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What is Sleep Hygiene?

Posted by Dr.Hays Mar 28, 2018

Sleep hygiene is defined as healthy sleeping habits that are conducive to regular quality sleep. Sleep is very important for improved physical and mental wellbeing. Sleep may improve your quit abilities and leave you more energized to be in the right frame of mind to take on each day.

6 Tips from Mayo Clinic to improve sleep:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule: This may look like going to bed and waking up at or around the same time daily. Set aside no more than 8 hours for sleep. The recommended amount of sleep is about 7 hours for adults.
    If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up, leave the room, and do something relaxing. It is this idea that you should only utilize your bed to engage in sleep or intimacy, to avoid associating your bed with other activities making it hard to sleep.
  2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink: Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. Provide caution around caffeinated beverages and if you are using nicotine and have had noted sleep disruptions, you may benefit from avoiding it 1-2 hours before bed.
  3. Create a restful environment: Create a room that is ideal for sleeping. Avoid light from screens or TVs as it may disrupt your ability to fall asleep. Practicing calming activities such as relaxation techniques before bed can promote better sleep.  Visit Dr. Amit Sood’s website for ideas
  4. Limit daytime naps: this can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you find you must take a nap during the day, try to limit it to 30 minutes.
  5. Include Physical Activity in your daily routine: Physical activity and spending time outdoors can contribute to better sleep.
  6. Manage worries: Bedtime is a time when our worries tend to take over since we do not have the daytime distractions. One tip try to resolve worries before bed or write them down to concur tomorrow. Practicing stress management techniques may be beneficial. More information on stress and resiliency on


Don't forget to check out last week's blog: Not sleeping? 


Not sleeping?

Posted by Dr.Hays Mar 21, 2018

Because there are many different factors, and different ways to measure this, there is not yet a clear answer to the question, ‘how quitting smoking impacts sleep?’


Nicotine is a stimulant, and can lead to insomnia, but insomnia can also be a symptom of withdrawal from nicotine.  Nicotine does appear to suppress dreaming, and this can ‘rebound’ when nicotine leaves the system.  Nicotine has a half-life of 2 hours, so when thinking about your typical night sleep (8 hours or so), it could be marked as periods of withdrawal that may be interfering with the quality of sleep and your sleep wake cycle. 


Impairments in sleep can cause a number of issues some being ability to: make reasonable decisions, think clearly, and be more productive. With chronic sleep deprivation it can impact heart heath, risk of diabetes, and put you at a greater risk for depression.  


So for members of the EX community, it is important to get enough quality sleep to avoid making snap decisions when you may not be in the right head space. What are some of your favorite practices to make sure you are getting quality sleep?


Stay tuned for next week’s blog on Sleep Hygiene!


Perspective on Nicotine

Posted by Dr.Hays Mar 14, 2018

There is a lot of misunderstanding about Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). What is NRT- It is a medication containing nicotine approved by the Food and Drug Administration and in the United States sold in the forms of patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler, and nasal spray.  A great deal of research, including research conducted here at Mayo Clinic, has found that people using these products are more likely to be successful in stopping smoking than people who don’t use these products. NRT helps to ease withdrawal symptoms by giving you a slow release of nicotine. Yes slow release--- Nicotine in a cigarette releases “feel good” chemicals in your brain in 7-10 seconds (no comparison to nicotine replacements). This makes the cigarette comparatively highly addictive.

Nicotine replacement medications provide a safe amount of nicotine that does not cause heart disease, cancer, strokes, or other serious conditions that are linked to tobacco. However, being that nicotine in a cigarette is the FASTEST delivery, it causes addiction, while delivering other harmful chemicals and carcinogens in the tobacco smoke.

People tend to take their own path while they quit and maybe NRT’s are something you plan to try. If so, be assured that it can be helpful and add to the likelihood of success.

Shame is distressful feeling related to negative thoughts or perceived evaluations of ourselves – a sense that ‘I am bad’.  It is distinguished from guilt, which is a remorse focused upon an action – a sense that I did something wrong.  When it comes to making changes like stopping smoking, that may require multiple tries, and learning from past efforts that were not fully successful, shameful thoughts like ‘what’s wrong with me’, can be an obstacle to success rather than an effective motivation for change.  

Shame about tobacco use has increased over the past 20 years as smokers feel more ‘stigmatized’.   This feeling is understandable.  Rules about smoke free indoor environments, tax increases intended to promote quitting, and public health messages about the tragic health consequences from tobacco can evoke the feeling among smokers of ‘being singled out’.    People can understandably become defensive, defiant, and isolated in response to feeling ‘stigmatized’, and this can decrease the desire and intention to stop smoking.

An additional complication related to shame and smoking has to do with the nature of tobacco addiction.  Tobacco addiction can be seen in part as the hijacking of the unconscious, habitual, automatic part of the brain.  When a person is in a usual smoking situation, like the car, with other smokers, a break between jobs, or a stressful situation, the urge and physical response of reaching for a cigarette can be triggered automatically.   Planning to manage these situations with forethought based upon self-knowledge and past experience of trial and error is much more likely to lead to success, rather than a shame based reaction such as ‘what’s wrong with me’ or ‘why do I keep doing this’.

Stopping smoking can be very difficult.  How we evaluate that challenge, can add or lessen distress and discouragement.   Looking at past attempts as educational, rather than as ‘failures’, and perceiving yourself with self-compassion rather than blame can pave the way for success.

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