Dr. Judy Wright: “Put the technology away”

Put the technology away. Stop using your laptop, cell phone and tablet at least an hour before bed. These devices keep you alert instead of allowing you to wind down. They also emit blue light, which studies have shown can decrease the amount of the hormone melatonin you produce at night to help you sleep. […]

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Put the technology away. Stop using your laptop, cell phone and tablet at least an hour before bed. These devices keep you alert instead of allowing you to wind down. They also emit blue light, which studies have shown can decrease the amount of the hormone melatonin you produce at night to help you sleep. Blue light can reduce your REM sleep, which is important for proper cognitive functioning. Instead of using these devices before bed, read a book. Read an actual book — not one on your device.

Getting a good night’s sleep has so many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Yet with all of the distractions that demand our attention, going to sleep on time and getting enough rest has become extremely elusive to many of us. Why is sleep so important and how can we make it a priority?

In this interview series called “Sleep: Why You Should Make Getting A Good Night’s Sleep A Major Priority In Your Life, And How You Can Make That Happen” we are talking to medical and wellness professionals, sleep specialists, and business leaders who sell sleep accessories to share insights from their knowledge and experience about how to make getting a good night’s sleep a priority in your life.

As part of this interview series, we had the pleasure to interview Dr. Judy Wright.

Dr. Judy Wright is a Family Physician, Medical Director, Consultant, Speaker, and Writer. As co-Host of the Queens On Call Podcast, she educates everyday people about navigating the current U.S. healthcare system and empowers them to take charge of their own health. She is a wife and mother to 2 young and very active children.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your backstory?

I am the youngest of 4 children born to Jamaican parents. My siblings were also born and raised for part of their lives in Jamaica. For the first 5 years of my life, I lived like an only child. I’m not sure when I was made aware that I had siblings, but it was at least a year before they moved to the United States. It was weird at first to have to share my parents and ‘my stuff.’ I remember that. But I was so excited to now have that connection. Life would have been boring without them. We are all quite close.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this particular career path?

I went to see the doctor a lot as a kid. If it wasn’t for allergies, it was for eczema, or for stomach pain. I was a little weird in that I liked going to see the doctor the way a child likes going to the playground. I looked forward to it from very young age. Doctors were caring and smart and made everyone better. At least that’s how I saw them. By the time I was 10 years old, I was already telling our Family Physician that I was going to be a physician too.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the sleep and wellness fields? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

As a Family Physician, I’ve had the opportunity to see patients of all ages and from various walks and stages of life. There are so many factors that go into wellness; the physical, the psychological, and the social factors together affect each person’s health, disease prevention, and even their response to any necessary treatment. I am interested in the whole person, not just diagnoses. To just focus on one thing is to put a bandage on it. It doesn’t bring about or maintain wellness. In the U.S., as much as 30% of American adults live with chronic insomnia. If your sleep is consistently poor, there will be detriment to your health. So failure to address problems with sleep while addressing the resulting health issues will not bring about wellness.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I am currently re-reading “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway,” by Susan Jeffers. I first read this book while in medical school. I keep it in a place where I can easily see the title regularly. Way too often, we allow fear to keep us from reaching our potential. We think that feeling fear is a weakness. It isn’t. We are surrounded by fear: fear of failure and success, fear of being around people and of being alone, and more. So it’s normal to feel fear. We’ve all felt those limiting fears and that’s okay as long as we keep moving and progressing. That movement is an indication growth and strength.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway.” [laughing] I really like several quotes. This is just one of them. I have had to say this to myself more than a few times. I’m okay with saying that out loud.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with the basics. How much sleep should an adult get? Is there a difference between people who are young, middle-aged, or elderly?

Adults should get 7–9 hours of uninterrupted sleep regularly. Children need more than that, often 8–12 hours of sleep each night, depending on the stage of childhood. Older adults 65 years and older need 6–8 hours of sleep. They tend to have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep, often waking up early compared to younger people.

Is the amount of hours the main criteria, or the time that you go to bed? For example, if there was a hypothetical choice between getting to bed at 10PM and getting up at 4AM, for a total of 6 hours, or going to bed at 2AM and getting up at 10AM for a total of 8 hours, is one a better choice for your health? Can you explain?

Both are important. The amount of time you get restful sleep matters. Each person is different and some people function optimally on less sleep than others. But it needs to be truly restful sleep — without frequently waking up. Also, training our bodies to sleep at a certain time makes it more likely that we will get the rest we need.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for our readers. Let’s imagine a hypothetical 35 year old adult who was not getting enough sleep. After working diligently at it for 6 months he or she began to sleep well and got the requisite hours of sleep. How will this person’s life improve? Can you help articulate some of the benefits this person will see after starting to get enough sleep? Can you explain?

Great sleep helps with mental clarity and good physical health. This person will have more energy and may move around more quickly. There will be a positive effect on weight. There will be less risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. This person will have faster memory recall and faster cognitive processing times. S/he might also feel more upbeat with an overall better mood.

Many things provide benefits but they aren’t necessarily a priority. Should we make getting a good night’s sleep a major priority in our life? Can you explain what you mean?

Getting a good night’s sleep should be a major priority. A good night’s sleep is part of the foundation of good health. While sleep is vital to our health and overall existence, in this day and age, it doesn’t just come naturally for many. Our lives are often very busy with many stressors, and sleep often falls low on the priority list. That definitely is detrimental to our collective health.

The truth is that most of us know that it’s important to get better sleep. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives? How should we remove those obstacles?

Three major obstacles to getting a great night’s sleep are an abundance of stressors (some self-induced), an abundance of distractions, and lack of a sleep routine. We don’t always have the luxury of removing these obstacles, but we should try to work around them, at least. Work on changing your approach to stressful situations, decrease access to distractions, and develop a sleep routine. It’s easier said than done, but worth doing to improve overall health.

Do you think getting “good sleep” is more difficult today than it was in the past?

I believe it is. Life was more simple in the past. One reason is that there are so many more distractions today. For example, when I was a kid, there were maybe 5–6 major television networks, public access television, and 2–3 major cable channels, if you were lucky enough to have cable. There were 2 major game consoles. We were limited in watching movies by either going to the movie theater or renting videos. And you communicated in person or on the home phone. Today, there are innumerable network and cable television channels, streaming services, and social media. Video games are much more involved and can be played with people all over the world. You never have to walk away because we have mobile capabilities with laptops, tablets, and cell phones. You can call, video call, or text. You can e-mail and do work on these devices. And all of this can happen anytime, 24 hours per day. It’s easy to get so involved and lose track of time — and lose sleep.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share “5 things you need to know to get the sleep you need and wake up refreshed and energized”? If you can, kindly share a story or example for each.

Develop a sleep routine. Figure out how much sleep you need at night to be able to function optimally during the day. Then pick a standard time you need to be in your bed with your eyes closed. Start winding down an hour in advance. Relax your body by taking a warm shower/bath before bed. Relax your mind through meditation, which might include prayer, journaling, breathing exercises, light stretching in bed — whatever works best for you. Make sure your room reflects that it is time to sleep. That means the lights, television, and loud music should be off. (If you have to sleep in the day because you have shift work, consider darkening curtains.)

Put the technology away. Stop using your laptop, cell phone and tablet at least an hour before bed. These devices keep you alert instead of allowing you to wind down. They also emit blue light, which studies have shown can decrease the amount of the hormone melatonin you produce at night to help you sleep. Blue light can reduce your REM sleep, which is important for proper cognitive functioning. Instead of using these devices before bed, read a book. Read an actual book — not one on your device.

Do not eat or drink before bed. Eating heavy meals less than 3 hours before bed can aggravate acid reflux, which is painful and will interrupt your sleep. Drinking a lot of fluids less than 1 hour before bed can result in nocturia, which is urination at night. The need to go to the bathroom one or more times in the middle of the night produces great interruption to your sleep cycle.

Do not engage in heavy exercise right before sleep. Heavy exercising less than 1 hour before bed makes you more alert, leading to greater difficulty falling sleep.

Have a routine time to wake up everyday. Whether you went to bed on time the night before or not, wake up at the same time everyday. This helps to train your body to know that if it wants to get its needed rest, it will do so during the time allotted.

Give these an honest try first to see what works for you and what doesn’t. And if you are still having difficulty, make an appointment with your physician to discuss other forms of treatment.

What would you advise someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep?

The best thing to do is to lie back down and not overstimulate. Turn the lights back off, do not turn on stimulating technology, and practice breathing exercises. I find what helps me sometimes, if that doesn’t work, is to read the most boring thing ever. Usually, something that would put me to sleep even in the broad daylight.

What are your thoughts about taking a nap during the day? Is that a good idea, or can it affect the ability to sleep well at night?

Naps can be rejuvenating or they can make the situation worse. If you are a person that feels rejuvenated after a good nap and your brain feels much more clear, I say go for it. However, I would caution adults against consistently long naps, as they can end up taking the place of part of the rest you should be having at night — making it more difficult to sleep at night. Also, long naps can make one feel more tired than if you hadn’t taken a nap at all. A 30 minute power nap can go a long way to giving you the energy you need.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Viola Davis is talented and a trailblazer. Her versatility as an actress, producer, activist, and philanthropist is on full display. She speaks her mind from a place of strength. She’s a powerhouse who probably had to push through her fears and past naysayers to get here.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me on

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/judy-wright-md

Facebook: @drjudywright

Twitter: @Dr_Judy_Wright

Instagram: @dr_judy_wright

Also listen to the Queens On Call podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts. We have great, relevant topics coming up that we are excited to discuss.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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