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Sleep Health

  • Top Fifteen Tips To Help You Get to Sleep Fast

    There are so many things that can keep us from getting the seven to nine hours of sleep that we are each supposed to get every night. Work obligations, social and family obligations, the lure of reading just one more chapter or watching just one more episode of our favorite episodic television show. With all of these temptations and distractions, it’s no wonder that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that sleep deprivation is a national public health epidemic, and that doesn’t even begin to touch on the problems that may be caused by stress, financial worry, or medical problems and sleep disorders.

    If you believe that you have a physical or emotional problem that is interfering with your ability to get the sleep that you need, then you are urged to see your physician for medical help. But if not going to sleep at night is more a matter of your habits and the choices that you’re making, perhaps all you need is a bit of self control, commitment, and a few helpful hints on ways to make falling asleep quickly easier. Here are fifteen of the top tips for getting yourself off to dreamland faster.

    1. If you smoke, stop. In addition to everything else that you already know is unhealthy about smoking, cigarettes contain nicotine, a known stimulate that elevates your heart rate and sets your brain to alert.
    2. If you’re got your tablet, smart phone, or television up and operational in your bedroom, that’s causing you more trouble then you realize. Not only does the blue light that the devices emit switch your brain to thinking that it’s time to wake up, but the content you’re looking at is stimulating you too. Turn it off and you’ll find yourself falling asleep much more easily.
    3. Face the alarm clock towards the wall. This not only stops you from watching the clock and obsessing over how long it’s taking you to fall asleep, it also helps to minimize the brightness of the LED light that your clock emits.
    4. Create a set of nightly steps that lead up to your bedtime and repeat them every single night. It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate – it can be as simple as washing your face and brushing your teeth and doing a few deep breathing exercises. The idea is that your brain will quickly learn to associate the nightly activity with sleep, and that means that once it recognizes those cues it will begin making you feel drowsy as soon as the routine begins.
    5. Check the bedroom thermostat and make sure that you have the temperature set to between 60 and 68 degrees. Though the idea of being warm and toasty may be appealing, studies have shown that when our bodies go to sleep our core temperature drops, and by creating that environment we actually speed the process along. Not only that, it’s been shown that being too warm can actually work against you when it comes time to go to sleep.
    6. Establish a specific bedtime and wakeup time for each and every day, including the weekends, and stick to it. The more routine your schedule is, the more your body will respond and become engaged with the process you set, and that means that if you go to bed each and every night at ten o’clock, that will soon be the time that your body starts to feel sleepy.
    7. Make sure that your room is nice and dark. That may mean buying light blocking shades, tucking a towel underneath a door that adjoins a bright hallway, or maybe even wearing an eye mask to bed. The reason for this is that our bodies respond to darkness by producing the sleep hormone melatonin, but any sliver of daylight means that melatonin production is diminished, and your chances of falling asleep easily are too.
    8. Take a good look at your mattress to make sure that it is still in good shape and providing you with the support that you need. If it has been more than eight or ten years since you purchased it, then there’s a good chance that it’s time for a replacement. You will be amazed at how much better you sleep when your back and body are well supported.
    9. Keep a journal by your bed and right down whatever is bothering you before you go to sleep. This also works for to-do lists. If you jot down something that pops into your head when you’re trying to fall asleep, then you’ve basically told your brain that there is no need to worry about it any more because you’re going to take care of it tomorrow.
    10. Use the bed for sleep, sex, and nothing else. Don’t make the mistake of watching television, doing work, or even watching television in bed, because you want your brain to reach the conclusion that if you’re in bed, it’s time to go to sleep.
    11. Take off those pajamas. Some studies have shown that when you sleep wearing any kind of clothing, you not only get too warm but also can get distracted by the feeling of restriction that they provide.
    12. Having a banana before bedtime is a great way to increase your body’s levels of both melatonin and tryptophan, both of which help you fall asleep more easily.
    13. The old story that your grandmother told about having a glass of warm milk before bed is actually true. Milk contains tryptophan, and having it heated up makes it even more soothing.
    14. Because you know that your body likes to be cool to go to sleep, the idea that taking a warm bath or shower helps may sound counterintuitive, but when you heat up in the tub and then step out into the cooler air, your body temperature drops quickly, and it is actually that drop that makes you fall asleep more quickly.
    15. Cut out the caffeine after mid afternoon. No matter how much you think you need the pick-me up, it’s going to hurt you in the long run. Instead of drinking another cup of coffee, take a walk around the block and get some exercise and fresh air.
  • This Is Your Brain Without Sleep

    We’ve all witnessed the classic toddler meltdown in the supermarket or at the mall. Experienced parents lock eyes and nod, murmuring, “Somebody needs a nap.” Yet that automatic recognition of the impact lack of sleep has on a small child is all too frequently lacking in adults who are experiencing the same kind of need. Not only do we as grownups have a peculiar tendency to take pride in the amount of sleep that we cheat ourselves of, but we also refuse to acknowledge the fact that it has an affect on the way that we perform, react or feel. But now a study conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of California at Berkeley has made it extremely clear that sleep deprivation has a massive effect on the way that the brain reacts to stimuli, and it’s not a change for the better. Continue reading

  • The Impact of Light (and Dark) On Our Sleep

    Read any article on insomnia and how to treat it and you’re likely to see that you should be spending at least some time each day out in the sunlight, and this is definitely true. Our bodies have evolved to respond to the specific wavelengths from the sun so that we are more alert during the day and drowsier at night. But very few of the articles that you read will also tell you about the need to be in the dark. That’s right, just as you need a certain amount of sun exposure, you also need to spend time away from the light so that your body will respond appropriately when you close your eyes. Our circadian rhythms, which are our internal body clocks, are set by the pattern of light and dark that we expose it to every day, and failure to properly expose ourselves to both aspects of day and night can lead to disrupted sleep and insomnia. Continue reading

  • Can’t Sleep? Try Sticking Your Feet Out From Under The Covers

    There are a lot of sleep aids available on the market that promise to help you get a good night sleep, but there’s a good chance that you can send yourself off to dreamland without spending a cent and barely moving a muscle. Next time you find yourself tossing and turning, try sticking your feet or hands out from under the warmth of the covers. Continue reading

  • Six Minutes To Sleep

    There are so many reasons why America is sleep deprived. One of the top culprits is our own refusal to make sleep a priority, putting work, family and social life ahead of our need for rest and adopting the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” philosophy. Some people struggle with medical problems like obstructive sleep apnea that prevents them from getting restorative sleep, while others are drinking too much caffeine late in the day, alcohol late in the evening, or heavy food too close to bedtime. Continue reading

  • Spring Is Almost Here, And So Are The Allergies!

    If you are a seasonal allergy sufferer, then the return of spring (or summer, or fall, depending upon exactly what you’re allergic to) is a mixed blessing. You’re thrilled to the return of green leaves on the trees, the lush grass and the bounty of flowers, but at the same time you know that their return also means watery eyes, sniffles, and worst of all – interrupted sleep. Yet for all of your suffering, you may not be doing everything that you can to make things easier on yourself — at least that’s what a new study says. Continue reading

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