems way better for ourselves by just doing some simple things. So for example, if you go back and listen to the episode on pelvic floor physio, Queenie explains how pelvic floor physio can lead to waking up less during the night to pee, because you're training your muscles in that region. That actually reminds me I need to do keegles more often, because that is an important exercise that helps with with that problem. Anyway, yes, we all have poor sleep experiences. And I daresay chronic illness warriors probably have more than the average Joe. Now I want to point out that I do things that I know will help me sleep better, like taking a bath before bed, sometimes having some marijuana, I know. But you got to do what you got to do to sleep well. And we're gonna get into more into some of this in a moment. But I just want you to remember that you're not alone in your sleep battles. And sleep hygiene is something that we can use to help us improve our sleep. So that at least maybe not every night. I don't know if that's really realistic, but most nights that we get a restful sleep. Now it's very possible that some listeners have given up on sleep, or may not even realize that maybe you can't meet them you don't realize that you can improve your sleep. I think now's a really good time for the definition of sleep hygiene. So it is basically these are practices you take around sleeping bedtime routines, other healthy habits that lead to better, more restful sleep. So like specific things you do, basically, you know, you likely have poor sleep hygiene if you have difficulty falling asleep staying asleep, have nightmares or other disturbances during the night and are suffering from like daytime sleepiness. Now obviously, some of this can be attributed to certain illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome. You know, you might have daytime sleepiness, regardless of your quality of sleep. However, if you don't have a chronic illness that is specifically sleep related, and you're still experiencing one or more of these problems, it is likely due to poor sleep hygiene, which is great because that means we can improve it. And also, the last thing I really want anyone to be doing right now is beating themselves up for having poor sleep hygiene, some things you don't know until, you know, right, you guys follow? The idea that we're coming up with right now is that we need to be able to acknowledge when we can do better and start implementing changes, which is literally our plan today. Okay, so let's talk about why sleep hygiene is important before we get into the how the how, how to phase of our conversation, I guess. So it's pretty much a known fact that sleep hygiene has a huge impact on health overall, the more well rested you are, the more alert you can be during the day, and the better your body can actually regulate itself. Both your mind and your body do need to rest. People who sleep better not only have more energy, but typically have better mental health and can do more physically. Kind of all makes sense, right? So mental health wise, it's pretty common for people with anxiety and depression to have difficulty sleeping as well to have poor sleep hygiene. And we all know that anxiety and depression commonly overlap with chronic illness. And then physical health wise your organs and blood pressure actually function better when you're well rested. And you are actually also at a decreased chance of developing illnesses such as diabetes or having a stroke. So these aren't all good reasons to practice some good sleep hygiene, I really don't know what it is, hopefully you guys already. So first, we're going to dive into some mental health a bit more, we're going to look at a study by peach at all, from 2016, titled sleep hygiene and sleep quality as predictors of positive and negative dimensions of mental health and college students. So first of all, the researchers note that approximately half of Americans have poor sleep. So this is likely similar for Canadians, and Europeans. Since culture is kind of similar in those regions, though, I don't want to make that claim for sure, because I haven't actually looked at studies from those different countries as well. So I mean, obviously, there's a lot of different countries in Europe, so the range might be greater as well. But there may be some similarities in numbers is just kind of to keep that in mind. Um, sleep and depression are really bi directional. So as I mentioned earlier, if you're depressed, you're likely getting poor sleep. But if you are getting poor sleep, your risk for developing depression greatly increases. So this is actually a well established link. It's a fact that depression and and sleep quality are bidirectional. So sleep quality also promotes positive mental health. One of the biggest factors of positive mental health is what we call subjective well being, or how we believe ourselves to be doing. better sleep equals better subjective well being. Now what's interesting here is that subjective well being has an effect on our biological processes in our bodies, such as reduced cardiovascular stress responsivity. So we look at our equation again, better sleep equals better subjective well being which equals better biological responses to stress. Now, this study found that sleep hygiene has direct and indirect positive effects on mental health, specifically subjective well being and on depression. This is because good sleep can help us have enough energy in the day to deal with stressful situations as they arise and to regulate our emotions, which is really important when it comes to different mental health problems. The researchers also found a correlation between sleep quality and positive emotions in that sleep is a protective factor against depression. So if you're getting good sleep, you're less likely to get depression even if you're predisposed. I mean, all this kind of makes sense to me. I don't know about you guys. But that's the mental health portion. So let's switch gears and look at physical health, specifically, chronic illness. Now to find a study about chronic illnesses, sleep heart hygiene is a really large search. studies are always broken down into smaller categories. So they'll be very specific to specific chronic illnesses. Which means I basically had to pick something and also to find like full articles, sometimes not easy. And I wanted to make sure I was looking at for articles and not just abstracts. So I ended up picking something from Google Scholar, for us to look at. It's by Walker at all from 2010. And it's called sleep quality and sleep hygiene behaviors, adolescence during chemotherapy. Now, like with many chronic chronic illnesses, people fighting cancer tend to have disease related and treatment related issues that affects sleep quality. I think this is to be expected. And it's probably what many of you listening have experienced, you know, myself as well, right? Like, if you have chronic pain, for example, that can make it difficult to sleep. Or if you take certain medications that they can interrupt your sleep sometimes. And you know, it's very likely you had better sleep before you got sick. On the flip side of this is that good sleep is extremely beneficial for people finding illnesses, especially life threatening ones like cancer. If you're still in adolescence, this is even more so because your brain hasn't fully matured yet. Now, of course, it's still important in adulthood, even once your brain does fully mature. But it's just kind of the study saying that even more critical for adolescence. Sleep is important for people with chronic and critical illnesses because it can sustain the activity of certain immune cells. That's a quote from the article. So this is such as once again, quote that are important in fighting cancer. Now, I don't know exactly how this relates to other illnesses. But I would probably place a safe bet that sleep quality most likely helps our immune responses in general, I would say probably especially those that are under active, like they're saying with with chemo which suppresses the immune system. Though I would be really interested to find more information about sleep and overactive immune systems such as an autoimmune disease, like does sleep do anything to you know, the activity of immune cells in people with autoimmune? I don't know the study didn't touch on it. So I'd have to go look another one, but just some food for thought. So some of the findings from this study are not surprising. adolescent adolescents with cancer, who are undergoing chemotherapy had both worse sleep quality and worse sleep hygiene behaviors and healthy controls, then it's of course harder to engage in healthy behaviors, the more sick you are, so I think that totally makes sense. The other results though from the city are kind of intriguing. Apparently adolescents undergoing chemo actually have better sleep quality than adolescence with chronic pain. Despite that, that the sleep hygiene is better than those with chronic pain. So I think what we have to remember is that when we're talking about health and chronic illness, there are lots of different factors at play, and sleep is just one of them. Okay, you might be thinking, but hey, if that last study is going to is saying, you know, it's gonna be hard to have good sleep, even if I practice good sleep hygiene. Why should I even bother doing this? I'm just gonna say like, that's really a choice. That's up to you. I think that a we need to remember the potential mental health benefits as well. And be it's not really going to hurt you to engage in better sleep behaviors and see what happens like the worst case scenario is nothing will happen. The best case is you'll improve your life, you know? So, you know, maybe that means you have less pain? Or maybe not. Maybe you have a better immune response, maybe not. There's really only one way to find out. Okay, drumroll.. Here are my tips, all of which are evidence based on how to have good sleep hygiene. Number one, try to have a regular bedtime. So keeping the same schedule each night will get you better sleep. Now, obviously, we all have times or step later, you know, especially when we could go out with friends. But for example, last night, I stayed up to like 1130 watching a movie, which is much later than I normally go to bed. So there are exceptions to this rule. However, it is good to be as consistent as possible. So at the very least, maybe on the weeknights, or you know, nights that you go to school or work, you're going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time. Consistent routine. Number two, your bedroom should literally be for bedtime. So what does this mean? So first of all, it should be dark when you're sleeping. And I know that some people do like to have like a nightlight or whatever. However, it's showing that it is better for you to sleep when it's actually dark. I personally don't even like lights from like electronics around, I don't like to see any kind of light, your bedroom should also be quiet. Again, you know as possible, obviously, depending if you live in apartment building, or an extra busy street or whatever, but as quiet as possible. It should also be comfortable temperature because really who wants to be too hot or too cold while sleeping. And it should be a relaxing environment. So part of this relaxing environment includes not using electronics. So whether that's your TV, phone or computer before you go to sleep. The reason is that these are stimulating activities. So I personally haven't kept TV in my bedroom for years. Though I am when I met that I am bad for going on my phone before bed. But it has been shown that not having a TV in your bedroom is actually beneficial. And of course, your bedroom itself should only be for two activities, sleeping and having sex. That's it, nothing else. Number three, there are certain things you should avoid before bed. The first is any large late night meals. So basically eat earlier and lighter to get a better sleep. Again, you know, sometimes it happens for whatever reason you end up eating late. But if you're going to eat late, I would say try to make it light. But yeah, you really shouldn't eat more than a few hours before bed. And then number two in in number three is that caffeine should also be avoided. And many experts actually suggest not having any caffeine after 2pm which again may or may not be difficult for you depending on how much caffeine you drink every day. But really eliminating caffeine intake is important. Nicotine and alcohol should also be avoided at least two to three hours before bedtime. I realized this is also not always possible to happen. But the idea is to make it happen as often as possible. I'm hoping that most of you don't smoke if you have a chronic illness, because it's really really bad for pretty much every illness on top of just health in general. So, and then alcohol I mean, I have a drink, you know, a couple times a week and that's totally fine. But if you and I do notice that if I have it closer to bedtime, I will get up and pee without a doubt. So earlier drinking if you're going to drink. Naps! I would say don't take them if you can help it. They really throw off your ability to sleep properly at night. Plus, they're often taken in places that are bed which of course is important for getting a good sleep. Anything longer than 20 minutes really will impact your sleep at night. Yeah, just anything too late in the day will also impact your sleep. So if you're going to take naps, be very careful with with when you take them and for how long Take them but it is overall better for you not to take a nap if you want to sleep well at night. Exercise also should be avoided before bed. So as much as I am a huge fan of exercise, I always work out first thing in the morning. Ideally, there should be at least three hours between your workout and bedtime if you're going to work out later in the day. But really, you should be working out earlier. If you're not already. So before supper is ideal. And if you're going to drink water before bed, because no one likes to wake up thirsty, yes. So you kind of have to drink water. I think before bed. If you're going to you really need to make sure you're sipping it. So chugging water will inevitably make you get up to have to be little spaced out sips are what's recommended. Number four. So some good things to do before bed. These include relaxation exercises, such as mindfulness meditations, or deep breathing, taking a hot bath because it can literally make you sleepy. Just don't fall asleep in the tub. But this is one of my favorites. Just so you guys know, it's just a really makes me sleepy. So nice steaming hot bath and avoid any stimulating activities. So we mentioned working out for example. But you should also not really do any work or schoolwork. So like Instead, it would be better to read for pleasure. before bed. I think the schoolwork thing is probably why college students really struggle with sleep hygiene because who hasn't fallen asleep with their head no textbook before. All right, and number five. So this is the final step. And it's what you what you need to do when you can't sleep. So first, you shouldn't go to bed until you're actually tired and ready to sleep. When you do go to bed, if it takes you longer than about 20 minutes to fall asleep, it's time to get back up and go to another room. Becauseyou're gonna you're not ready to sleep basically is what your body and your mind are telling you. So and because we don't want to use our bedrooms for anything but sleep, this is why we want to go to another room. And then we're going to do something like relaxing activities such as reading, or again, maybe some mindfulness or something like that. Anything that will kind of make you tired, and is relaxing, will put you in that sleep mode. Then once you are feeling tired, you go back to bed and try it again. And then you may have to repeat this, you know as necessary until you actually fall asleep. Hopefully not too many times. But it's a possibility, right. By doing all of this, you're actually teaching your body and your mind good sleep habits. And that bed is for sleep and not for other things. Conditioning actually does work, folks. The last thing I would add is that if you have been diagnosed or suspected to have a Sleep Disorder, Sleep Apnea or something, make sure you're getting proper treatment for that as you can't really improve your sleep otherwise, like practicing these good sleep hygiene habits won't really help you unless you're also getting that treated. So I really hope these tips will be helpful for you. Of course, I have a quote this week. And it is from Thomas Dekker, who said sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. After all this all I can say is he right or what? I think that based on what we've talked about today, it's pretty safe to say that we need good sleep. So let's start to do what we can to make it happen as often as we can for ourselves. Before I say goodbye today, I do want to mention that I would really love some reviews on iTunes. So if you like the show, whether it's the show in general or like a specific episode, this one or any other one, I would really appreciate if you could take a few minutes just to jot down a quick review. And also like take me on Instagram or take any my guests on Instagram with takeaways from the episodes. It's really great to hear feedback and then again, I can give you more of what you're looking for with this podcast because it's for you. And for now, everyone keeps making the most of it. Thank you so much for joining me today on the chronically living podcast. If you love this week's podcast, please subscribe, rate and leave a review. Until next week, stay strong