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May 2020 #obsm chat blog: Sleep, sleep, sleep! Those elusive 8 hours

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May 2020 #obsm chat blog: Sleep, sleep, sleep! Those elusive 8 hours

By Dr. Robyn Osborn Pashby, PhD (@RPashbyPhD) and Dr. Kelly Donahue, PhD (@KellyDonahuePhD)


The elusive 8 hours of sleep. For many people, the idea of sleeping soundly for 8 hours a night seems improbable or even impossible. Yet most people need between 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night, most nights of the week. There are many reasons why people don’t get enough sleep, including: insomnia, prioritizing other needs, racing thoughts, medical issues or pain that interfere with comfort, interruptions from noise or other environmental stimuli, and more.

The bad news is that lack of sleep can have serious implications for a person’s physical and mental health and well being. Those who do not get enough sleep have greater risk of disease including Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, and heart disease among others. Further, mood disorders, attention/concentration, and substance use/abuse are common among people who do not get enough sleep. Dysregulated hormonal mechanisms due to sleep disturbance are thought to contribute to the development of these diseases.

The good news, however, is that sleep is something that you can improve. Sleep behaviors, like almost every human behavior, can be changed with thoughtful and consistent effort. But how? There are numerous strategies and interventions that can improve sleep; they can be loosely grouped into cognitive interventions, behavioral strategies, environmental adjustments, and lifestyle factors.

In brief, cognitive interventions focus on reducing anxious thoughts, helping shift mindset to reprioritize sleep, and challenging negative self-talk about sleep. Behavioral strategies encourage building predictable sleep routines and limiting sleep-interfering behaviors (e.g., watching tv or using electronic devices before bed). Environmental adjustments include ensuring the bedroom is sleep inducing and reserved for sleep (and sex) only. Finally, lifestyle factors include avoiding certain nutritional triggers (e.g., caffeine or alcohol) and getting movement and sunlight daily. All of these components, on their own, can be made with micro-changes to one’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Over time, the accumulation of these small changes can support healthy sleep and improved wellbeing.

We’ll be chatting about the importance of sleep and ways to improve it during May’s #obsm chat. We’ll pose the following questions:


1. What are the most common struggles you have with sleep?

2. What strategies have you tried to help you sleep? (Discuss both healthy and less healthy!)

3. What connections/correlations do you see between your sleep and your eating/weight?

4. What are your biggest barriers to getting more sleep?

5. How would your life be different if you were getting more/better sleep?

6. Please share any final tips for improving sleep.


Everyone welcome. Hope to see you there!

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