Dreaming about a good night’s sleep?

Sleep neurologist shares strategies to improve sleep and overall well-being

By Molly Gluck and Sari Cohen

Photo by Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash

Having trouble sleeping? Look no further. Dr. Naina Limbekar, Assistant Professor of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine within the Sleep Disorders Division, and sleep neurologist at Boston Medical Center, is an expert on the relationship between health, wellness and sleep.

A good night’s sleep is critical for our mental health and well-being, but maintaining healthy sleep habits can be difficult — especially now, when our routines and lifestyles have been significantly shifted by the pandemic. Dr. Limbekar recently took to Reddit to help people experiencing sleep-related challenges. From sleep schedules, to memory, cognition, mental health and more, the top takeaways from her discussion offer resources, tips, and helpful information to improve sleep and overall health.

1) Relaxing your mind and brain is key to getting a better night’s sleep.

Dr. Limbekar shares effective techniques to help us relax before going to bed.

2) There are natural ways to train our brains to fall asleep faster.

From sunlight exposure, to exercise and meal timing, Dr. Limbekar shares different healthy strategies to help us fall asleep.

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3) Avoid screen usage as much as possible before bedtime.

If you do use screens to wind-down, Dr. Limbekar recommends utilizing ‘Night Shift’ mode on your devices to dampen light rays — and keeping your TV screen at least five feet away.

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4) Everyone has an optimal sleep time.

There is nothing wrong with being a night owl, as long as the next day’s commitments and obligations do not prevent you from getting a sufficient night’s sleep.

5) A lack of sleep can affect short-term memory, focus, attention and recall.

Dr. Limbekar shares how revenge bedtime procrastination can impact our daily lives.

6) Sleep deprivation can worsen symptoms of mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.

Children often require more sleep than adults, and it is important for kids to obtain adequate sleep to help promote brain maturation and development.

7) ‘Catching up’ on sleep is an effective way to pay off our ‘sleep debt.’

Dr. Limbekar highlights the health benefits of making up for sleep time lost.

8) If you are getting an adequate amount of sleep at night, try to avoid napping during the day.

If you feel like you need to take a nap, research suggests that the optimal napping time is during the early afternoon for less than 30 minutes.

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9) Sleep can improve pain tolerance.

Pain is complex and can contribute to fatigue, but sleep can help improve our mood and how we perceive pain.

10) Alcohol can negatively impact sleep.

Dr. Limbekar explains how alcohol affects sleep.

11) The best indicator of sleep quality is how you feel when you wake up.

Wearable sleep trackers are helpful, but focus more on how you feel than what your device is telling you.

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Top tips for a better night’s sleep

In closing, Dr. Limbekar shares her top recommendations for improving sleep. Sleep tight!

For additional commentary by Boston University experts, follow us on Twitter at @BUexperts. Follow Dr. Limbekar at @limbekar_naina and the School of Medicine at @BUMedicine on Twitter. Follow Dr. Naina Limbekar’s Sleep On It! podcast at @SleepOnItPod on Twitter and listen to the podcast here.

Cutting-edge research and commentary out of Boston University, home to Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners and Guggenheim Scholars. Find an expert: bu.edu/experts