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- Self-Help for Sleep Issues & Sleeplessness
Get Help Falling Asleep
2013 is now upon us, and just like many years passed, the number one New Years resolution is to be healthier. Whether that means exercising more, cutting back on junk food or quitting smoking. According to GoalSetting.com, nearly 20% of people will have given up on their New Year's Resolutions by the end of the first month. Sticking to any goal requires dedication and determination. It is much easier to maintain a goal when you're focused and well rested. If you're not sleeping effectively, you will loose the energy required to maintain your new fitness regime. You'll be more irritable, leaving you susceptible to giving into temptation, like smoking or over eating. The health benefits of getting a good nights sleep are abundant and can lead to greater health, more focus and also greatly improve mood. So lets take a look at some things we can all do to become more effective sleepers.
Five Stages of Sleep
- Light sleep, you are easily woken. Some twitching may occur.
- Loss of nearly all muscle tone (sleep paralysis) brainwaves are slowed. Most people spend the majority of their sleep time in this state of light dreamless sleep.
- First stage of deep sleep. You're harder to wake up & may be confused upon awakening.This is the stage when sleepwalking is most likely to occur.
- Last stage before REM sleep. This stage of rest is the most crucial for feeling rested and refreshed when you wake.
- REM Sleep. The onset of dreaming occurs during this stage. This stage is important for healthy brain development, including creating long term memories.
- Try not to drink too much liquid before bedtime to prevent late night washroom runs. Your goal should be to get as much uninterrupted sleep as possible.
- Keep the blinds open during peak sunlight hours. Exposing yourself to as much sunlight as possible during the day helps your brain to signal your body that it's bed time when the light starts to fade.
- If you find yourself waking up a lot during the night, studies suggest getting completely out of bed is a good idea. Try getting up to have a cup of tea or another low key activity. You want to associate laying in bed with sleep & relaxation, not frustration.
Developing good sleep habits starts before you even slip under the covers each night. Some simple changes to your daily routine can help you fall asleep faster and sleep better when it's time to turn out the lights.
Make your bed in the morning.
This is such a simple step that can start you off on the right track. Getting into a nicely made bed each night allows you to feel not only more comfortable but more organized, which will aide in the relaxation process.
Most of us in this busy world need a warm cup of java (or two, or three!) to get us going first thing in the day. The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant, which serves to keep us going throughout our busy days, but drinking too much throughout the day can cause you a restless sleep. How long before bed to stop drinking caffeine will vary depending on your tolerance, so play around with cutoff times until you find the one that's right for you. Some people need to stop before noon, some only a few hours before bed.
Avoid over indulging
This can include both one too many glasses of wine, or eating too heavy a meal before bedtime. While that extra glass of wine may help you initially fall asleep faster it may not serve you as well as the night progresses. Too much alcohol can lead to abnormal dreams, as well as waking up much earlier than you intended (not to mention possible headaches & hangovers. Yuck) Eating too heavy a meal close to bed time also sets your digestive system to work, which can prevent you from having a restful sleep. For some great bed time snack ideas & recipes, check out Super Healthy Kids (they're great snacks for anyone, not just kids.)
Fight the urge to nap after dinner
After having a big meal at dinnertime, sometimes it's just so tempting to sit down in your favourite chair and take an after dinner nap. While there are conflicting opinions as to whether or not it's beneficial to nap during the day (Only you can know whether taking an afternoon cat nap will make you feel more rested or not. The best way to know for yourself is to experiment with it.) it's fairly agreed that napping past dinner time does not serve you when it's time to hunker down for the night. Napping past dinner time will cause you to wake up during the night. Fight after dinner drowsiness with taking the dog for a walk, play some Wii bowling or any other fun activity that isn't overly strenuous.
We all know the health benefits of maintaining a regular exercise routine but did you realize that exercise earlier in the day can help you fall asleep later at night? When you exercise it raises your core body temperature. 30 minutes of exercise can raise your body temperature and keep it there for five to six hours, at which point your bodies core temperature will begin to lower, signaling your brain that it is time to rest.
Keep a journal
Psychologists believe there are many benefits to keeping a journal. It allows you to work through problems and frustrations without fear of judgement. It also allows you to reflect on your day. If you find yourself laying in bed most nights, unable to shut your brain off, try writing out all your worries in a journal before you go to bed. This can help to clear your mind of any troublesome thoughts or frustrations. If worrying about all the things you have to do the next day is what's keeping your mind racing, try writing out a check list for the next day. Knowing you have a clear plan for the day ahead will allow your mind to relax and fall asleep.
Avoid over stimulation
Watching T.V, surfing the Internet, playing on your tablet. These are all activities that many of us engage in before bed time. We may use these activities to unwind, but when it comes time to shut off the lights, our brains are buzzing from all the over stimulation that just came at us through the television. Try and cut back or eliminate these activities at least half an hour before bedtime.
Since you're not watching TV before bed, you need to find something else to do before bedtime. Try engaging in low key relaxing activities before bedtime. These can include some light reading, writing, taking a warm bubble bath (stick to baths though, showers, even hot ones actually serve more to wake you up) or sitting down and enjoying a warm cup of chamomile tea (caffeine free, of course).
There are of course many health benefits to butting out. One of them does include a better nights sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant and smoking before bed may relax you, but it's stimulating your body, which prevents you from having a great nights sleep. As the night progresses, your body will begin to go through nicotine withdrawal while you're asleep, which can cause a restless sleep.
Schedule a bed time
When we were kids, mom and dad ushered us to bed at about the same time everyday. As adults we don't have anyone telling us "Okay! Time for bed!" Try and aim for getting into bed at or about the same time everyday. Sticking to a set sleep schedule may be tricky at first if you're a sporadic sleeper, but as time goes by your body will become used to falling asleep at the same time everyday.
Super bonus tips!
- Check out Fitness magazines great yoga poses. They're designed specifically for promoting pre-bedtime relaxation. Photos are of the poses are included and no previous yoga experience is necessary. And my favourite part: You do them right from the comfort of your own bed. No yoga mat required!
- Check out Red Hammer Softwares free nature sounds app. I have downloaded numerous nature sound apps into my iphone and found this one to be the easiest one to navigate with the most authentic sounds. My personal favourite is the crickets chirping.
Creating a sleep environment
So now that you've mastered a pre-bedtime routine that works for you, it's time to create the perfect sleep environment. Read on for information about creating the ultimate sleep experience.
Keep it cool
Try and keep your room slightly cool. (Studies suggest the 60 degree mark is a good benchmark) When your core body temperature is lower, it signals your brain to rest. Keep an extra blanket handy if you find yourself a little chilly. If you live in a dry environment or have baseboard heaters investing in a good humidifier might be beneficial. Sleeping in an overly dry room can keep you awake with dry coughs or dry nasal passages.
Keep it dark
Eliminate as much light from your room as possible. You can get darker curtains, use a sleep mask and cover all those little lights in your room. These include that little white light on your laptop, the little green light that shows your ereader is charging, even the red glow of your alarm clock digits. I personally turn my alarm clock face down so I don't see it (also handy when trying to avoid staring at the clock and thinking "Okay! If I fall asleep right...NOW I can still get four more hours!") and I place an article of clothing over my laptop so that pesky white light isn't glowing in my face all night.
Keep it quiet
Try and keep as much outside noise as possible out of your room. Set your cell to vibrate so you don't hear every little notification at all hours of the night. Invest in some earplugs if you've got noisy housemates. Adversely, some people might find that white noise helps them fall asleep. Tolerance for noise while sleeping is going to be different for everyone. If you need a little sound to lull you to sleep you can try keeping a fan running on low, use a white noise machine or audio nature sounds might be useful for you.
Did You Know?
Sleep disorders affect up to 70 million Americans. Not getting enough sleep can leave you vulnerable to many health risks including high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.
Source: National Sleep Foundation
Extra tips for Shift Workers
It may not always be easy to get to bed at the same time of day if you have alternating shifts, or if you work nights. Here are a few extra tips for people who work outside regular business hours.
- On the drive home, wear sunglasses to try and limit your exposure to the sun. Exposure to light, particularly sunlight signals your body that it is time to start the day.
- Set your phone to vibrate or advise housemates to try and keep incoming calls to a minimum as much as possible so you're not being waken up a pesky ringing phone.
- Try to stick to drinking coffee earlier in your shift to avoid being hopped up on caffeine when your shift ends.
- You're just getting off work and all the stores are opening up shop for the day. As tempting as it may be to try and knock off a few errands before you even head home to bed, try and avoid it as much as possible. You don't want to be overstimulated when you get home.
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
Preschoolers (3-5 yrs old)
School age kids (5-10 yrs old)