• Dr. Todd Hurst, MD

5 Tips To a Better Sleep

Welcome to Dr. Hurst's Health Questions Answered.

Sleep is One of the "Fundamental Four" Necessary to Lower Your Blood Pressure.

“Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care…

Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,

Chief nourisher in life's feast.”

~William Shakespeare

The importance of adequate sleep may be the most under-recognized factor in good health. Although sleep is essential for good health and well-being, getting enough sleep is often viewed as a weakness in our “There’s time for sleep when I’m dead” society. The problem? Without adequate sleep; death will come sooner than you may like.

Virginia is a patient of mine that I first started seeing about 15 years ago. Her blood pressure was out of control despite 5 medications. Virginia had reasons to have high blood pressure, she was obese (BMI 38 kg/m2) and sedentary, but her evaluation for other causes of high blood pressure was all normal.

Virginia’s husband laughed out loud when I asked her if she snored. He was having a hard time sleeping because of her snorin

g. He also noted it was common for her to quit breathing periodically throughout the night.

Virginia was the first patient to teach me how important sleep apnea is to treating high blood pressure. She was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea and started on treatment. Her sleep improved as did her energy. She started exercising and improved her diet which led to a 40-pound weight loss! Ultimately she only needed a small dose of one medicine to keep her blood pressure in a good range.

Poor sleep is rampant! Recent studies have shown people are sleeping less and having more difficulty going to sleep and staying asleep than ever before. Almost 50% of us feel like we aren’t getting enough sleep.

A good night’s sleep not only helps you feel better, it also helps you avoid serious health problems. While an occasional sleepless night is probably not harmful; chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and depression. Shockingly, studies have also shown that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to early death!

One of my first questions for a patient who needs to lower their blood pressure is often, “How is your sleep?” I get some quizzical looks at first, but I’ve learned if they aren’t sleeping well, it will be difficult to do what is needed to improve their blood pressure with activity and diet. Whether you want to lower your blood pressure, lose weight or achieve just about any health goal, adequate sleep is essential.

Here are the things my patients have found to be most helpful in improving sleep.

5 Tips for Better Sleep

1. Make it a priority. With busy lives and long to-do lists, sleep can seem like an unnecessary luxury. Don’t be fooled! Adequate sleep will allow you to be more efficient and productive while improving your health and mood.

2. Set your sleep environment. A soothing sleep atmosphere including comfortable mattress, pillows and blankets with a dark, cool and quiet room can make all the difference. Don’t let the bedroom turn into the family room or your office. And if your pets are keeping you up, it may be time to move them out of the bedroom at night.

3. Make a bedtime routine. An inviting bedtime routine such as reading (non-work related) or perhaps meditation, relaxation therapy or prayer before bed is a powerful sleep aid. You may also benefit from a consistent bed and wake time.

4. Assess your caffeine use. Some can drink caffeine up to bedtime and have no problem falling asleep. Others are slow metabolizers and caffeine, even early in the day, can negatively effect sleep.

5. Screen time. Take a break from all electronic screens (smart phone, computer or television) for 30 or 60 minutes before bed.

If you have tried all of the above and still have problems, contact your doctor to make sure there are no other issues contributing to your sleep difficulties. It is also important to talk to your doctor if you have signs of sleep apnea such as loud snoring, episodes of not breathing during sleep or excessive daytime sleepiness.

And The Beat Goes On!

R. Todd Hurst, MD, FCCC, FASE

R. Todd Hurst, MD,FACC, FASE

Center Director for Cardiovascular Health

Banner University Medical Center-Phoenix

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