It seems that getting a good night’s sleep is problematic for way too many people these days. We need sleep in order to handle daily functions, improve our cognition and to be able to communicate clearly – among other things. We all know how good it feels to wake up after a good night’s sleep feeling energetic and ready to face the day.
But, what about those days you don’t get a decent night’s sleep. Have you noticed how you function and feel the next day? I’m sure it’s not great. There are many suggestions for what is referred to as sleep hygiene. Most people don’t do what is suggested. But, even those who do, often can’t sleep. Nagging thoughts about something that either happened during the day that you want to change or an event you have to deal with the next day plague you all night. For some, ruminating thoughts about things that happened years ago still invade your brain. You toss, turn, take a benadryl to help, maybe you think drinking a glass or 3 of wine might help, but lo and behold it doesn’t.
Do you ask your doctor to prescribe Ativan or Ambien or some other sleep aid (all have side effects)? Do you give up? If you are a first responder or have a job that requires you to work evenings or off hours, when do you sleep? How do you sleep?
Well, not to get into all the issues that sleep deprivation causes – let’s just say you want to sleep. The brain and body need it to rejuvenate – every night. Since all creatures sleep – even the ones under the water – why can’t you? (Yes, even sharks have restful periods.)
Main sleep hygiene suggestions are:
*Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time daily (or within an hour of your typical time). This sends signals to your brain and body that it is time to wind down and sleep.
*It is often said that you should not eat within 2-3 hours of bedtime. For most people this is true, however, some people need a bit of tryptophan at bedtime – hence the glass of warm milk. You might be the one person that needs a small piece of cheese or even half a hard boiled egg to help you sleep. As for alcohol before bed…well, it might knock you out initially, but the alcohol will turn into sugar and your metabolism revs up. The result is you wake up and cannot sleep. Alcohol, like caffeine, should not be consumed close to bedtime. That also goes for chocolate or ice cream. Have you even noticed that you do not sleep well after eating lots of sugar before bedtime? Try to keep food down to a minimum, especially sugar, 2 to 3 hours prior to bedtime.
* Turn off your electronics. In my opinion, this is the most difficult thing for people to do and is the most prevalent reason people are having for not getting a decent night’s sleep. For some, it may not bother them, but for most, it does. And, it is not healthy to have your IPad, your smart phones and the tv on with their blue lights and electro magnetic frequencies (EMF) pulsating and attacking your brain and body before going to bed and even while you are in bed. They signal your body to actually stay awake. And, who knows what else all these EMFs do to your body. Turn off the phone and the rest of your electronics at least 1 hour before going to bed. You can pick up a book and read or make some notes in your gratitude journal before bedtime or even meditate. (You can also have intimate relations with your partner – something that is also on the decline with the advent of constant cell phone usage.) This may be difficult at first, but it is nice to quiet down. You’ll do yourself and your body a favor by doing this.
*What is your day like? Do you exercise at all during the day? Do you get outside and get some light or do you live in the dark all day. We know that those who have a regular exercise program typically sleep better than those who do not. I don’t recommend you exercise to close to bedtime (like 1-2 hours before) as may wake up your system. Besides, it’s good for you, your heart and your brain. Do it anyway.
What about sleep aides – like melatonin, or sleepeze, etc. Melatonin does not work for everyone. It helps you to fall asleep, but does not keep you asleep for the most part. If you want a non-prescriptive to help you sleep there are those that contain valerian root and hops and passion flower. This has helped many people stay asleep. There could be some side effects for some – so check out to see if it is good for you.
Meditating before bedtime also helps you fall asleep. If you are not sure how to meditate – it is noticing your breath and letting your thoughts go. It is easier than you might think. And, there are loads of free videos you can find to see how best to meditate. There are also free meditation trainings as well. It is a technique that improves your sleep and also your brain functioning and moods. The more you do, the better you will feel. I highly recommend it.
There are problems with Ambien, trazadone and other medications as well as some over the counter aids. And, if you become dependent on them, it is hard to sleep without them. Try other methods before you decide to just go on another medication.
Do you need 8 hours every night. No, you actually don’t. You might be the person who functions well on 6 hours. Between 6-8 hours is best for most people. Growing children and teens need more hours. If you have a tendency to sleep 9 or more hours, this might indicate other issues – like depression or some medical issue. Too much sleep is almost as bad as too little.
If you have any suggestions that have worked for you and might help others sleep, please email me and I will put it in my next blog. Reference this blog in the subject line.
Janeen Weiss – firstname.lastname@example.org