“I am soooo tired! I can hardly make it through the day. I need to have some lab work checked to figure out what is wrong.”

After Maggi’s blog last week about feeling tired, I started to reflect on myself and my patients, family, and friends in relation to sleep…and it’s not good y’all.

I have heard the above concern more times than I can count. Sometimes we find obvious causes in lab work, but I would estimate more than 80% of the time, we don’t. When I ask how you are sleeping, most say “pretty good.” However, when we get into the specifics of “pretty good,” most of you average 7 or less hours of sleep per night, have inconsistent sleep patterns, and often have interrupted sleep.

Sleep is important and underestimated. It is an essential process our body must have but a burden to so many. American adults typically do not prioritize sleep, especially over other aspects such as fitness/nutrition, work, social life, and hobbies/personal interests. Only 10% of us do. Isn’t that crazy?!

If my husband could chime in on this, he would tell you that over the years, I have not been one of those people who prioritize sleep. He will make sure he is in bed every night to get at least 7 hours of sleep (usually more) while I am up doing the dishes or something else unimportant that really shouldn’t take away from my sleep. I have always admired his discipline to do this. It is so hard for me to balance a life with work, kids, eating healthy, exercising, and self care and I often choose sleep to rob from sleep. Anyone with me?

But…what is the price for doing this?

“I’ll sleep when I die” you say…but what if you die because you aren’t sleeping??  Did you know that in studying rats, researchers have found that sleep deprivation ultimately leads to death?  In humans, findings suggest that individuals who sleep less than six hours a night have a 12% increased risk of an early death when compared to those getting six to eight hours per night.

According to the CDC, six out of ten Americans have a chronic disease and almost half have two-that’s approximately 133 million Americans.  Adults who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to report having a chronic health condition including depression, anxiety, arthritis, diabetes, and asthma.  When we do not get enough sleep, our body does not function like it should leading to changes that negatively affect things such as blood pressure, heart rate, mental status, hormones, and immune system.  Brain scans performed on people who were not allowed a full night’s sleep have also shown amplified activity in the areas of the brain that control fear and anxiety and very little activity in those areas in people who were allowed to have a full night’s sleep.

Woman and dog sleeping in bed

Sleep Hygiene Tips

I don’t want to die prematurely…and I am assuming you don’t either, so what can we do?  The short answer is RELAX.  Relaxing is not sleeping but doing so can get you to sleep easier and improve quality of sleep.  We are so tense running from one thing to the other that we often lose sight of mindful behaviors during the day that help us relax later when it is time to sleep.  Our minds and bodies do not transition from the fast-paced world we live in to sleeping with the snap of our finger so we have to make an effort to make changes that will help us sleep better.  The following are a few practices that are known to improve sleep and daytime fatigue.

Woman doing yoga at dusk


Make an effort to exercise daily or at least move more. Engaging in regular exercise over four weeks has been shown to help improve sleep in those with sleep problems and even in those without known sleep problems.

Good environment for sleep

Improve Your Sleep Environment

Have the same routine every night. Take a bath/shower at the same time, read, and dim the lights or use soft lighting a couple of hours before bed. Limit loud noises such as music, traffic, etc. Sound machines have been shown to help as well.

Woman meditating on bed

Mindfulness Techniques

Meditation helps reduce stress and reducing stress improves sleep. Journaling can also be helpful. This can be especially be beneficial for those who feel their mind races at night when they lay down. Make time to get those thoughts and feelings out before laying down. Practice gratitude. You can do this journaling or in person and it is very soothing to the soul. Eating healthy also aids your body in having the nutrients it needs to get adequate and improve quality of sleep.

Woman using phone in bed

Limit Blue Light Exposure

Reducing electronic use and blue light exposure at least 2 hours before bed (this includes TV, phones, computers, video games, etc) has been shown to improve sleep. More info on how electronics and blue light affect sleep to come!

Avoid or Limit Alcohol/Substance Use

Many substances, including alcohol, are often thought to help with sleep because of the sedative effect they have. However, they can suppress the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep leading to poor quality of sleep.

Lemon balm for better sleep

Supplements for Quality Sleep

In addition to lifestyle changes, some supplements have been researched and found to help with sleep. Consult your healthcare practitioner to ensure a supplement is safe and beneficial for you to take.

  • GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)
  • Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis L.)
  • Magnesium
  • Melatonin
  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
  • Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
  • Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin D

Sleep can be a touchy subject.  The truth is, we can’t get everything we set out to achieve all in one day and what is it really going to hurt if the dishes stay out until morning (other than my pride lol).  As with anything else that we need to nourish ourselves, we have to make time for it.  Make time for yourself to sleep and get good sleep.  Your body will thank you.  I hope you know I am writing this for me as much as for you 🙂

In health,



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