Health and Wellness

These are the daily behaviors an expert in sleep medicine does to get the best night's rest

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Sleep experts have some of the best knowledge about how to prepare for bed and about how to get satisfying sleep through the night. But, what do their own sleep routines look like?

While most people are lucky enough to get three or four nights of great sleep each week, Dr. Richard Schwab says he sleeps well six out of seven nights nearly every week and wakes up energized the next day. Dr. Schwab is a Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Sleep Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

Here's what Schwab found makes it possible for him to get the best sleep and what you can consider incorporating in your daily practices to optimize your own.

A sleep expert's daily behaviors for good sleep

There are several behaviors that contribute to better sleep in Schwab's daily life.

Here are a few that he's observed:

  • Avoiding alcohol – he typically drinks no more than once a month, and on the days he does drink, he notices a difference in the quality of his sleep.
  • Refusing to do work in bed
  • Only drinking coffee before, or at, lunch time
  • Cutting out stimulating activities like watching TV immediately before bed
  • Exercising, but not too close to bedtime
  • Getting his children to sleep before him, particularly when they were younger
  • Allowing his pets to sleep in his room, but not in his bed

The sleep routine of a sleep expert

Maintain a consistent bedtime and wake time

"I think the most important thing in terms of what I should do for my sleep is go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time, each day," says Schwab.

The sweet spot for him is going to sleep at 11:30 p.m. and waking up at 6:30 a.m., he adds. But some days, including Monday nights due to football, he doesn't go to bed until after his bedtime.

"If I go to bed after 12:30, then I'm totally going to be sleepy the next day," says Schwab.

Discover how many hours of sleep your body needs

"For me, I need about six or seven and half hours of sleep, and if I don't get that I'm going to be sleepy," he says.

"And it's different for everybody. It's hard to figure out how much sleep you really need. But once you figure that out, you should aim for that amount of sleep."

Determining how many hours of sleep you need each night can be done through trial and error, says Schwab.

"If you're not sleepy during the daytime, then you're probably getting enough sleep. But if you're falling asleep at work or falling asleep reading, and you don't have a sleep disorder, then I'm pretty sure you're not getting enough sleep," he says.

Typically, most people need seven and half to eight and half hours of sleep each night, but some can require as many as 10 to 12 hours.

Additionally, on weekends, Schwab allows himself to get a bit more rest by sleeping for an extra hour or two, but he warns that anything beyond that can affect your quality of sleep down the line.

Set the ambience

From temperature to bed size, altering certain elements in his bedroom improved Schwab's sleep significantly.

As a start, he was able to learn that he prefers a cool and dark setting to sleep in. He also realized that getting a larger bed was better for his sleep to accommodate the size of his family.

"My sleep improved once we got a king-size bed," he adds, "If your kids are coming into bed, your wife or husband are moving around in bed, it's nice to have your own space."

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