Recently I’ve read a few studies linking poor sleep to Alzheimer’s and dementia. We have heard many times that brain injuries increase the risk of Jason and other survivors suffering from these conditions in the future, and scientists are speculating that that is partially related to the poor sleep they often suffer from. When we sleep our body clears waste out of our bodies and our brains, and if not cleared out these solutes lead to an increased risk of neurological disease.
A more recent study just published that your sleep position can also have an effect on the efficiency of your body at clearing out these solutes. Want to see their recommended position for excellent waste reduction? Check out this link.
In my last post I discussed the sleep routine that works for us. Here are some ideas that work for others suffering from brain injuries:
- avoid caffeinated drinks and treats – especially in the afternoon and evening
- set the temperature in your room between 60-68 Fahrenheit (according to most research this is the ideal range for sleeping)
- ask your doctor about sleep aids (either prescription or natural remedies)
- use a light designed to help with seasonal affective disorder for 15-30 minutes in the morning, the Litebook is often recommended by those with a TBI
- wear glasses that limit the light your eyes take in before bed, similar to these cocoon low vision sunglasses
- limit your bed use to sleep and sex
- if you can’t sleep after a half hour get up and do something boring such as the dishes, do not get out your phone or try something fun. Literally try to bore yourself to sleep! Getting out of bed keeps you from associating it with stress.
- get rid of all lights in your bedroom – some even have trouble sleeping if there is a little indicator light on. You can also try a sleep mask
- a lot of people report improved sleep when they use ear plugs so that they can’t hear their partner or children making noise
- some TBI survivors report improved sleep when they use a weighted blanket such as this. I’ve heard of people using blankets as heavy as 85 lbs but I think it is fairly individual what weight each person can tolerate or find enjoyable.
- if possible open the window, most people find they sleep better with fresh air, but it must be a balance with all the other noise/light/temperature considerations
- meditations before bed – I’ve heard Headspace is a popular app that you can use on your phone until you are able to do it on your own
- keep a notepad beside your bed to record any pressing thoughts -that way you don’t need to focus on them as you are trying to sleep
For more advice check out the Sleep Foundation’s focus on bedrooms.
Today I’m going to write a bit about the sleep routine that works for us. It’s been guided by sleep research and our private OT and what works for us. Take the bits that work for you. Tomorrow I’ll post additional sleep hygiene tips that we haven’t incorporated yet but that others have reported good results with.
The first thing to learn is that there is a lot of research proving that sticking with a sleep routine helps significantly. Going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday helps with your circadian rhythms and internal sleep clock.
8:30 p.m. Tidy the kitchen, make a magnesium drink (we use this kind) and sip it while we do a short yoga routine (6 poses suggested for balance and relaxation by Jason’s OT).
9:00 p.m. Take the dog out and put him to bed. Turn off devices and plug them in in the kitchen or tv room (not bedroom). Head to the bedroom and turn on the fan to keep the room a nice temperature and provide background noise. Put a few drops of our sleepy aromatherapy blend in the diffuser (lavender, cedarwood and orange essential oils found here) and turn it on. Set the alarm for 8:00 a.m. Free time to read real books (screen time can alter melatonin levels and mess up your sleep cycle).
10:00 p.m. Sleep time! Often we won’t even make it until 10 p.m. before we need to turn off the lights and go to sleep. I use a sleep mask to keep the room dark but still have an awful habit of needing cheesy sitcoms to fall asleep. Jason often listens to music to fall asleep and has found techno to help the most because of it’s repetitive nature. Our OT suggested that classical is too stimulating to try to sleep to.
We use one of these alarms that start brightening the room a half hour before it goes off to help with energy levels early in the day. It does seem to make a difference for Jason and he is often waking up before the alarm starts wailing.