How to Sleep Better
How to Sleep Better.
Last week I spent a completely amazing and unwinding week with my daughter's family at a small cabin
tucked peacefully in the tall pine trees overlooking a beautiful little gem of a lake. As we sat on
the deck and the evening fell quietly upon us, the stars came out in all their brilliant glory.
One of the things that made the cabin so peaceful was the lack of electronics. There was no internet
or cell phone reception.
The kids sat around the coffee table and played games or built forts in the trees outside. The adults enjoyed the unusual peace and engaged in quiet conversation or reading.
I felt like someone had turned the clock back 200 years.
It caused me to reflect back to the way it must have been many years ago when there was no electricity.
People got up when the sun came up and pretty much went to bed when the sun went down after reading for a while by oil lamp or candle light. No one had to tell them how to sleep better. The alarm clock was the rooster.
Overall, life was much simpler - the stress level must have been way down,
the air cleaner, the stars brighter. True, they had to work hard, but every night their minds and
bodies had a nice long stretch in which to rebuild from the hard labors of the day.
With the invention of the light bulb people no longer had to go to sleep when the sun went down -
they just turned the lights on and had daylight all night.
We have done that to ourselves haven't we.
Add to that - every fast paced and high tech thing you can think of and you can see why we are where
we are. And why we now have to figure out how to sleep better.
Good rest begins with our brain. Our brain doesn't shut down for the night, instead it tells our
body what it needs to do while it sleeps.
The Brain and Sleep Cycles.
Neurotransmitters such as serotonin signal the body that
it's time to switch modes. When this happens, our body enters a five-stage rebuilding process known
There are five stages of the sleep cycle and they only take about an hour and a half to two hours to
complete all five. As we go through these cycles all through the night, we spend less time in deep sleep
and more in stages 1,2, and REM.
Though the body needs only a couple of hours of rest to recharge its battery, the brain and nervous
system suffer without the necessary 6 - 8 hours.
According to the National Academy of sleep, approximately 70 million people in the US suffer from
sleep-related problems. And 20% of Americans get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. It's really important to know how to sleep better.
You know what one of the big culprits of insomnia is? Our alarm clock. We are suppose to sleep in
a dark room and some alarm clocks are so bright they disrupt our sleep. They also keep us awake
because we keep looking at them! Not good.
What does this lack of sleep do to us?
- Well, it is bad for our health. It can cause heart disease, obesity and diabetes according to the
University of Texas Medical School's Division of Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Medicine!
- There are between 200,000 - 400,000 car accidents a year are caused by drowsiness.!
- The National Academy of Sleep also says that we lose at least $100 billion annually in lost
- We all know that it affects our stress levels and can make us irritable!
- Our alertness and concentration are slowed down, and even our memory isn't as sharp!
- It also affects our ability to effectively do the work we are required to do!
"How to Sleep Better" List.
What can we do about it? Let's do a little thinking and create a "How to Sleep Better" list.
Of course we can buy those peaceful looking, butterfly floating, over-the-counter sleep aids. They work at first.
The problem is that they have a list of side effects as long as my arm. Some of the main ones
are daytime grogginess, memory issues, dependency, nighttime memory lapses, headache, stomachache,
circadian rhythm problems, memory loss, dry mouth, light-headedness, and clumsiness, to name a few.
Besides that, 50% of people who take sleeping pills find that their conditions worsen.
In creating a "How To Sleep Better" list, let's look at things we SHOULD NOT do:
- Don't sit up late emailing or using the computer. Did you know that according to studies the
production of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep, can be disrupted by staring at a bright
- Don't smoke. Nicotine is a huge stimulant.
- Don't use caffeine (coffee, many soft drinks). It stays in your system for 8 to 14 hours.
- Don't use alcohol for at least 4 hours before bed.
- Don't exercise hard in the late afternoon or early evening. Many people are affected by the
endorphin rush and are unable to fall asleep right away. Others can go to sleep immediately.
Experiment and find out how it affects you before you decide to exercise at night.
- Don't discuss worrisome subjects before going to bed. Depression is the most common cause of
insomnia in America according to the Sleep Center in Lexington, Ky. Stressful subjects often
lead to depression or anxiety.
- Don't eat a heavy meal before bed. If you have to eat complex carbs are your best bet. Whole
grain toast with peanut or almond butter or a bowl of popcorn sprinkled with kelp.
- Don't eat sugar filled desserts before bed. Sugar can make you hyper.
- Don't sleep with your pets. Train them to sleep at the foot of your bed instead.
That's enough Don'ts.
Now, let's add some things that we CAN DO to our "How To Sleep Better" list.
- Do Exercise
regularly on a daily basis. When we do this our bodies want to recover at night. Exercise includes hard physical work.
Isn't it wonderful how exercise works! Don't forget that no matter what your problem is, exercise
is part of the answer.
- Do Watch your diet. Eat better. Your body has to work hard to digest "bad" fatty or sugary foods
and it can make you tired. Gorging yourself makes you tired too. Even though you may fall asleep
your sleep cycle will be affected and you will wake up tired.
- Do Drink
Plenty of Water. If you are dehydrated your body will have a hard time with heat regulation
as your body goes through your sleep cycles. Your body won't be able to sleep well or recover well.
- Do Check the side effects on your medications. Some medications interfere with your sleep.
- Do Avoid taking naps if you can. If you must take a nap, keep it short (less than a half-hour).
Don't nap after 3:00 in the afternoon.
- Do Keep your bedroom clean and clutter free. At the very least just ignore the mess if it doesn't
bother you. And only use your bedroom for pleasant things. Keep it a special place.
- Do Create a nighttime ritual that helps you wind down. Stretching is really good for you, a little
reading of an enjoyable book, writing in your journal, or any other things you enjoy that helps allow
the tensions of the day melt away.
- Do Sleep in a dark, cool room.
- Do Cover your alarm clock with a towel if you need to.
- Do Have your snoring spouse do something about it. Even turning over on their side always works at my
house. You can also purchase the over-the-counter breathing aid. It is surprising how important this
item is on your "How to Sleep Better" list.
- Do Watch your intake of fluids after 8 pm. A full bladder will wake you up. As you age repeated trips
to the bathroom increase the risk of falls. My mother took a bad fall just a few nights ago when she
got up in the middle of night.
This page is becoming quite lengthy.
There are so many more things we still need to put on our "How to Sleep Better" list. I think we need a new page. Just click
here to read more about how to sleep better and
natural sleep remedies and other things we can do to promote restful sleep.
A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by
One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,
Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky -
I've thought of all by turns, and still I lie
~William Wordsworth, "To Sleep"
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