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03/21/2011

Sleeping is an essential life skill: here's how you can improve

800px-Sleeping_while_studying Likely you are one of millions of Americans who dread the sound of your morning alarm clock. The electronic rooster goes off early for too many – who fell asleep too late – and did not stay asleep for too long. As a result we fill our abdomens with espresso and Red Bull, and the circles under eyes become ever-darker.

Even our metaphors for sleep aren’t working:  “sleep like a baby”?  Come on:  how many babies are known for getting a good night’s sleep?

Recently a published study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine dispelled the age old myth of one-size-fits all sleep patterns, while emphasizing the importance of sleeping well. While more research to validate the findings is needed, the research suggests that shorter than 6.5 hours and or longer than 7.5 hours of sleep leaves people at risk for early or increased risk of mortality.

Most of us need better rest, and it is within our power to get it.   A recent article in Prevention Magazine gives us a sneak peak of how to improve this important facet of our busy lives...

1)      Sleep Schedule: Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time—weekends included. This will help regulate your body’s sleep patterns and energy levels. Your circadian rhythms will thank you.

2)      Sleep Diary: Yes, psychologists as far back as Freud emphasized this. Keep a journal near your pillow—write down bed times, rising times, food before bed, and any other sleep particulars. This will help you know where changes are necessary.

3)      Cigarettes, Coffee and Medications: If you light up or drink a cup of java before bed, remember these habits produce a stimulant effect in your body and many be hindering your sleep patters. Also, check with your doctor about your medications; to check if they are affecting your beauty rest.

4)      Exercise: Ensure that you make it to the local body building center – and do this three times a week for thirty minutes. Make sure you do this four hours before your scheduled bedtime – otherwise your increased body temperature will prohibit the natural flow of bed-time melatonin.

5)      Wind Down: Yup, this is an invitation to chill out before your bed time. Take care to find yourself in your room one hour before bedtime. Devote twenty minutes of this time to get ready for the next day, twenty minutes for your body, and twenty minutes for a book or meditation. This helps in going from an active state to a resting state.

6)      Food: Take this or leave it, your Martini and Pringles before bed could be preventing you from getting good zzzzz’s. Alcohol keeps the blood sugar elevated for two hours; preventing sleep. The best food before bedtime is protein and carbohydrate rich foods including foods high in tryptophan: a natural form of serotonin that will help you to close your eye lids faster!!

7)      Temperature: Surprisingly important for sleep. Experts say the colder the better – somewhere between 65 -75 degrees. The cooler your body temperature, the more melatonin your body will produce—and it’s off to the land of dreams from there!

8)       Bedroom and Bed Habits: Pet lovers, this will be sad but experts say you will sleep better without your furry creatures. In addition, keep your room dark; including electronic lights. Turn on white noise if it helps and use pillows that keep your neck and spine in line with each other.

 

Sigmund Freud continually emphasized the importance of dreams for sound sleeping. "All dreams are in a sense dreams of convenience, they help to prolong sleep instead of waking up. Dreams are the guardians of sleep and not its disturbers.”

With these tips in mind, may you dream well, sleep sound, and wake rested tomorrow morning.

-- Liz Schreiber 

Posted at 04:32 AM in

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