Six Suggestions for Better Sleep

Six Suggestions for Better Sleep

While all of us have experienced the obvious effects of not enough sleep—crankiness, feeling sluggish, inability to concentrate—most of us may not be aware of the serious consequences lack of sleep may bring about.

For example, getting less than six hours of sleep per night on average was found to be associated with more aggressive breast cancers, insulin resistance in adolescents, and memory loss in older adults. In addition, sleep is critical for maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding osteoporosis, and preventing stroke and heart disease.

Although it may not be possible right now to control all of the factors interfering with your sleep, these six suggestions can put you on the right track:

 
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1. Minimize or avoid stimulants. You may not think caffeine is affecting your sleep or the way you feel, but to ensure that it does not interfere avoid any caffeine after 2pm, or 12pm if you are especially sensitive. Alcohol can act as a stimulant, so avoid any wine, beer, or hard liquor within 3 hours of bedtime. Additionally, avoid decongestant cold medicines at night and talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking that may have a stimulating effect.

2. Have a sleep plan and be prepared. Put sleep into your schedule and plan for 8 ½ to 9 hours in bed. In order to train your system to get used to regular sleep it is important to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Going to bed earlier leads to more beneficial sleep, so avoid going to bed after midnight. Apparently, napping is complicated but I recommend keeping naps between 10-30 minutes and avoiding late afternoon or evening naps. Keep fluid intake to a minimum at bedtime and get your bedtime snack in 3 hours before time for sleep.

 
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3. Avoid anxiety-provoking activities close to bedtime. This may include watching the news, paying bills, or having difficult discussions. Try to intentionally schedule challenging conversations at least 3 hours before bedtime and develop a plan for resolution of arguments to avoid going to bed angry. Try not to be negative about the fact that you cannot fall asleep and instead reassure yourself by thinking “I can fall asleep” or “Any amount of sleep I get is fine.”

4.Develop strategies for falling asleep or staying asleep. A warm bath before bed relaxes muscles and reduces tension to help induce sleep. Adding Epsom salts (1-2 cups) which contain magnesium also helps with relaxation along with 10 drops of lavender oil to help lower cortisol levels. Deep breathing exercises can help you relax and fall asleep faster. Try reading a non-stimulating book under low light. When trying to fall asleep, only remain in bed for 20-30 minutes. If you are still unable to fall asleep, move to another room and try a relaxation technique (e.g. deep breathing). Consider wearing a sleep mask if you awaken because of light. Keep a journal beside your bed to write down recurring thoughts or to jot down items for your to-do list that you are afraid you will forget.