Sharon Ufberg, DC investigates patients’ sleep habits and asks practitioners if patients are getting enough information about the importance of sleep on their overall health.

by Sharon Ufberg, DC

Are we regularly asking our patients about their sleep habits? Are any of them getting enough sleep? And are we giving them enough information about the importance of sleep on their overall health? Can we offer more ways to improve their sleep?

When a new patient shares their first story, I always try to keep myself very present. The importance of making those initial minutes together open hearted and attentive listening time has always proved an essential ingredient in the positive first connection as practitioner to patient. Yet as practitioners we have so many areas to cover when a patient sits down for his or her first visit to our office that it is challenging to be as thorough as we would ideally want to be on each patient encounter. Sleep is one of those lifestyle categories that needs more attention. We can all do a better job of discussing sleep and help improve our patient’s sleep patterns. There is practically unanimous consensus that no one affirms, when asked directly, that they regularly get enough sleep. This is of course ruling out the new mom or dad entirely! Many people feel over-worked and stressed out. Others are anxious, over-committed and poorly nourished.

There are so many ways to help our patients begin to turn around their feelings of perpetual fatigue and get more sleep. Start with some of the most basic questions. How comfortable is your mattress and pillow? Is your sleeping room uncluttered and is your bed sacred sleep space only? Patients with any allergies should be using special mattress pads and pillow cases and remove rugs and objects under and around the bed to reduce those sensitivities.

There are many night time rituals and options to suggest that may assist in preparing for sleep. Turning off all electronics thirty minutes before bedtime, taking a bath, having warm caffeine-free drinks, practicing a meditation or breathing ritual, reading poetry or knitting are some suggestions to slow down the brain and body before sleep.

One of the most successful recommendations is to have the patient develop a consistent bed time. Patterning the body to wind down at the same time each day and awake similarly absolutely helps develop better sleep habits.

Asking for patients to write down their dreams each morning before getting out of bed and taking time to think about what the dream was about also creates a focus and internalized attention to the hours spent sleeping.

Take a few moments to explain to patients how essential that sleep time is to regulating their hormone balance and recharging their energy. Many people have no idea how critical the down time is to their overall health and well being.

Then look in the mirror and ask yourself-are you working on getting enough sleep too? It’s after midnight- time for me to go to sleep too.

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