The Luxury of Sleep

It's pretty much a fact of life for most folks these days.  We just don't get enough sleep.  Sleep becomes more of a luxury than stability.  My problem is undoubtedly related to many factors.  I can't turn my brain off at bedtime.  I'm stressed.  I'm addicted to my electronic devices.  I sleep with a partner who snores, etc., etc., etc.  Plus, I'm just a naturally light sleeper anyways.  As we all know, good sleep is vital to a healthy life.  It's not just rest time.  It's time that your body needs to do a lot of essential work to keep us emotionally and physically well-balanced.  Good sleep also means that our energy levels can be up where we need them to be, so that we can do what we need to get done and lead successful, fulfilling lives.  I decided to do a little research to find out how I might get a better night's sleep and found this book at my local library, "Sound Asleep, The Expert Guide to Sleeping Well" by Chris Idzikowski.  Here are the main keys that I discovered could possibly help me get the rest I need:

  • The optimum temperature for sleep is 64.5 degrees.  Good to know!  I've been sleeping with the house at 68 degrees.  What can I say?  I get cold.
  • Do not eat for at least 3 hours before bedtime.  I seriously doubt that most people abide by this tip, but I can see how it would be beneficial.  Digestion and frequent trips to the bathroom can keep you up at night.  Note to self:  limit my nighttime snacking.
  • Don't drink alcohol.  Truth be told, I'm not a very big drinker, so this is an easy one for me.  While a drink before bedtime can put you right out, alcohol has the tendency to wake you up before you are really ready to wake up.  No bueno.
  • Get some exercise.  A good cardio session can help your body work out the tension it inevitably holds onto during the day, which can make for a much more relaxing night.  And since it can be hard to fit in an actual workout during your busy day, housecleaning counts as exercise, too!
  • Get rid of your electronics at least an hour before bedtime.  This is a tough one considering that we live in an age of technology.  I don't feel comfortable leaving my phone too far away.  We don't have a landline, so I know that if there is an emergency, I will have to be able to hear my phone.  Using the airplane mode is therefore a good way to keep your phone close at hand without being bothered by any buzzes or dings when something unimportant is happening during sleep hours.
  • No caffeine after noon.  This is also something that will be tricky for me.  I have such a busy life:  my own business, a family and house to take care of, etc.  I need tons of energy to get through every part of my day.  It is undeniable that finding new ways other than a stiff cup of java or a large diet coke may be a necessity to getting some shut-eye when I need it most.
  • Eliminate sound and light distractions.  This is the biggest sleep obstacle that I need to overcome. I share a bed with my partner and he, like so many, snores rather loudly at times.  I know I'm not the only one who gets extremely frustrated (that's putting it lightly) when I get woken up by said loud snoring.  But what to do about it?  I myself have tried those inexpensive drugstore ear plugs, but they don't stay in and they annoy my ears.  What I the most expensive ear plugs you can afford.  The moldable silicone ones apparently stay put the best.  Another neat trick that I just learned about in this book...headbands.  These headbands actually have ear phones in them, so you can listen to some white noise or any other sleep-inducing recordings via your phone, ipod, mp3 player, without having to sleep with anything annoying in year ear.  Positively genius!  Check out this example of one such headband here.  We also have the advantage problem of having a TV in our bedroom. A TV obviously offers both light and sound issues that will distract most from good solid sleep. Sure, it's fun to watch a movie or a good show in bed at night.  But we always fall asleep with the TV on.  I'm the one that gets woken up by it in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep after that.  I've figured out a resolution to that, though.  The sleep timer on the remote control works great.  That way, I'm soothed to sleep by my mind-numbing show of choice but not woken up hours later to some loud overwhelming infomercial.
  • If all else fails, take melatonin.  I've been known to succumb to the Tylenol PM or Ny-Quil method on many an occasion.  These solutions can leave me feeling pretty drowsy the next day, though.  So about a month ago I decided to try out melatonin.  And guess what.  It didn't work.  In fact it made me feel even more restless than usual.  The "Sound Asleep" book informed me why.  Melatonin is a hormone that your body produces naturally.  It is responsible for letting your body know that it should sleep when it's dark and wake up when it's light.  Dark and light are therefore the keys to a successful melatonin trial.  So if you take melatonin when there is too much light in your room, you will undoubtedly and frustratingly remain wide awake when you are desperate for sleep.  The reason it did not work for me was due to the TV being on when I should have abided by the previous tip and removed all sources of light.  Go figure.  I will have to try melatonin again, hopefully with more success next time.
  • Develop good sleep habits.  In addition to everything else I've listed above, it's important to develop actual habits...primarily going to bed and waking up at the same times each and every day.  You must train your body to know when it's time to do what you want it to do.  We obviously don't lead perfect lives.  Sometimes we have deadlines that we're trying to meet or we have a sick kid that we need to tend to or we go out for a well-deserved night on the town.  But it should be a goal to maintain some sort of normal schedule when it comes to getting rest.  Other sleep habits to adopt:  read a good book, have a cup of tea, take a bath or do some gentle stretching before you hit the hay.  If you develop a practice of doing these things on a regular basis, your body should learn that these activities mean it's time to rest and naturally go in that direction without too much additional pursuading.

I am currently a work in progress and am still trying desperately to find a way to get a good night's sleep. There are inevitably many more problems and solutions to sleep, which are further discussed in the afore-mentioned book.  These are just a few tips that I found, which I think might help me.  How well do you sleep at night?  Do you have any helpful hints for getting a solid night's rest?

Cheers to getting a good night's sleep, Julie

*pic from here, edited by me.

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