Sleep disturbances affect nearly 70 million Americans. This statistic is shocking. What goes on in our life and with our health affects our slumber… Catch 22. Good sleep hygiene is vital to good health and that is why I discuss it regularly. Here are some approaches that can help us to wind down after a demanding day.
1. Journaling. Our concerns, wondering or even excitement about an event, may be causing trouble with sleep. By redirecting our thoughts towards positive ones, it can help allay stress and anxiety and allow us to wind down. And by going one step further—committing our positive thoughts to paper with a pen or pencil—we can edge closer to drifting off to sleep. In a study of college students, those who spent time journaling found that their bedtime stress was decreased, along with increased sleep time and quality. Penning our thoughts can help us process our emotions, solve problems, mentally prepare for the following day, plan, and remove negative thoughts so sleep does not evade us.
2. Breathe. Deep breathing exercises have been practiced for centuries as part of meditation and relaxation techniques; some would call this age-old wisdom. Inhaling deeply sends messages to our brain to “keep calm and carry on.” The science behind this is that when our body perceives stress, it responds with increased breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. By taking a few moments to breathe before
bedtime, we can help put a roadblock to this physiological response and reset our bodies to a relaxed state. Think of it as our ability to implement a “circuit breaker response” to stress.
3. Turn clocks around. I have heard, read, and echoed that “Insomnia sharpens your math skills because you spend all night calculating how much sleep you’ll get if you fall asleep right now.” Watching the clock can distract us and put us on an unwelcome detour. One trick that may work: turn the clock around to face the wall or even hide it in a drawer or under our bed… while you start to count sheep.
4. View sleep as a treat. Watching our favorite musician in concert or going to a sporting game is exciting and worthy of getting there on time, if not early. What if we thought about sleep that way? Instead of viewing getting to bed as a chore that interferes with finishing our chores or spending time with family or friends or watching television, let’s think of it as a great treat. Some of the rejuvenating qualities of sleep include: good health, creating and consolidating memories, making decisions, clearing out toxins, making
creative connections, learning and remembering how to perform physical tasks, and dreaming. Make sure your environment welcomes rest and relaxation (remove clutter and turn down the lights with quiet or relaxing music).
5. Evicting our beloved four-legged friends, or not? According to a poll, nearly 70 percent of American dogs and cats at least occasionally share their owner’s beds. But snuggling up to our pets may disturb our sleep with snoring, kicking, crying, or wanting to play, investigate, go out for a potty run, or scratch. One study showed that half of the humans who co-sleep with their pets had their sleep interrupted nightly. However, opponents claim that the hype is over-hyped and that our two-legged spouses and children can cause the same sleep disturbances. And too, there are those that believe settling in with a pet helps them relax and fall to sleep faster. Figure out what works best for you and your loved ones.
6. Eat light at night. We have all been there. It is late, and our stomach is growling and preventing us from falling asleep. However, we have heard over and over again that snacking before bedtime is bad (but so is having food cravings that are keeping us awake). Late night snacking has been blamed for causing nightmares, acid reflux, and packing on the pounds. There is some good news: we can satisfy those hunger pangs without those side effects depending on what we eat and how much we eat. Choosing snacks less than 200 calories that are rich in protein and complex carbohydrates can help put us on a fast track to la la land.
7. Maintaining a set bedtime. Saturday and Sunday were meant to catch-up on the “to do” list and special errands, but not necessarily sleep. According to experts, getting an extra 2-4 hours of sleep in the morning can have the same effects as traveling across time zones.
This makes it more difficult for us to go to sleep on time on Sunday night, making Monday feel like we really are jet lagged.
These tactical tips may help put restful sleep on the right track to getting the necessary amount—and quality—of ZZZ’s that our body needs.
Let’s remember that sleep is an essential component to being at our best physical, mental, and physical health. And, of course — sweet dreams!
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This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional. Dr. Nina has
used all reasonable care in compiling the current information but it may not apply to you and your symptoms. Always consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.