How An MD Overcame Being A Light Sleeper + Gets Quality Rest Each Night
I have always been a very light sleeper. This was difficult during my residency years when I'd often need to sleep in an on-call room, with noises and sounds all around. These days, stress, caffeine, blue light, and forgetting my face mask or earplugs are the biggest barriers to a good night's sleep for me. I sleep best when I'm on vacation—which makes sense since I'm not thinking about all the stressful things I have to do the next day! I like to think of sleep as the best performance-enhancing medication. I joke that if it wasn't free, it would be banned.
- Average hours I sleep a night: 7 to 9
- Ideal bedtime: 9 p.m.
- Ideal wake-up time: 5:30 a.m.
- Nightstand essentials: Water, sleep mask, earplugs
- Favorite place I've ever slept: In the Costa Rican jungle with no blue light anywhere to be found
- Sleep bad habit: Getting up in the middle of the night and looking at my phone to see what time it is
- Caffeine consumption: I stop drinking caffeine at noon
- How I track my sleep: I used to use a Whoop band
- The last product or habit that changed my sleep for the better: Earplugs and facemask
6:30 p.m.: I stop eating three hours before bed—so by 6:30 p.m. on most nights. I have done a lot of research and personal experimentation with time-restricted eating, and I really believe it is one of the best free tools we have to improve metabolism and gene health. (Stopping eating earlier in the evening can also improve sleep quality.) In fact, a new study just came out on how time-restricted eating influences gene expression in a positive way in over 70% of your genes1.
7 p.m.: I turn off all the blue lights around my house, stop using the computer, and put a blue light filter on my phone. Everything is dim and dark. I turn down the thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit and I ask my children to turn down the lights as well. I try not to have any phone calls or exciting conversations or emails after this time.
8 p.m.: I put away my devices to charge, face down so I'm not tempted to check them. This is usually when I'll go into my bathroom and get ready for bed. I do a nighttime routine that includes cleansing my face and preparing my clothes for the next day. I have a piece of paper and pen to jot down any ideas or thoughts before bed.
8:15 p.m.: I spend a few minutes with my children and my husband, unplugged.
8:30 p.m.: I think about what went well that week or that day to help me disconnect from stress.
9 p.m.: It's lights out for me
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard Universities. She was named one of mindbodygreen's Top 100 Women In Wellness to Watch in 2015 and has been a guest on many national and local media shows. She helps busy people transform their health by reducing inflammation and eating more plants, utalizing the power of the microbiome to help digestion, natural hormone balance and food sensitivities. She is an expert on intermittent fasting for women and has a 2 week guided group program.