Thiel: Sleep is the most critical part of your healthy day

Whenever I have a new patient come to my clinic I like to spend at least 45 minutes with them, if possible.  I want to get an idea of what it is like to ‘live in their skin.'

Routinely, people will come in with headaches or back pain in search of a solution. Many are surprised at some of the questions I ask them. Some of these questions include how much water do you drink? Who do you have to talk to about your most personal questions? What hobbies do you have? How many meals a day do you eat? What positions do you sleep in?

I believe talking ‘with’ your patient is the most important part of determining if you can help them or not. I fondly remember a surgeon that I conducted my residency with, he said that 90% of your patient’s diagnosis will come from your patient’s mouth. If the Doctor is doing all the talking…then he is not ‘listening’.

Invariably I always ask one of my most important questions: how much sleep do you get a night? Do you wake frequently? Do you wake rested or telling yourself that you will go to bed early tonight?

I am amazed at just how sleep deprived our society is. Many of my patients do not understand the vital importance to allowing proper time for rest and recovery. Sleep is that all important elixir of health. It is in that slumber state that our body repairs itself and recovers from the days events. It keeps your immune system in line and allows us to make healthy, optimistic choices the following day.

How much sleep is enough? There is no magic number. Children and young adults who are growing require more sleep than one who is elderly. This is because the little ones are in a growing state and need more rest.  I personally do just fine on six hours a night. Any less, and my wife puts my suitcase on the steps. Any more than six and I feel lethargic the next day. Play with the time you sleep. Change it in increments of one hour at a time and do so for a period of three days prior to adding or removing an hour. I recommend a good number to start with is 8 hours dedicated to sleep, not watching TV or dosing in the tub.

I often talk about something called sleep hygiene. This is the routine one follows before going to bed. For some it may include a hot bath with Epsom salts, others it may include writing in a journal for 30 minute prior to retiring for the day. In any event it should be a time specifically set aside for you and your debriefing from the day. Simply put, just calm your mind. My father says that the hardest thing to do in the world is to relax, it takes no effort. Yet, only a few can do it. There are many good reasons as to why the sandman may be ignoring you. Some include unresolved issues that are personal to you, a bad mattress, a snoring partner, background sound, etc.

Some major no-no’s to avoid are the following: avoid over stimulation. Don’t drink caffeinated drinks after 2 .pm. Avoid alcohol prior to bed because it robs you of the most important phase of sleep recovery called the REM phase of sleep. Don’t exercise too close to bed time. I never watch the evening news because I find it too upsetting just prior to bed. Don’t go over your finances or bills just prior to sleeping.

One of the most common causes of loss of sleep is that of some form of pain.When the pain is at a certain level, it becomes all consuming. It affects your energy, your immune system, your work and your relationships. If you are suffering from pain then ask for help and get it. Do not accept ‘you are going to have to live with it’.

Your sleep is vital to your health and well being. It is one of the most important things you can do for yourself today. Ask yourself these three questions: Do you wake feeling rested? How much sleep do you get a night? Do you dream at night? If you are not dreaming you may not be entering that all important REM phase of sleep.

Allow time for your sleep. It is the most critical part of your healthy day.



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