How to Improve Sleep Hygiene: Sleep Tip 5 of 9

 

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Every body is different and everyone’s sleep requirements differ. If serious sleep problems persist see a sleep specialist. Until then, here are some pointers to get a better night’s sleep.

  1. Begin your night time ritual by turning down the lights and staying away from screens. Artificial light from computers and television stimulate the brain. Dusk is nature’s way of telling your brain, “get ready for bed.”
  2. Pay attention to how many “rest resistant” behaviors we engage in. Prolonging wakefulness until we collapse into bed may suggest a sub-conscious psychological avoidance of being alone with your thoughts.
  3. Make sure your bedroom is dark, silent, and comfortable.
  4. Process worries by journaling during the day and thus purging your brain of anxiety. Tell yourself, “This piece of paper will carry my problems and they’ll be here in the morning when I wake up.”
  5. Ask your partner if they hear you stop breathing and gasp for air. These are symptoms of sleep apnea and is a serious detriment to health. See a sleep doctor.
  6. Don’t let “segmented sleep” worry you. Historians suggest that preindustrial societies slept in shifts with breaks of wakefulness (just as wakefulness is segmented into shifts with periods of napping).
  7. Consider night a “duty free” zone. This is the time when we have permission to do nothing, fix nothing, solve nothing, build nothing, create nothing. It’s a guilt free “vacation.”
  8. Keep a sleep log to give yourself objective data about your sleep routines. We often over or under estimate how much sleep we get. We’re notoriously subjective; a sleep log helps.
  9. Try to keep a regular bed time and wake time. This forced routine helps recalibrate our circadian rhythms when they get out of whack.
  10. Turn your clocks away from the bed. Checking to see what time it is gives us a jolt of adrenaline which wakes us up even more.
  11. Remember: a good days’ waking leads to a good night’s sleeping which leads to a good day’s waking…and so forth.
  12. Avoid caffeine 4 hours before bedtime, and avoid heavy meals or lots of fluids 2 hours before bed time.
  13. If you wake in the middle of the night and stay awake for more than 10 minutes, get out of bed and do something soothing in low light…knit, read (not Stephen King), pray, sit still with your thoughts until your head bobs. Then crawl back into bed.
  14. Relinquish worries about insomnia. “Nothing puts an insomniac to sleep like knowing that it is time to get up.” When we “let go” we fall sleep.
  15. Try natural sleep aids: Valerian, melatonin, strong chamomile tea (in small doses; large doses makes you wanna pee).
  16. Try pharmaceutical sleep aids. This requires a doctor’s prescription.
  17. Practice deep breathing exercises. Inhale slowly through your nose, hold it 3 seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Do this 3 or 4 times. It helps us relax.
  18. Do the “limp noodle” exercise. Pay attention to every clenched muscle from your scalp to your feet and unclench them. This too helps us relax.
  19. Replace, “I must fall asleep,” something we can’t really make ourselves do, with “I must let go of wakefulness,” which is a fancy way of saying “I allow myself to slip into unconsciousness.”
  20. Put a fan or “white noise” machine in your bedroom to mask problem noises. Or use ear plugs.
  21. Monitor your intake of news. Television is designed to get us riled up with fear mongering, doomsday prophecies, and anxiety creating stories.
  22. Fitfulness at night may indicate your body isn’t tired enough. Day time exercise fixes that!
  23. Dedicate your bed for two purposes, sleep and that other fun activity. Do not use your bed as a desk, restaurant, theater seat, courtroom (discussing heavy subjects with your partner), or social networking site.
  24. Get a comfortable mattress. Lumpiness awakened the Princess and the Pea and there’s a good chance lumps will wake you up.

Tomorrow: Sleep and Marriage

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