with Deanna Smith. Published previously in the Port Planet, January 2009

Most adults need eight hours of sleep to function well.  Many may think they can get by on less, but actually less than 10% of the population can do this.  If you are sleepy at bedtime, and are not sleepy during the day, you are probably fine.  If you need light, noise, and movement to keep yourself awake during the day, you need more sleep!

Many of us have checking and savings accounts; all of us have sleep accounts.  Sleep debt – the lack of sleep – overdraws your sleep account. There is only one option to cover this particular overdraft – get more sleep.

How can you get that sleep? You should first check with your doctor to rule out any issues such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, pain management, depression, or acid reflux, and to review your medications for sleep side effects.  If medical reasons are ruled out, it’s time to do a little self-investigating.

Evaluate your sleep habits or “hygiene”.  What’s your bedroom like?  Is it a quiet and peaceful place, or does it feel like Grand Central Station, with a telephone, television, or computer?  Make your bedroom a safe haven and off limits to activities besides sleep and sex. 

Routine can be very important in establishing a good night’s sleep.  Try to go to bed at the same time every night and awaken the same time every morning.  Occasional late nights and a morning sleep in are fine, but if you find they are the norm rather than the exception,establish a pattern and follow it.  Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine at least four to six hours before going to sleep.  Avoid action type movies and television, and wait until the morning to check on the news.  Creating rituals before bedtime can help.  Have a light snack, or a warm relaxing bath.  Doing one or all of these things, can enhance your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Do you find you are unable to relax at bedtime?  Try some techniques such as stretching, breathwork, guided imagery, music, Reiki, or meditation prior to sleep.  See if you can de-stress your body. 

Are intrusive thoughts invading your sleep time?  Use one word, “stop” or “enough,” to negate the thought.  Schedule time with yourself in the future to think about whatever may be troubling you.  Keep a note pad next to your bed and write your thoughts down to deal with later.  Then,redirect your thoughts to something soothing, such as a guided imagery or a relaxing memory.

If you wake up in the night, try to identify and avoid things that disturb your slumber. Common nuisances include the need to urinate, a bedroom that is either too hot or too cold, and noise.  Avoid drinking and eating just before bedtime, consider a timer for heat or air conditioning, and use white noise,like a fan, to mask noise that might wake you.  If you can’t fall back to sleep, try to get into your sleep position; that is, the position in which you usually wake up.  Move the clock so you can’t stare at it, try thought stopping strategies, and use your preferred means to relax.

You can get enough sleep. Be sure to check with your physician to see if there is a medical reason; check your sleep hygiene to ensure you’re practicing good sleep habits; learn ways to help you relax and redirect unhelpful thoughts at bedtime. You can be out of sleep debt in no time, and on your way to sound sleep.

Photos courtesy of the National Institute for neurological disorders and stroke

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