With more than one-third of U.S. adults sleeping less than seven hours per night, it’s common to have a strained relationship with sleep. Not getting enough quality sleep can not only leave us feeling moody, foggy, and hungry but it also negatively impacts our immune system, memory, and overall brain health. But sleep problems don’t start at nighttime. What we do all day has a lot to do with how we sleep at night.
Podcast guest, Spencer Richards, Ph.D., is here to offer ways for a better night’s sleep. Spencer works as a full-time clinical health psychologist and specializes in the treatment of concerns that arise in the space where our mental and physical health meet. He holds specialty training that includes insomnia, chronic pain, weight management and emotional eating, chronic illness management, and improving overall well-being.
In this episode, Spencer explains what “good enough” sleep means and how our sleep needs change as we age. He offers guidance for those working night shift and helps us understand how to get out of our body’s way to sleep better. Spencer debunks some sleep myths and sets us straight on what’s fact versus fiction. He leaves us with his top sleep tips so we can all get a better night’s sleep.
- During sleep there are critical processes of day-to-day functioning happening, such as immune function, stress management, memory consolidation, storage of new information and overall brain health, maintaining healthy social relationships (ability to connect and be present with others), and managing a chronic illness.
- Getting “good enough sleep” is an individualized number. It’s whatever amount of sleep a person needs to do life the way they want.
- Our sleep needs changes as we age. We’re more likely to have fitful sleep as we age.
- A person going to sleep without fighting and waking up without fighting is a good definition of healthy sleep.
- Some people learn to function exhausted so that becomes their baseline.
- With nightshift the real problems with alternating schedules (i.e., on days off they switch to days). Our bodies don’t know when to rest when our sleep schedule isn’t consistent. Keeping on the same schedule is training your body to anticipate sleep.
- We don’t need to get into bed the same time each night. If we’re not sleepy and get into bed, you may be awake for hours. Rather, we should listen to when our body is ready.
- You can’t pay off sleep debt. Your body is not a checking account.
- Sleep problems don’t start at nighttime. What we do all day has a lot to do with how we sleep at night.
- Consistent routines during the day are informal signals that impact our sleep appetite and the circadian rhythm.
- Top sleep tips – having a nighttime routine, setting the conditions for sleep, having buffer zone between awake period and sleep time (a window of time with no input, setting the stage for sleep; things that don’t captivate our attention).
- Designate a half hour of time as “worry time” before you end your day (or wherever makes sense for you), make a worry list. It gives your mind permission not to think about it while you’re sleeping.
- The habit of screens in bed is hard to break but it’s a priority.
- A consistent wake up time (within 10 minutes) is vital. Consider the earliest time you get up in the week as that wake-up time.
Spencer works as a full-time clinical health psychologist and specializes in the treatment of concerns that arise in the space where our mental and physical health meet. Specific areas where he holds specialty training include insomnia, chronic pain, weight management and emotional eating, chronic illness management (e.g., diabetes, MS, or other significant and life limiting illnesses), and improving overall well-being.
Spencer views physical and mental health as two sides of the same coin – you’re one whole person. He views himself as working somewhere between a therapist and a health coach, helping his clients identify what feels most important in life, what’s in the way of living how they would like to be living, and getting moving toward the best lives they can live. He practices by the principal that the point of therapy is not needing it. To that end, he is goal-focused and use the best possible treatments available to get moving toward a better life.