I’ve been experiencing a few sleepless nights lately. You know those nights when you lie wide awake from 3 to 5 am, and then awaken feeling pretty tired in the morning? Those kinds of nights. Along with feeling tired the next day, I’ve also noticed a loss of concentration which is making the writing of this post much more difficult! So, I started thinking about the importance of a good night’s sleep and what I could do to help my readers (and myself) sleep better at night. This is what I came up with and I hope it helps you, and me!
According to a British study on Health.com, people who are sleep deprived, which is sleeping 5 hours or less per night, are at higher risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular issues, as well as raising the risk for diabetes, alcoholism, depression, obesity and car accidents. And a study at the University of California-Berkeley determined that to be sleep deprived affects the area of your brain that controls your moods and concentration. I say true dat to that!
The question I wonder is why do we have trouble sleeping from time to time? There are numerous factors that affect ability to sleep. Now I know my college students would agree to the number one factor affecting sleep which is STRESS. If you’ve got a big presentation or test the next day, sleep might be difficult for you that night. Another thing that can disrupt sleep is extreme temperature fluctuations and environmental noise. You know how you can be sleeping and then the room becomes uncomfortably warm or cold and you can’t sleep? I’ve definitely experienced that in my life. Or, you’re sleeping in a hotel room with a noisy air conditioning system and once you awaken you can’t get back to sleep? Yep, that’s happened to me too. Changing work schedule or jet lag can also disrupt your sleep. An additional reason, and the one I think affecting me right now, is hormonal changes due to PMS, menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause (that’s my issue). Yuck!
So what can you do about this? First, sleep experts recommend establishing a consistent bedtime routine. This is one of the most important factors in sleeping well. That means taking a warm bath before bed, or doing yoga or meditation too. Anything that says to your brain, “relax and get ready for bed” is key here. The next thing is to try to go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time in the morning. This includes weekends too, which isn’t difficult for me because I have my “furry alarm clocks” to awaken me between 7:00-7:30 every morning regardless of the day. Another key factor is to get enough exercise during the day. The more physically active you are, the better you’ll sleep because of the energy you’ve expended. Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime or it could keep you awake at night.
The next key to a good night’s sleep is to cut back on the caffeine, especially in the evening. I can’t drink coffee after dinner or it will keep me awake at night. Definitely not what I want! Limiting alcohol intake can help you sleep better at night too, did you hear that college students? 🙂 Oh and don’t watch tv or do your work on your bed, the bed should be only for sleeping and other relaxing activities. I like to read a “just for fun” book on my kindle to fall asleep, that’s not the time for a weighty political biography. Avoid big meals late in the evening because that can also disrupt your sleep.
The experts say that if you can’t fall asleep within thirty minutes of getting into bed, leave your bed and go do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Then go back to bed instead of lying there tossing and turning half the night. Another tip is to do what my dad does and get a “white noise” device to block out environmental noises that can disrupt sleep. Here’s another great tip, one way to prevent insomnia is to TAKE A NAP! Yes, I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, especially to my sister, but as I said in my previous post “Nap your way to success”, a short (10 to 20 minutes) nap lying down in a darkened room can help you sleep better at night. I’m definitely going to be doing that this afternoon! Spending time outside is another way to sleep better at night, because exposing yourself to natural light sets your natural rhythms which helps you sleep.
Also, dim the lights for up to an hour before you go to sleep at night. We do this while we are watching tv in the family room before we go to bed. It definitely helps us relax. Last, don’t obsess about not being able to sleep. Remember I said that the biggest reason for insomnia is stress, and the more we worry about falling asleep the more it stresses us so we have trouble falling asleep because of it.
There are natural sleep remedies that I feel are very helpful. Valerian is an herb that has a natural sedative effect and can be found in standardized extracts in health food stores. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the wake/sleep cycle and other biorhythms. It can also be found at health food stores (and in my refrigerator!). It really helps to restore sleep patterns. Supplements that can be helpful are magnesium and calcium which are sleep boosters, especially when taken together. I take a supplement called Cal Mag + by American Biologics, which contains calcium, magnesium and other helpful minerals. I take two before bed, which helps with sleep. L-theanine is an amino acid that comes from green tea and helps keep you calmly alert during the day and more deeply asleep at night. Green tea doesn’t contain enough to boost REM cycles, you need to take a supplement that contains PURE L-theanine and follow the directions on the bottle. I’ve said it before, PLEASE DON’T BUY YOUR SUPPLEMENTS AT A GROCERY STORE OR BIG BOX STORE. Only purchase from a health food store or REPUTABLE pharmacy. Also, aromatherapy can be helpful for sleep and calm, especially lavender. Spritz REAL lavender spray on your pillow before bed, or purchase a lavender filled pillow.
So that’s how to have a good, healthy night’s sleep. I’m going to practice what I’m preaching starting today to make sure my sleep improves. If you’ve got a healthy sleep tip, please feel free to share it with me, or if you try some of mine, let me know if it helps you to sleep better. When you’re well rested it will help you to live a life of vitality- like Valerie!