National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
OCE Partnership Impact
March 14-20 is Sleep Awareness Week, created by the National Sleep Foundation to advocate for better health and well-being through quality sleep. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships (HAP, formerly OCE and CCI) also advocates for Veterans’ health and well-being through partnerships that improve their lives in many ways. Dr. Jamie D. Davis, psychologist and HAP health systems specialist, has expertise in sleep health that she recently shared with fellow VHA employees at the VA Maryland Health Care System. Sleep is critical for health—it helps restore and heal the body, improves concentration and memory, and helps regulate appetite and blood pressure.
Dr. Davis became interested in sleep health after she suffered with insomnia years before she began working at VHA. She said she tried “what everybody does,” going to bed earlier and napping, neither of which worked.
“I decided to just get up do things around the house. I thought, ‘I’m going to stay awake if I can’t sleep.’ I’ll set a time when I get up in the morning and that’s when I’ll get up,” she explained. That worked. Getting up at the same time every day, Dr. Davis continued, is more effective in combating insomnia than going to bed at the same time.
When she started working at VHA, she was trained in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), which helps people overcome insomnia. Veterans in particular often have insomnia, especially if they’re diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Dr. Davis said. Because Veterans often feel successful with the six-week CBT-I protocol, they are more willing to try an evidence-based treatment for PTSD. VA also has a CBT-I Coach mobile app Veterans can use; they should also speak to their health care providers about CBT-I.
Dr. Davis shared additional sleep health tips from her recent presentation:
- If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing or boring until you feel sleepy;
- Don’t use your phone, watch TV, or read when in bed. Since these are things you do when you are awake, they train your body to be awake when in bed;
- Go outside for at least 10 minutes per day, even if it’s overcast. Sunlight helps reset our natural sleep-wake cycle;
- Avoid napping, which decreases the “sleep drive”–our need for sleep—and don’t go to bed unless you’re drowsy or sleepy.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people find themselves worrying more and feeling more anxious. They don’t take time to think through their worries during the day—then, when bedtime comes, the worries keep them awake.
“Try ‘planned worry,’” Dr. Davis recommended. Write down your worries or unfinished tasks from the day and create a plan for steps to take to resolve each worry or stressor.
“Take time to think these things through, and when you go to bed, they’re less likely to be on your mind and keep you awake,” she continued.
For more information on CBT-I resources at VA, visit: veterantraining.va.gov/insomnia/.
For more information on HAP’s partnerships, visit: va.gov/HEALTHPARTNERSHIPS/updates.asp.
Posted March 18, 2021