|Posted on 1 February, 2015 at 23:35|
Sleep is essential to our well-being. You know how you feel the day after staying out too late. It might even take a few days to get back on schedule. Where you used to regularly pull all-nighters with few consequences, you now have serious functioning problems when you miss out on your beauty sleep. You feel tired and cranky. You're sluggish. Your brain is in a fog. It's difficult to process information, hard to focus on the task at hand.
For some people, a poor night's sleep is a rare event, and easily traced to the previous evening's activities. For others, bad sleep is the norm. You long to get more than an hour or two at a time, but are plagued by the dreaded insomnia. This can be due to various reasons, such as a medical or mental health issue, or possibly because of poor "sleep hygiene." Below are some suggestions for improving your sleep.
1. If insomnia is a persistent problem for you, consulting your physician is a wise choice. There may be a physical or medication issue that could be dealt with that would promote better sleep.
2. Avoid caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, soda) at least six hours before bedtime. You might even include chocolate in this list, since it has caffeine in it as well.
3. Do not drink alcohol to help you fall asleep. While it seems like alcohol helps you relax, it actually inhibits REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. This is the sleep stage in which we dream, and the one considered to be mentally restorative. When you disrupt your REM sleep, you feel drowsy the next day and have poor concentration, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid.
4. Avoid taking naps during the day, even if you missed sleep the night before. As delicious as naps are, they can really interfere with nighttime sleep, making you anxious when you have difficulty falling asleep that night, which only keeps you awake longer.
5. Develop a relaxing before bed routine. This could include things like turning off screens (television, computer, smart phone) at least an hour before bedtime, taking a shower or bath, drinking a warm cup of milk, or reading a book. Choose things that are relaxing to you, and start winding down before your head hits the pillow.
6. Make sure your sleeping environment is comfortable. A quiet room, comfortable room temperature, and comfortable bed are essential to good sleep.
7. Do not try to sleep with the television on at night. This is extremely disruptive to sleep. If you feel like you can't sleep without noise, get a fan or white noise machine that produces a steady sound, instead of the lights and distracting sounds of the T.V.
8. Relax your body when you go to bed. Practice deep breathing or try tightening and releasing your muscles from head to toe.
9. When you are in bed is not the time to worry about problems. This only makes you feel anxious and makes sleep even more elusive. Keep a pad of paper on your nightstand and write down any worries or tasks for the next day so you can turn them loose for the night. Have a positive attitude about sleep and expect to go to sleep when you lie down in bed.
10. Exercise early in the day, or at least three hours before bedtime. Heavy exercise right before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep due to the endorphins you just released. Your body is stimulated and is no longer ready to sleep.
Sleep is so important to being a functional human. Many of us give it short shrift, not realizing we are walking (and driving!) around like zombies, not fully aware of our actions. If you have ever driven somewhere and not remembered how you got there, you know what I mean. That is scary.
Prioritize your sleep at night and notice what a difference it makes in how you feel during the day.