Sunday, 15 March 2009

To sleep or not to sleep . . .

As I am typing at 6:14 a.m., I would like to give you some pointers on one of my favorite subjects: sleep.

When assessing how folks that I am seeing are doing one of the first things I thoroughly question about is their sleep because inadequate sleep is a huge stressor to our body and mind.

If I get that occasional response of-- oh, I only get 4 hours a night and I'm good, my first question is: do you feel rested during the day?  If the answer is yes, I'm absolutely refreshed and can be active all day and do not doze off when sitting still and have great sleep quality for that time I'm less inclined to push the panic button.

More often than not, however, the answer is a resounding NO!  Occasionally there will be a qualified yes-- I'm fine unless I sit down, then I'm out like a light.  Then the answer gets changed to NO, they are not rested during the day.

So here are some pointers for the typical sleep issues and reestablishing sleep cycles that have been wacked out and some good sleep hygiene reminders for all of us:  

o No napping! Engage in some sort of activity if the desire to nap becomes overwhelming. If daytime sleepiness becomes impossible to ignore, limit naptime to a single nap of less than 1 hour, arising from the nap no later than 3 p.m.

o Set the alarm and get up at the same time every morning (before 9:00 a.m.) no matter how much, or little, sleep you had the previous night.

o Do not go to bed until tired or before 9:00 p.m.

o To fall asleep do the slow, deep, regular breathing counting backwards to yourself from 100 with each breath. This allows your body to relax, and blocks out stressful thoughts. Do not rush this process.

Here is a little secret:  practice that technique whether you have trouble falling asleep or not. Your mind-body will learn that when I do this, I go to sleep.   Then, IF you ever run into a period of insomnia later you will be able to call on this later.  It works!

o If you go to bed and are unable to sleep after 30 minutes, go to another room and engage in a relaxing activity, such as reading, until tired. Do not fall asleep in another room. Return to bed only when you are sleepy.

o Keep bedroom as dark and quiet as possible.  You want your bedroom to be a sleep haven that gives your mind and body the message: when I am in here and lying down for sleep: I Sleep.

Therefore:  The bed and bedroom are for sleeping and intimacy only.

o Clear bedroom of all distractions: no TV, computer, stereo, etc.  You make think "I HAVE to have the TV or radio on to sleep."  What you do not realize is that every time there is a change in a song or a commercial or a laugh track your body is brought out of the restorative sleep stage-- even if you do not fully awaken.

o Use background noise such as a fan or white noise maker if you have a history of awakening easily.  Many folks have what I call "mommy ear." You sleep with one ear open to protect the household and when you hear a creak or snap or crackle or pop it arouses you.

o No caffeine after 12 noon; consider totally eliminating caffeine from diet.

o Get your exercise in before 5:00 p.m. It would be best to do your regular exercise routine in the mornings.

o Keep a note pad and pen by your bed. If a thought occurs to you that you feel is important and you must remember, write it down.  This technique has been like medicine for folks and eliminates the waking up to tell yourself, "oh I have to remember to do  . . . tomorrow."

o And, sorry to say, but alcohol may feel like it lulls you to sleep but it is horrible for sleep and keeps you from reaching the level of restorative sleep you need.

It is worth the effort to regulate your sleep and get it in the healthiest shape possible for optimal health and optimal cognitive and emotional functioning.

Yawn . . .

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