Sleep Hygiene

Millions of working adults (nearly 1/3 of our population) in the U.S. are getting 6 or less hours of sleep according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Society accepts a caffeine-fueled, overworked, and technology-obsessed culture.  A history of sleeping problems can have dangerous and fatal effects on your overall health and wellness. I came across a recent article that discussed 7 long term ill effects of sleep deprivation:

  1. Junk food cravings
  2. Skin issues
  3. Memory loss
  4. Sex drive
  5. Heart disease
  6. Brain damage
  7. Death

This past winter I read a New York Times article that addressed sleep, challenging readers to look at their history of sleep patterns.  The author, David K. Randall, explains it is relatively recent that the norm has been to sleep eight hours straight. He cites research done by A. Roger Ekirch, a history professor at Virginia Tech, who had been studying the history of night time when he began to notice references to a sleep cycles which included a first and second sleep, each one lasting four hours.

Photo by Muffet.  Attribution License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Photo by Muffet. Attribution License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Medical professionals who promote sleep aid products and call for more sleep may unintentionally reinforce the idea that there is something wrong about interrupted sleep cycles. A common result of this is something called “sleep anxiety.”  This is the idea that we should be getting a good night’s sleep but feel we are doing something wrong if we don’t sleep through the night. These worries can result in medicated sleep, which reinforces a cycle that the Harvard psychologist Daniel M. Wegner has called “the ironic processes of mental control.”

Sleep hygiene is something I think is very important.  Promoting healthy sleep includes looking at a person’s bed time routine, tracking sleep patterns, sleep comfort, and how one feels when waking up in the morning.  A list of questions that one can consider are:

  1. Do you sleep better cold or hot?
  2. Is white noise helpful or hurtful?
  3. Do you sleep in a room with a lot of electronics?
  4. Do you have a bed time routine?
  5. Do you try to go to bed at the same time every night?
  6. Do you keep a sleep journal?
  7. Are there other issues that keep you from sleeping?

I would love to talk to you more about your sleep hygiene.  Feel free to contact me for more tips on sleep hygiene!

The Benefits of Caring for Ourselves

Several of my private practice clients have been talking about finding time to taking care of themselves.  While this generally seems like a basic task, it does seem to easily fall off our to do list.  Whether its getting a massage, taking a short walk, spending time with friends, considering healthier food choices, or buying pair of supportive shoes that help staying on one’s feet all day comfortable.  Did you know that research shows massage lessens stress, depression, anxiety, and reduce pain?  I’ve noticed for more than one person that finding a reasonable bed time and sticking to it has been a challenge and so we’ve brainstormed setting an alarm clock for bed time with hopes that waking up will become less of a struggle.   Getting enough sleep has been shown to improve memory, supports quality of life, curbs inflammation, enchances creativity, improves athletic abilities, improves grades at school or meeting deadlines at work, sharpens attention, supports healthier weight (those sleep deprived feel more hungry), lowers stress, makes you a better driver, and improves emotional stability.  

Taking time to take care of yourself can relieve stress and relax, it can improve our overall health both physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Another consideration is to think about who in your support network can support certain aspects of your self care.  Perhaps one of your friends loves to hike and could point out some new trails for you to try, or a colleague of yours enjoys a hobby that you’d love to try but you’ve hesitated because you are not sure where to start.  Getting time to yourself is also important to re-charge and to ground ourselvesso that you don’t lose sense of our priorities, purpose, and balance in our life.  With the holidays fast approaching I encourage you to think about ways to take some time to conside how you can integrate self-care in your routine.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Sleep

Sleep is so important to “power up” for your day, to ground your emotions, for numerous health reasons, and when we are stressed sleep can become difficult. Then the difficulty can be sleeping too much, or sleeping too little.

Today’s post is going to address sleeping too little. Here are my top 10 tips for the day:

1. Set a regular bedtime: Everyone (if possible) in a household needs a regular bed time. Often times I have recommended people set an alarm clock to go to bed, as I think this is just as important as a regular time to wake up.

  • Helpguide.org suggests keeping this routine on the weekends too

2. Turn off the TV, computers, laptops, and disengage from your cellphones.

  • Lifehacker.com reports a recent study that found people engaging in too much screen time report lower quality sleep.

3. Exercise!
4. Reduce caffeine intake.

  • Health.com recommends not drinking caffeine after 2pm.

5. Nap for 30 minutes or less.

  • Dr. Frank Lipman: he suggests not napping more than once a day and often right after lunch is a good time for a power nap.

6. Keep your bedroom dark: light interferes with the production of melatonin which is good for helping you reach a sleepy state.
7. Relax! This helps your body release tension and often stretching during this time helps too.

8. Stop eating 2 hours bedtime.

  • TipTopTens.com suggests eating before you sleep keeps you from sleeping as deep.

9. Yes, you can stress about sleep. Try not to stress out about falling asleep. Are you wearing your favorite sleepwear? Do you have your favorite blanket or pillow?

10. Record what works!  Keep a sleep journal and look and see what’s working the best.