3 Ways to Improve Squat Form | Chesterfield Chiropractor

The need to improve squat form is a necessity as a sports chiropractor and strength and conditioning specialist.  It needs to be addressed whether you compete in cross fit or you find yourself squatting down consistently throughout the day for your job.  This article will discuss some common squat mistakes and how to improve them.

Things to Consider When Trying to Improve Squat Form

Do you buy into the myth that there is one, perfect way to squat?  Have you ever wondered why some people can squat easier than others?  One of the biggest mistakes I see in the fitness industry is not understanding that one’s anatomy should dictate their squat form.  And I hate to say it, not everybody is meant to be an effective squatter.  I am one of those unlucky individuals!  I have a short torso with longer femurs which creates a disadvantage in squatting.  It’s physics!  Check out this Article written by Dr. Ryan Debell of the Movement Fix for more information on the effects of anatomy on squatting mechanics.

Tip #1 to Improve Squat Form - Consider Sagittal Alignment

A simple way to consider the sagittal plane is to draw a line straight down the middle of the torso when looking at a squatter from the front.  Ideally, we should be able to squat up and down without deviating away from this line.  This becomes harder to do with the more weight you add.  There are three key areas that I look at when it comes to sagittal plane stability:

The anatomical planes of the body
  • Knee Alignment (bowing in or out)
  • Pelvic/Torso Weight Shifting
  • Foot/Ankle Pronation or Supination

As stated above, these faults may be due to anatomical variances or orthopedic conditions which makes a clinical evaluation even more important!  However, let’s just assume that these things are present due to weakness and/or motor control difficulties (the brain struggles to execute the right movement).  I like to use a technique called Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT) to trick the brain into the proper pattern.

Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT) to Improve the Squat

RNT is a simple technique.  It involves creating a stimulus that tries to push/pull a body part into the WRONG direction.  This requires a concerted effort to offset the bad position which leads to better firing pattern within the muscles.

Increased knee valgus while squatting
Improving squat form for knee valgus using a band

It is particularly helpful when your knees cave inwards (valgus) during the squat motion.  The goal of the band is to pull the knees inwards which requires more glute activation to maintain a neutral position.  This is a helpful technique any time you struggle to feel glute activity.

Weight shifting during a squat
Improving squat form for weight shifting by using a band

This technique can be applied in the same fashion for a weight shift problem.  Simply wrap a band around the torso and pull into the side of shifting.

Applying RNT to the foot and ankle is a little bit more complicated.  I first teach how to activate the foot.  Check out the video below on how to incorporate tripod stability.

Increased foot supination during a squat.
Improve squat form for increased supination using a band

I will now place a band under the big toe with the other end anchored by a weight.  As soon as my foot supinates (rolls outward), the band will snap away.

It’s all about creativity when using RNT.  There is no right or wrong way, only more effective ways.  Playing around with the approach will uncover better methods as you go along.

Tip #2 to Improve Squat Form – Maintaining a Neutral Spine

Everybody has heard of the “butt wink” when it comes to squatting.  It involves excessive lumbar flexion (rounding of the lower back) during the bottom part of the squat. 

Butt wink during a squat

It is certainly true that we do not want excessive flexion on a weight loaded lumbar spine.  However, I tend to see a problem over-correcting for the butt wink which results in over-extending the spine.

Over extension of the lower back when squatting

Extension/Compression Stabilization Strategy (ECSS)

Rich Ulm, DC, CSCS coins the dysfunction seen above as the Extension/Compression Stabilization Strategy (ECSS).  A perfectly functioning core will involve co-activation of the entire abdominal wall during movement.  We call this Intra-Abdominal Pressure (IAP).  IAP is created by the diaphragm and activates the core in an inside-out fashion.  For the record, the core is more than just the abs!  I had to get that off my chest.

Anti-Extension Exercises

With ECSS, the lower back muscles (erectors) tend to dominate the pattern and can lead to lower back pain, lower back tightness, and sub-optimal lifting patterns.  I like to use an anti-extension approach with exercise to help get the athlete to resist spinal extension during movement.  Below are some examples.  Other common anti-extension exercises are front planks, dead bugs (somewhat in the video above), and bird dogs.  Other ways to prevent lower back injuries can be found HERE.

Tip #3 to Improve Squat Form – Optimizing Torso Angle

I am sure many of you have looked at your peers at the gym and wondered how the hell they can squat “ass to grass” while keeping an upright torso.  There must be a trick!  I hate to break it to you, but these people are usually gifted with great mobility in the hips, knees, and ankles.  And these gifts are often genetic, or at least developed in our baby stages. 

To show different squat forms

The image above shows varying torso angles.  The lady in the front right is able to keep an upright spine at the bottom of the squat while the guy to the left has more of a forward lean.  I want to stress that the one to the left isn't bad. However, it can be optimized, especially if he has issues with pain or tightness.

Ankle Dorsiflexion

In my opinion, the most important factor in a perfect, deep squat is ankle dorsiflexion (bringing ankle/toes upward).  Tight ankles make it difficult to squat down with an upright torso.  Click Here for more about the specifics of dorsiflexion.  Ankle mobility can be improved.  But only to a certain degree.  Below are a few ways to work on ankle mobility.

Squat Modifications

Is there hope for those of us that don’t have freakish mobility or a prior history of injuries to the hips, knees, or ankles which limit our mobility?  My answer is Yes and No.  You can’t always stretch or lacrosse ball yourself to death to improve mobility (I’m looking at you Cross-fitters).  However, you can modify your lifts to make up for certain dysfunctions.  For example, lifting shoes can help neutralize limitations in ankle dorsiflexion.  Don’t have weightlifting shoes?  Just prop up your heels with something like a half-cut foam roller.

squatting with limited ankle dorsiflexion
Improving the squat by elevating the heels

The real reason why there are different squatting exercises (e.g. front squats, back squats, goblet squats) is to target specific muscle groups.  Your torso angle will change based on where you hold the weight.  Front squats will allow for a more upright torso angle and will target the quads more.  Back squats will involve a more forward angle and will bias the posterior chain more.

 I am a firm believer that you should marry the squat exercise for your body type.  Due to the length of my femurs and short torso, back squatting without excessive leaning forward is difficult for me.  I do much better with a goblet variation.  Plus, my knee doesn’t hate me as much.  For those of you that compete in weightlifting competitions, I suggest maximizing your mobility with treatment and optimizing core stability.

Improving Squat Form Conclusions

Evaluating one’s anatomy and mobility is vital to establishing a plan to improve their squat form.  Notice that your knees cave in or your shift to the right when squatting?  Incorporate some RNT to your world to help groove better patterns.  Do you struggle to maintain a neutral spine?  Work on diaphragm breathing and IAP for better core activation.  Is there difficulty with excessive forward leaning during the squat?  Look to optimize mobility in certain areas via treatment and exercises.  Or, better yet, modify your squat routine all together.

How Can Your Chesterfield Chiropractor Help?

Let’s say you don’t know where to start.  Let me help you out.  Your initial evaluation will be heavily detailed in screening out orthopedic pathology while also categorizing you into certain groups from a mobility perspective.  A functional movement assessment will be used to look at your global movement patterns such as the squat.  We look to develop a personalized treatment plan to not only eliminate pain, but also optimize function.  Oh, we also do FREE CONSULTS!  Help us help you by giving us a call today! (636) 728-8607.

tension headache

Top 3 Causes of Tension Headaches

The Headache Dilemma

Just about everybody has experienced a headache of some sort in their lifetime.  Maybe you get them after a long night of drinking.  Or, they pop up during stressful times at work.  Whatever the scenario, headaches are a common problem in our society.  According to WebMD, 80% of Americans suffer from tension headaches from time to time and women are twice as likely to have them.  3% of the population suffers from daily, chronic tension headaches (a number that I believe is under reported).  The key term here is “tension”.  Tension headaches are typically labeled as “cervicogenic”, meaning they generate from the cervical spine.  However, there are many more sinister reasons for pain around the head.  For the sake of this write up, we are excluding things such as head trauma, vascular issues, and migraines.

What Triggers Tension Headaches?

As mentioned above, I believe the reporting of chronic tension headaches is vastly understated.  Basically, people tend to accept them as “normal” and are unaware of their effects.  That is, until they feel relief for the first time!  Based on my training and clinical experience, I have come to find that there are three main triggers for the classic tension based headache.  They consist of upper cross posture, poor breathing patterns, and TMJ/jaw dysfunction.

Posture and Headaches

Poor posture
Janda's Postural Syndromes

The obvious one is poor posture.  Specifically, upper cross posture.  Click here to read about the effects of technology on our posture.  It’s not that poor posture directly causes headaches.  It’s the adaptations of the muscles and joints as a result of prolonged and repetitive poor positioning.  For example, a forward positioned head often leads to excessive rounding, or hyperkyphosis, of the upper back.  This adaptation often results in subsequent muscle tightening as well as locking up of vertebral joint segments.  There is a high likelihood that when I evaluate a patient that works at a computer for a living that I will find trigger points and muscle tightness in various muscles of the upper thoracic spine and cervical spine.

In addition, their upper thoracic and lower cervical joints move like a brick compared to the segments above and below.  For these patients, treatment is centered towards these dysfunctions.  In addition, some sort of rehab program is implemented to offset the over usage of these muscles and joints.  One rule of thumb is that if there is a muscle that is being overworked, there tends to be a muscle, or muscles, that aren’t doing enough hence the implementation of strengthening.

Below are some diagrams by Dr's Travell and Simons outlining the common trigger points in the head and neck as well as their referral patterns.

Pain patterns and trigger points
Travell and Simons Trigger Points of the Head and Neck

An Exercise in Futility?

Individualized treatment and rehab is crucial to success.  However, an attempt to correct work stations and postural habits may be the most important factor.  Simply getting treated or doing a handful of exercises will not overturn years of bad habits. A diligent effort must be made to break these habits which usually involves constant reminder of postures throughout the day.  Typically, the more I show you how much you really struggle, the more likely to facilitate a change.

Posture Reminder
Sit Up Straight!

We recommend that you use some kind of reminder system to keep you in check throughout the day.  This can include stickers to place on things you look at the most, i.e. computer, rear view mirror, or phone.  Or, setting alarms on your cell phone will do the trick.  The point of constantly reminding you is to create awareness.  The more awareness, the more actions can be taken to create better postural habits.

Breathing and Headaches

The second component related to tension based headaches is poor breathing mechanics.  When most people think of the respiratory system, they picture the lungs.  However, we must understand the contribution of certain muscles in assisting the process of getting air in and out of the lungs.  I group the muscles into two categories, primary and accessory.  The primary muscle of respiration is called the diaphragm.  The accessory muscles consist of muscles in the neck (SCM and scalenes), ribs (obliques and intercostals), as well as muscles that affect the spine and scapula (levator scapulae, erectors, upper trapezius, etc).  The accessory muscles are meant to kick in during times that require more assistance such as during exercise.  While at rest, we should primarily use our diaphragm to breathe.  Instead, I find that most people rely on the accessory muscles all of the time.  A concerted effort should be made to remedy this dysfunction.  A quick drill for you to evaluate your breathing is to place one hand on your chest and another on your belly.  As you breathe, your bottom hand should push outwards with minimal movement of the top hand.  You can also place both hands around your neck to feel whether or not the neck muscles are contracting when you breathe.

Diaphragm breathing
"Belly Breathing"
Diaphragm breathing
Accessory muscles of breathing
Accessory Muscles
Neck muscle tension with breathing
Too much tension in accessory muscles

When evaluating one’s ability to use the diaphragm, we typically get one of two types of patients.  The first patient has little issue with breathing correctly; they just need to make it more of a habit.  The second patient, on the other hand, cannot grasp the concept.  These patients tend to need some TLC to help get them going in the right direction AND THEN they need to make it a habit.   I have seen so much success with simply pointing out that proper breathing is in fact a real thing.  A drastic change is seen when a concerted effort is made to decrease the activity of the accessory muscles.  Once diaphragm activity is normalized, an effort can then be made to teach proper core activation which we will discuss at a later time.

Jaw Tension and Headaches

The third reason for tension headaches may be the most prevalent of them all.  Temporomandibular dysfunction, or TMD for short, involves excessive jaw clenching, grinding, and tensing.  One thing that needs to be pointed out is that TMD is different than TMJ.  TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint.  Humans have two of these joints.  TMD is simply the dysfunction of that joint.  If I had a dollar for every time that a patient stated that they have "TMJ" I would be, well you know!  Anyways, those that grind their teeth at night most likely are aware of it.  Whether a dentist told them, or their significant other has complained about it, it is not news to them.

Lockjaw and headaches

What these people don’t realize is that they most likely hold excessive tension in and around their jaw throughout the day as well.  The real kicker is that people can have TMD without having any issues with grinding their jaw.  They simply hold tension in their jaw like most people hold tension in their traps and neck.  Long standing TMD can result in tension headaches, TMJ degeneration and disc issues, and varying degrees of "lockjaw".  Lockjaw occurs when the muscles of the jaw become spastic, or the disc located within the TMJ becomes "stuck".  Symptoms can involve an inability to open or close the jaw fully.

Trigger points of the head and jaw.
Travell and Simons Trigger Points of the Head and Jaw

When I began to dive into assessing and treating the jaw, I found that TMD often coincides with poor breathing.  Some studies have correlated a relationship of jaw clenching and poor breathing with anxiety and stress.  So the next time your kids are giving you a fit, take a moment to see if your jaw is tightening up and how you are breathing (if you are at all).  Treatment of the jaw and head region, as well a home stretching program, can yield results so enormous that the patient is usually dumbfounded.  Like breathing, correcting the overarching habit is crucial for sustained benefits.

 

Any questions or comments?  Reach out to us via Facebook, Instagram, or our website.  Want to know if we can help your headache issues?  Call and schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and how we can help! (636) 728-8607.

pain relief exam

Functional Triage, The Future of Pain Relief

Pain Relief and Why Healthcare Has Been Failing

It is not hard to poke holes in our nations healthcare.  Instead of magnifying the issues with coverage and costs, we should be focusing on how we address pain relief.  Over the years, the healthcare industry has been far too reliant on drugs and surgery which has resulted in an opioid epidemic and overuse of unnecessary procedures.  Standard conservative measures, such as chiropractic, are effective for pain relief but the results are not always long lasting due to failure to treat the body as a system.  Everybody in the healthcare game (MD, DC, DO, DPT...) has been guilty of being entirely too focused on short term pain relief instead of long term solutions.  We are starting to see a renaissance of chiropractors, PT's, and the like who are starting to evaluate and treat the body in a different fashion.  The concept of a "Functional Triage" approach involves collecting data and information via communication and assessment and then establishing a treatment plan and approach based on what the patient gives you, rather than what you've always done or what your bank account needs.

A doctor talking with a patient
"Mrs. Jones, your non complicated mechanical low back pain will require at least 26 chiropractic visits. If that doesn't work we can try a course of surgery. Whaddya say?!"

The Functional Triage Approach

At Elite Chiropractic and Performance, we use the functional triage as the foundation of our evaluation process.  We call it a triage because it allows us the ability to funnel the patient into different assessments and categories based on their exam findings.

To better highlight the functional approach, let's outline a patient scenario.  Mrs. Jones, who is a middle aged female that enjoys playing golf and doing crossfit, walks into our clinic complaining of shoulder pain.  Right away, a subjective history and conversation is initiated to learn the patient's previous injury history, family history, social history, etc.  We can sometimes speculate what is going on just by having a conversation with the patient.  Mrs. Jones states that she has pain when lifting overhead and also when she does push-ups.  Occasionally, she has pain doing menial tasks such as grabbing her purse.  Once any potential red flags are ruled out and the need for an immediate referral is not needed, the evaluation starts.

During the evaluation process, other systems may be examined, such as the heart and lungs, but Mrs. Jones has nothing indicating a need to do so.  The functional approach combines several different examination types into one streamlined process.  Each test and assessment is done in order to collect bits and pieces of the patient's overall status and function.  Depending on the findings, the exam can funnel into different focuses.  Essentially, we take what the patient gives us in order to deduce not only the diagnosis, but all of the contributing factors as well.  For example, we assess Mrs. Jones' overall shoulder mobility in the standing position.  We want to know how far she can raise her arms overhead and whether or not she "cheats" to do so.  Very commonly, humans can get the job done but we may do so using the wrong strategies.  Called dysfunctions, these faulty strategies can eventually lead to problems.  In Mrs. Jones' case, she has to over extend her mid to low back in order to get her arms fully overhead.  Without the over extending, her overhead range of motion decreases significantly.  It is my belief that she should avoid overhead lifting until she improves her mechanics because she is sacrificing her shoulder joint and low back in order to get her arms overhead.  Adding weights and barbells to the scenario further complicates things.  After a general movement assessment, we can start to evaluate with more detail.  For the shoulder, we pay special attention to the neck (cervical spine), upper back (thoracic spine), shoulder blade (scapula), and the shoulder joint itself (glenohumeral joint).  By the end of the evaluation, we want an accurate diagnosis of why Mrs. Jones has shoulder pain but most importantly, what involvement does the surrounding joints and muscles have on the shoulder.

 

"He who treats the sign of pain is lost."

Karel Lewit, MD - pioneer of modern diagnostics and manual therapy

 

At Elite Chiropractic and Performance, we utilize several well known and effective techniques during our evaluation process.  Things like Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS), Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) and Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (McKenzie Method) are gold standards in the industry for comprehensive assessments as well as treatment.  Below is an example of the thought process and exam flow for a clinician using the functional triage approach for shoulder pain.

shoulder pain relief
***Initial evaluation for shoulder pain***

Information Overload

confused child
HUH?

So Why Does This Matter?

Explaining the nuances of a comprehensive and exceptional functional based assessment can make even the up to speed individual's head spin.  In a nutshell, a functional triage is meant to figure out the "Why" to the "What".  The "What" is the patient's shoulder pain, the "Why" is all of the details that are gathered during the process.  In addition, the process allows the clinician to figure out the right tools for the job.

 

pain relief appropriate treatment
Picking the right tool for the appropriate job.

 

Every treatment and rehab approach must be specifically tailored to the individual patient.  What may work for one patient may not work for another.  We like to say that if you aren't assessing, then you're guessing!  Below is a diagram that simplifies the functional approach.

Pain Relief Treatment

The Future of Pain Relief

We are seeing an evolution with how we assess and treat pain and function.  Many chiropractors, physical therapists, and physicians are realizing that what they have been doing has not been good enough.  Adjusting your low back repeatedly is a great way to reduce pain for the short term.  However, we should incorporate stability and rehab not just for the low back, but above and below the chain as well.  Physical therapists that mostly use corrective exercise are also selling you short.  If you have major joint restriction and muscular tightness then you won't be able to perform many movements correctly.  Muscle relaxers and other pain relievers have their place, but medical doctors are realizing that they are only addressing symptoms and not the cause.  Not to mention that many prescriptions for pain are highly addictive.

It is time that the public demands more from their healthcare.  The functional triage approach has the potential to impact the quality and efficiency of musculoskeletal based care.  In addition, it requires that the provider is well versed in other techniques instead of being a one or two trick pony.  With this mindset, we can not only help people feel better, but function and perform better as well.


 

Chesterfield's Go-To for Pain Relief and Human Performance

Do you have chronic pain or recurring injuries and you're located in Chesterfield or its surrounding communities?  Do you know someone that can't seem to find the right fix?  Now is the time to take control of how you feel and function.  Elite Chiropractic and Performance is a clinic for all things related to pain relief, fitness, and performance.  We believe that it is a fundamental human privilege to be able to do the things that we love habitually and to function pain free.  Interested in all of the tools that we use to get you feeling better as soon as possible? Click Here!!

Baby yawning

The Power of Sleep

The act of sleeping.  Something so routine and overlooked may be the key to one’s health and well-being.  Sleeping issues have plagued humans for centuries but today’s technological advancements are feeding an every growing monster.  Lack of sleep can contribute to small things such as fatigue but can also facilitate more sinister of problems.  On the other hand, advanced sleeping regimens can offer an performance advantage in the office as well as on the field.


 

Gorilla Sleeping

A Sleep Sick Society

Sleep awareness was a second rate concept for many years and was nearly nonexistent in the medical community.  Thanks to pioneers such as Dr. William C. Dement we have come to understand the importance that adequate sleep plays in the function of the well-oiled machine we call the human body.  However, in order to appreciate the benefits of sleep, we must recognize the current issues and trends in society today.  Dr. Dement, who is considered by many as the pioneer in sleep medicine speculates that half of us mismanage our sleep to the point where it negatively affects our health and safety and that, on average, each of us sleeps one and half fewer hours each night than our great-grandparents did a century ago.  In his book, The Promise of Sleep, he states:

 

Study after study has revealed that people who are chronically sleep deprived can be completely unaware of the root cause of their overwhelming fatigue.  Many people conclude that being run down, apathetic, and glum, must be the normal human condition, or can be attributed to boredom, warm rooms, or heavy meals.

 

According to sleepassociation.org:

  • 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder
  • 37.9% reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the preceding month.
  • 4.7% reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once in the preceding month. Drowsy driving is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the United States.
  • 48.0% of adults report snoring.
  • 25 Million U.S. adults have obstructive sleep apnea
  • 100,000 deaths occur each year in US hospitals due to medical errors and sleep deprivation have been shown to make a significant contribution.

 

The evidence that we are malnourished sleep wise is concrete.  The exact mechanisms for why, however, is not.  Before we can lay blame to our habits and rituals, it helps to understand what happens while we sleep.


 

Brain waves
Baby sleeping

Stages of Sleep

During sleep, the body cycles between 4 non-REM (rapid eye movement) stages and one REM stage totaling 5 stages.  Throughout the night, the body will go through these 5 stages 4-6 times, spending an average of 90 minutes in each stage.  Stage 1 and 2 (non-REM) are considered light sleep while 3, 4, and REM are labeled as deep sleep.  Each stage serves a unique restorative function which means it is crucial to properly cycle through each stage.  The following is a brief description of each stage:

 

  • Stage 1 – Often called the transitional phase. In this stage, we may be partially awake as our mind begins to drift into light sleep.  This is also the stage of sleep where we experience hypnic myoclonia, which is when your muscles involuntarily jerk.  Many embarrassing moments have gone down in history as a result of this reflex!

  • Stage 2 – Our heart rate begins to slow, our core body temperature decreases, eye movement stops, and our brain waves slow down. We spend about 50% of the night in stage 2.


  • Stages 3 and 4 – Called slow wave sleep and is our deepest sleep that is often very hard to wake up from. Our blood pressure drops and our breathing becomes deeper, slower, and more rhythmic.  Our body is immobile at this point but our muscles can still function such as when we sleepwalk.  During these stages, hormones are released to aid in growth and appetite control thus making it an important stage for rejuvenating the body.


  • REM – The dreaming stage. Eye movement dramatically increases and our brain is bursting with activity.  Adults spend about 20% of the night in REM sleep.  REM sleep is crucial for revitalizing the brain and allowing for sharper focus for the day.

 


 

Burnt out

Sleep Debt – Myth or Real?

Most people have probably said at one point in their life that they need to “catch up on their sleep” but is this accurate?  Based on several scientific studies, not only is the possibility of sleep debt real, its effects can be detrimental.  Dr. Dement describes sleep debt as “nature’s loan shark”.   Generally, people need to sleep one hour for every two hours awake which translates to roughly 8 hours a night.  Of course, some people need more and some need less, and a few people require a great deal more or less.  The premise is that if an individual only gets 6 hours of sleep a night they will end up with 14 hours of sleep debt by the end of the week.  Sleeping in over the weekend can help reduce the debt but is not enough to overcome the total burden.  Essentially, all wakefulness is sleep deprivation.   Like hunger and food, when the former increases to a considerable level the latter is all that the individual will desire.  It is easy to understand sleep debt in great scales, such as pulling an all-nighter to study.  However, studies are revealing the effects of minor sleep debt which can range from subtle problems like sleepiness to more significant issues like insomnia, stress, and anxiety.

Absent Mind
Work stress

So What Can You Do?

Well for starters, make sleep a priority like you would diet and exercise.  In fact, quality sleep may be the missing link to achieving your fitness and performance goals.  My biggest recommendation is to establish a night time routine that consists of winding down and relaxing.  These routines should also consist of avoiding stimulatory mediums like cell phones and TV’s.   The following are some Do’s and Don’ts for assuring a quality night sleep:

DO's

  • Have a set “bed time” that consists of a winding down process with a goal to be in bed by a certain time.

  • Develop a winding down process. This can consist of drinking night time tea, reading a book, planning for the next day, light stretching, etc.


  • Investing in a good mattress. You spend roughly a third of your life in bed so get something that works for you.  This does not mean it has to cost a fortune.  I purchased a king sized mattress from Tuft and Needle for under a $1,000.  They allow a 100 day trial period and even ship the mattress to your door!  I always recommend that people sleep on a newly bought mattress for a few weeks to make sure it works for them.


  • Use supplements and other tricks. Melatonin gummies can help with sleep especially if you work night shifts or have jet lag.  Essential oil products can help the sleep process as well.  Try using lavender and peace and calming shortly before bed.  My favorite approach is to drink night time oriented tea.   My favorite is Yogi Bedtime which has valerian root extract and passionflower plant extract.


  • Have a bedroom temperature set between 60-67 degrees.  When trying to fall asleep, your body temperature decreases so having a cooler bedroom room can help facilitate this.


  • Read a book. The act of reading in a quiet setting sets the mood for a restful night.

Bedtime Reading

DON'Ts

  • Avoid alcohol before bed. Although alcohol can help you feel sleepy, the metabolism that occurs can disrupt your sleep cycles, interrupt circadian rhythm, block REM sleep and aggravate breathing problems.  In addition, it results in increased bathroom trips.

  • Limit caffeine intake to 300 mg to 400 mg and avoid intake at least 6 hours before bed.


  • Avoid blue light during the winding down process. Objects that contain blue light are cell phones, tablets, computers, and TV’s.  Blue light suppresses melatonin production and interferes with your normal circadian rhythm.


  • Avoid stimulatory activities and mediums. Avoid planning for the next day if this is generally a stressful process.  I tend to read a fictional book before bed because it helps me take my mind somewhere other than clinic and business.


  • Eating large portions of crappy food before bed. Small snacks consisting of protein and complex carbs may help you sleep better.

Phone at Bedtime

The biggest violator to good sleep in our society is the increased blue light and stimulatory activities before bed which often results in an increased time to fall asleep.  Also, the workaholic mentality that is a hallmark of our country is silently destroying us.  Pushing our work into the late hours of the night all but virtually guarantees starting the next day with a struggle.


 

Take It Seriously!

So put down your phones and make an attempt to get around 8 hours a sleep a night.  Plan ahead and coordinate an effective routine to get you on track in the evenings.  If there are potential medical problems preventing quality of sleep, then seek help from a medical provider.  If you are unsure of whether or not you are sleeping well, a well-executed sleep study may uncover more than you think.  You owe it to yourself and your family to operate on a full tank.