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    Joann Bally CSCS

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  • Sleeping Tips:

  • Sleep environment.
    If you have trouble sleeping, you may have to adjust your sleep environment. Do your best to make it dark and quiet. A room temperature of 60-65 degrees F is considered to be optimum, but may not be right for you. You may have to make some compromises with your sleeping partner. Make sure the color of your bedroom walls or the fabric of your covers isnít bothering you. This seems minor, but may be just enough of an irritant to make the difference.
  • Mattress.
    Check out your mattress. Generally, they last for 8-10 years, but you may need a new one before that, especially if you develop some new aches and pains. Your mattress should be firm, but not so hard that it doesnít curve where you do. There are many new types of mattress available, and stores will often let you bounce around on them and try them out.
  • Medications.
    Check your prescription meds. Some may have insomnia as a side effect, or may cause sleeplessness when combined with other medicines.

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  • Use your head.
    Mental stimulation during the day can help you sleep at night. Your brain will need some rest. You can read, do puzzles, learn something new. If youíre worried about something, deal with the problem and you will sleep better.
  • Adapting.
    You can adapt to sleep deprivation, so that you donít realize youíre not getting enough sleep. You think the way you feel is normal. If you feel fatigued for no reason and/or nod off at meetings, concerts, or dinner parties, examine whether you are getting enough sleep. Donít just assume the meeting was too boring.
  • Underestimating.
    How much sleep are you really getting? Maybe you are underestimating it. Consider your naps, when you go to sleep, and how long it takes to fall back asleep. Sometimes people consider light sleep, which is true sleep, to not count. If youíre generally not feeling fatigued, depressed, or unable to pay attention, you may be getting plenty of sleep.
  • Drink tea.
    If you have trouble falling asleep, try drinking valerian tea before going to bed. Donít drink regular black, green, or oolong tea to help with sleep; it has caffeine.
  • Vitamins.
    If you take a supplement with B vitamins, donít take it at night before going to bed. You can take a mineral supplement at night, if you are going to take it anyway. It may help you sleep.
  • Late night eats.
    Eating a large meal too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep. Itís hard to relax when your body is busy digesting. If you snack before bedtime, make it carbohydrate. Carbs tend to relax you, and protein to make you alert. You should have carbs, protein, and fat with each meal, but eat most of your protein early and emphasize carbs at night. Warm milk really shouldnít help with sleep judging by its components, but it works for some people.
  • Caffeine.
    Yes, caffeine can keep you awake, which can be good in some circumstances, but not when you are going to bed. Effects vary with individuals, but if you are having trouble sleeping, try avoiding coffee or non-herbal tea after dinner or even after noon. Experiment with this. Caffeine can also be found in many over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers or cold medicines, so read the labels. Colas and some other soft drinks, like Mountain Dew, have caffeine, and there may be quite a bit in energy drinks.
  • Head south.
    If you can, put your bed so that your head is to the south. This is from Chinese Feng Shui. You should be able to see the bedroom door from your bed.
  • Warm bath.
    Sleepiness goes along with a drop in body temperature. Taking a warm bath within 2 hours of going to sleep can help this along.
  • Mobility.
    As we get older, our muscles and joints tend to stiffen up. This can lead to minor aches and pains that interfere with sleep. Do stretching exercises on a regular basis or take up yoga to counteract this tendency toward stiffness. A little light stretching before going to bed may also help.
  • Melatonin.
    The brain releases the hormone melatonin in response to darkness and ceases production in response to light. Melatonin is thus linked to sleep. The synthetic version can be helpful in short term situations, especially for jet lag and to help adjust to changing shift work. There is no real evidence that it is effective as a long-term sleeping aid, though it is sometimes prescribed for the elderly.
  • Jet lag.
    Jet lag bothers some people more than others. If you arrive at your destination during the day, donít go to sleep. Relax for a bit, then go for a walk outdoors. If you want to try resetting your internal clock a few days before you leave, go to bed and get up a little earlier each day if you are flying east, a little later if you are going west.
  • Shift work.
    If youíre on a rotating shift schedule, itís usually easier to use a day-evening-night progression. Three-week or longer shifts are better than 1 week, so discuss it with your employer if you can. If you end up sleeping during the day, do your best to keep your bedroom dark and quiet. Keep up your exercise program, but donít work out right before going to bed.
  • Sunlight and light therapy.
    Circadian rhythms refer to the 24-hour cycle, which regulates not only the sleep-wake process but changes in body temperature and secretion of certain hormones. This is due to the rotation of the Earth, so thereís not much we can do about that. Sunlight exposure is important to keep this running smoothly for you, and spending too much time indoors can contribute to sleep problems. There is a process called light therapy which can be used to reset your internal clock and return normal sleep patterns, but this seems too complicated to me to be a good do-it-yourself option. There are therapists who can help you. But you can get yourself outside in the sunlight more often.
  • Older adults.
    It is not true that older people do not need as much sleep as younger adults. It is true that you have more trouble sleeping when you get older, but it isnít true that you canít do anything about it. Following a sleep schedule, limiting naps, exercising and getting outdoors, and eating a healthy diet can help older people regain good sleep habits.
  • Sleep schedule.
    Set up a schedule and go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. This will help condition your body to know what to expect, and you will get better sleep. Yes, do this on weekends too.
  • Getting up at night.
    If you wake up and canít get back to sleep, you may be able to relax and not worry about it. Many people, however, do better at getting back to sleep if they get up and do something else, then go back to bed. If you decide to get up and read, choose a boring book, not something that is going to get you excited or so engaged you want to stay up and finish it.
  • Liquids.
    Limit liquids a couple of hours before you go to bed. This includes not just alcohol and caffeine containing beverages, but even water. Donít drink less water, just drink your water earlier so you can get rid of it earlier and not have to wake up from sleep to go to the bathroom so much.
  • Smoking.
    Nicotine too close to bedtime can keep you awake too.
  • Acupuncture.
    Acupuncturists have a treatment for insomnia, and that is something you may want to try if you are having trouble sleeping and do-it-yourself techniques donít work. If you have a serious sleep disorder, see a sleep specialist, usually on referral from your medical professional.
  • News at night.
    Itís best to wind down and relax both your body and your mind before you go to bed. Donít watch the 11 oíclock news. You donít need to go to bed with all that negativity in your head.
  • Leg cramps.
    If nocturnal leg cramps interfere with your sleep, make sure you are getting enough electrolytes, and well as calcium and magnesium in your diet and/or supplements. The specialized cramp called a charley horseóa sharp pain in your calfócan result from pointing your toes when you stretch. (You know it if youíve had one of these.) If you get one, pull your toes up toward your shin and massage your calf. Be careful not to point your toes when you stretch your legs out in bed, and be sure your bed clothes arenít so tight they keep your foot from being in a neutral position.
  • Exercise.
    If you donít exercise now, start. If you exercise now and then, be consistent. Plan to get 20-30 minutes or so of exercise, plus some sunlight exposure, 3-6 hours before going to bed. Besides helping you sleep, it will improve your overall health.
  • Stress.
    Deal with your stress. If youíre involved with a stressful situation that contributes to sleep disturbance, your sleep should return to normal when the situation resolves. To better deal with such situations, and especially to deal with chronic stress, learn some stress reduction techniques. Meditation, self-hypnosis, progressive relaxation, yoga, tai chi, biofeedback all work or you can use another technique that works for you.

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