Sunday, July 31, 2011

30 Days of Blogging: Sleep Like a Baby!

That persistent car alarm. Your man's late night TV habit. The added stress from your work day. Face it, there's a lot to keep you up at night. Is it any wonder that two-thirds of all women have trouble sleeping at least a few nights a week? The resulting bloodshot eyes and Starbucks addiction are annoying enough, but more and more exercise links a lack of sleep to health problems like extra pounds, depression, even cancer. A Duke University study found that women who had trouble falling asleep more than twice a week or took longer than 30 minutes to drift off had a higher risk of developing diabetes and heart disease than men who couldn't sleep. Don't take insomnia lying down- a few tweaks can get your sheep count to, maybe, one...

Footnote the Day

Does just the thought of sleep medicine in your cabinet make you feel more relaxed? Maybe the benefits of sleeping pills is just all in your head. Making small changes to your pre-bed routine (like forgoing after-dinner espresso or moving your evening run to mid-afternoon) can help you conk out as well as-if not better than- pills.
To see what's keeping you awake, break out the Bic. Each day, note all of your activities: Did you work out? Make a coffee run at 4pm? Take a power nap? Include everything you ate and drank, as well as any meds you took. At night, write down what time you went to bed, then follow up in the morning with notes on how long it took you to fall asleep and the number of times you woke up. Once you can identify a pattern, you can start making changes to help you log in more shut-eye.

*Lightbulb Idea* Keep a notepad on your night table. Whenever you remember yet another thing to do, simply write it down and tell yourself you'll deal with the new and improved "to-do" list in the morning. My favorite notebooks? Vera Bradley! Hint, hint- Giveaway!!

Get to Bed Earlier

Most experts agree that 7-8 hours of sleep a night if best for most people. To start getting the sleep you need, add the time gradually. Start by getting into bed 15 minutes earlier in a 24 hour period. Each week, add another 15 minutes, and after a month, you're up to an extra hour. Sooner or later, you will have to come to realize that it's impossible to squeeze 30 hours of work into a 24 hour day.

*Lightbulb Idea* Replace or refill your pillow every 12-18 months. Why? The fill breaks down-and because dust mites inside breed like rabbits...Yuck!

Stick to a Schedule

If you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, it's a form of conditioning. On weekends, try not to sleep in more than an hour past your weekday rise time. You will throw off your body;s rhythms to the point where you might as well be in Paris. You will be exhausted on Monday and the rest of the week is downhill from there.

Upgrade Your Bedroom

Make your bedroom a sacred spot. Use it for sleep and sex-period. Move anything that might make you anxious , such as a computer, out of sight. In addition, try these to improve your environment:

Fade to Black: A room that glows in the dark-whether from the neat "Eat Here" sign flashing across the street or a full moon-is the second most common reason people have trouble dozing off. (Anxiety is No. 1) Light shuts down your body's production of sleep-signaling melatonin; so keep things as dark as possible, use a sleep mask, install blackout shades, or pick a darker shade for your bedroom walls.

Get a Hue: Clocks with blue-toned digital displays block melatonin production and keep you up.

Conk Out Cold: Your body temp varies by as much as two degrees during your daily 24. You're warmest mid-afternoon, but in the evening, your brain signals a cool-down process that sleep researchers believe may help you get to dreamland faster. Dialing down the thermostat to somewhere between 65 and 72 degrees helps you reach that perfect core temperature more easily.

Sniff This: Studies show a whiff of lavender before bed helps you doze more deeply. The scent seems to increase the amount of restorative sleep during each slumber cycle. For better sack time, spritz your pillowcase with a lavender-scented spray.

Down Your Dog: This one kills me but I agree with it. Man's best friend may be sleep's worst enemy. Almost one fourth of the patients in a recent study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, copped to sharing their bed with their furry friends. If you can't bear to shut Fluffy out of the bedroom, give him a resting spot he can't resist. Just don't try to wean him off the bed gradually. As soon as your dog jumps up, tell him "No" amd take him back to his own sleeping area. If you're inconsistent, he'll learn that he can eventually wear you down and get his way. To sweeten the deal, leave a tasty treat on the doggie bed to reward puppy after he nests there for the night.

White Out: You'll never make it to dreamland with frogs croaking or the upstairs neighbors going for the Guinness record in headboard banging. So drown it all out with the white noise of a waterfall or a rain forest. Even though the sound of rushing water is loud enough to cancel out other sounds, the white noise doesn't keep you awake because your brain becomes used to the repitition, and you stop hearing it. Just stay away from sounds associated with daytime like birds chirping.

Press Play: People who listen to music that falls in the range of 60 to 80 beats per minute (a close match to your resting heartbeat) before bedtime report more satisfying sleep. Pick a CD that sets the perfect tempo or drift off to this playlist:

"Drift Away" Dobie Gray
"Dream Weaver" Gary Wright
"(Lay Your Head on My) Pillow" Tony! Toni! Tone!
"Come Away With Me" Norah Jones
"The Scientist" Coldplay
"Until the End of Time" Justin Timberlake, featuring Beyonce
"Landslide" Dixie Chicks
"Bubbly" Colbie Caillat
"In the Waiting Line" Zero 7
"Hallelujah" Jeff Buckley

Remake Your Bed

Score a New Pad: If you snore in the same Serta you moved out of your college dorm, it's time for an upgrade. Mattresses accumulate sweat, oil, and dust mites, so you might want to replace yours after 5 to 10 years. Look for one made of natural rubber, which will discourage mites and absorb motion- good news for the 34% of sleepers whose partner's every move jolts them awake.

Study Pillow Talk: A description of the pillow selection at Bed, Bath, and Beyond can sound like a Seussian rhyme; one with holes, and one with bumps; thin ones, fat ones, ones with lumps. Though some of the fluffy options may look as kooky as they sounds, they can help reduce stiff necks and snoring. The way you lie down every night can determine which pillow is best for you.

  • If you have allergies- Synthetic materials are an alternative to down and feathers, which can cause allergies and are a breeding hotbed for dust mites.
  • If you sleep on your back- Thick, stuff pillows can push a back sleeper's head too far up. Down pillows are best for squishability, but they aren't always supportive. Look for a pillow with a firm latex edge to support and relax your neck and a soft down area in the middle that lets your noggin rest in a neutral position. 
  • If you sleep on your stomach (ME!)- Tummy sleepers need a thinner, flatter cushion-elevate your head too much and sleeping becomes like holding cobra pose. 
  • If you sleep on your side (Me sometimes!)- A plumper pillow fills up the space between your neck and your shoulder, keeping your spine perfectly aligned. 

Natural Remedies that Really Work! 

  1. Just Say Om- Kundalini yoga, which emphasizes meditation and breathing techniques, helps ward off insomnia. After doing this type of yoga before bed for 10 weeks, women can sleep 36 minutes more. One move to try at home: Sit cross-legged, with your arms extending upward at a 60 degree angle to the floor with your palms facing upward. Hold for three minutes, taking long, deep breaths through your nose. 
  2. Go for an early morning walk- Reset your body clock by going for a quick morning stroll outdoors. Sunlight suppresses your melatonin levels  so you are more likely to feel alert during the day and sleepy at night.  

*Disclaimer- I am NOT a sleep therapist or study sleep patterns. These are only ideas and thoughts based on studies, research, etc.*

So now that you know all the tricks and trades on how to get the best sleep possible answer me this...

How many hours of sleep do you get a night on average??

So here is to a good night's sleep, everyone, and hopefully you will wake up refreshed and ready to take on a new day...on your own two feet...

Until the next step bloggers...

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