While some of us can sleep anywhere at any time, approximately 60 million people in the United States require medication for a restful sleep. Those who are able to sleep fitfully relish getting into bed at night. Whether it is to hug a pillow or hug one’s spouse or lover — following a ritual is helpful. Researchers tell us that sleep is so important that even losing an hour or two a night can interfere with a person’s judgment and attitude. It can even be detrimental to relationships according to a study at UC Berkeley. Why does sleep elude so many people?
To put the sleep dilemma in perspective consider who it is that needs sleep. Michael Scullin and Donald Bliwise, reporting in Perspectives on Psychological Science January 2015 conducted an analysis and determined from previously published research that sleep is most important to young people. As people age they may need less sleep.
However, for people in relationships, a small study at UC Berkeley, presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in New Orleans, found that tired couples forget to be grateful.
What is troubling to so many people is the advertising-fueled myth that a little pill can cure you. An alarm was sounded when pill taking came under scrutiny. The British Medical Journal Online reported in May 2012 an association with some common sleeping pills to a four-fold increased risk of death—even for those taking small doses. Not all physicians agreed. Carl Bazil, M.D., Ph.D., the Director of the Columbia University Sleep Disorders Clinic, said to me in an earlier interview, that with interrupted sleep, what can eventually happen is “an involuntary pattern of poor relaxation and sleep interference with associated depression and poor functioning levels,” added Dr. Bazil.
He added that the sleepless cycle can be broken by medication, but believes that “behavioral techniques such as meditation are also very helpful.”
Here are 20 tips for better sleep: from practical to physician suggestions
2. When your head hits the pillow, express gratitude for the day and your comfortable bed.
3. Reassess and redo your sleeping space. Remove whatever is in the area except for the bed and one or two dressers.
4. Bring back only what is beautiful including a night stand and a small lamp. One on each side is best, but in dorm rooms or studios this is not possible.
5. Banish all distractions: gadgets, laundry, ironing boards, computers, and especially the TV. Even if you live in a studio, buy a folding screen that protects you from the plugged in world.
6. Take a careful look at your bed. Consider investing in a new mattress pad of feathers or foam.
7. Buy cotton sheets and a good spread or comforter and new pillows. Be sure to change the sheets once a week.
8. Follow your mother’s advice — make your bed each morning so that it looks inviting when you are about to fall into it at night.
9. Banish mirrors that face the bed. The bedroom should set a mood whether you are married or single. It should be a place that is quiet, warm, and inviting.
10. Begin to unwind at least 15 minutes before you are ready for bed from showering to brushing your teeth or putting on a beautiful negligee or comfy pajamas.
General tips from Dr. Bazil
1. Go to sleep at about the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning.
2. Try not to nap after 4:00 p.m..
3. If you are not sleepy, instead of tossing and turning, get up and try quiet, relaxing activities until you feel sleepy, then return to bed.
4. Perform relaxing activities in the hour before bedtime—try meditation.
5. Avoid doing stimulating, frustrating or anxiety provoking activities in bed or in the bedroom such as watching television, studying, or balancing the checkbook.
6. Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, is good for both sleep and overall health, but it should be completed at least five hours before bedtime.
7. Avoid caffeine after noontime. This includes coffee, tea, soda or other caffeinated beverages, as well as chocolate late in the day.
8. Stop smoking an hour or two before bedtime.
9. Limit alcohol, especially before bedtime
10. Talk with your doctor about stimulating over-the-counter medication you might be taking.
11. And for people with insomnia: “It is sometimes helpful to place a paper and pen by the bedside,” said Bazil. “If you find yourself worrying about completing or remembering a task the next day, write it down and let it go.”
Begin to retrain your brain for gratitude and a certain peace of mind will envelop you.
Resources - References within the following links:
Copyright 2015 Rita Watson