Ditch the Zombie Life and Feel Human Again; Acupuncture and Self-Care for Improved Sleep Sleep Series: 3 of 3

Self-Care for Sleep

Now that you are ready to ditch the zombie life and try acupuncture for improved sleep, you might wonder how to help build upon those treatments for even better results. Good sleep hygiene is essential as there are so many factors that can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Experts agree the below list is a good initial start to get your sleep hygiene on track:


8 Sleep Hygiene Tips

Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Waking up and going to bed every day of the week at the same time, including weekends, will reinforce the sleep-wake cycle of your body. Do your best to avoid deviating from the schedule for more than one hour as your circadian rhythm function is a set loop. 

What you eat and drink plays a role in sleep. Too much or too little food before bed can cause discomfort and may keep you awake. Avoid the stimulating effects of caffeine and nicotine as they take hours to wear off and disrupt quality sleep. Be cautious with alcohol use. Alcohol might make you feel sleepy, but it disrupts the quality of sleep and can negatively alter melatonin production and other hormones.

Bedtime routines alert the body that it is time to start winding down and prime you for sleep. Starting your bedtime routine at the same time every night and performing calming activities in the same order each night signal and groom your body and brain for rest.  Ideas for bedtime routines might include brushing teeth, washing your face, laying out clothes for the next day, as well as relaxation techniques such as reading or meditation. This is the time to avoid the use of light-emitting screens such as TV, tablets, and phones. Using these devices might make us feel sleepy but actually stimulate the brain, which is not conducive to excellent sleep. 

Creating an ideal sleeping environment might take planning to establish a cool, dark, and quiet place. Consider updating your room with room-darkening shades, a fan, or purchasing earplugs, which can aid in creating a suitable environment. Ideal sleeping temperatures have been recommended between 60-68°F.  A general rule of thumb is that warm feet and a cool head induce sleep, so feel free to add a cozy or weighted blanket to your bed.

Including physical activity regularly, yet avoiding doing so too close to bedtime, can promote improved sleep. Taking a nap may sound glorious to the sleep-deprived zombies among us; however, you should avoid napping too close to bedtime.  Also, avoid napping longer than 30 minutes, as it has been determined to interfere with sleep.  

Stress management and relaxation can help improve sleep. Common tips include: writing down unresolved concerns or worries to be dealt with the next day, setting priorities and delegating tasks, getting organized, and meditating. Keep a note pad near your bed and use it to jot down details you remember while trying to fall asleep. It can help avoid the stress of remembering in the morning or needing to get out of bed to take care of a task. Cover that alarm clock and do not peak at it or your phone. If you are prone to lying in bed and tend to calculate how much sleep you might get before the alarm rings, stop looking. Peaking at the clock can be anxiety-producing and further disruptive to your sleep.

Sometimes acupuncture and good sleep hygiene are not enough, and one needs to contact a medical doctor to identify and treat any underlying causes of sleep issues. If in doubt, contact your medical doctor to rule out sleep disorders. 

Using sleep technology such as trackers, smart beds, and other sleep monitors may be helpful. They can help you discover trends allowing you to make adjustments to get a better night’s sleep. For some, this data might be stress-inducing, and therefore one needs to determine if the information is helpful or harmful to your sleep.  If you fall into this group, you might wish to continue to monitor your sleep, but consider reviewing it monthly instead of daily.  


Giving Acupuncture a Try

Give acupuncture a try when you are ready to abandon the zombie life and start with a few of the sleep hygiene tips. Expect to commit to acupuncture as most studies reference two sessions per week for no fewer than five weeks. It is not surprising that studies referencing success rates with acupuncture have a period of dedication in which improvements are gained. Acupuncture is a cumulative process. Just like a prescription or physical therapy, you may notice improvements early on, but the dedication in finishing the series is where the long-term gains are discovered. Before you know it, you will be feeling human again.

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Dr. Nicky Rieks, DACM, L.Ac. Dipl.Ac.

Dr. Nicky Rieks, DACM, L.Ac. Dipl.Ac.

Dr. Nicky is a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine and a licensed acupuncturist in the state of Minnesota. She treats people of all ages, and for a diversity of health issues, including pain relief, injuries, stress, anxiety & depression, digestive and respiratory complaints, fatigue & sleep issues, skin conditions, fertility and women’s health.