June 28, 2013

Steps for More, and Better, Sleep

Over 70 million Americans sleep poorly or not enough. The causes can be self-inflicted (staying up late to finish a good book or study for finals) or unavoidable (caring for a newborn or sick children, noisy neighbors). But chronic deprivation can lead to reduced alertness, increased mistakes at work/decreased productivity and can be the cause of accidents such as slips and falls at home and even car accidents. Not getting enough can lead to what is called sleep debt. This debt can be made up somewhat by “sleeping in” on the weekends, but cannot be erased entirely. And sleeping in can put off our biological clocks…so that is not the answer. But getting enough good restful sleep is!

Following are some things that might interfere with good sleep (and some possible solutions) as well as a few tips that might make your slumber more peaceful and restful:

  • Exercise. Getting enough exercise can help our bodies be tired and ready for sleep…as long as it is not right before bedtime. Make sure your exercise routine completed is at least more than 3 hours before you want to fall asleep.
  • Medication. Some medications may contain stimulating chemicals like pseudoephedrine and caffeine, making it very difficult to fall or stay asleep. Ask your doctor about a possible alternate medication
  • Food and Drink. Big meals, caffeine and alcohol in the hours before bed can almost guarantee a hard time falling asleep. When our bodies are busy digesting or reacting to these things, it cannot relax enough to sleep. And although alcohol may make us sleepy, the effects wear off after a few hours, interfering with sleep.
  • Stress. Stress can trigger the release of chemicals in the brain that act like a stimulant. Try a few relaxation techniques to help you stave off stress and get some sleep. You might try a warm bath, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation or reading something dull to quiet your mind.
  • Melatonin. Naturally produced in our bodies after it gets dark, sometimes we need a little boost to help us in sleep. Found at most drug stores and natural food shops, take near bedtime and watch yourself slide into dreamland!

 

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