How to develop better sleep habits: May is Better Sleep Month

Does the notion of a better night’s sleep sound enticing? Probably. Most of us do not get the necessary amount of sleep that our bodies — and minds — need to rejuvenate. The benefits of a good night’s sleep include feeling refreshed when you wake and remaining alert throughout the day. If you lose even a few minutes of sleep each night, you could be putting that good mood and refreshed feeling in jeopardy.
Your internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is harmonized by the regular rhythm of daylight and darkness. When it, in conjunction with other factors such as psychological stressors and common social activities, like drinking too much caffeine, smoking or consuming alcohol, is disrupted, your sleep patterns are negatively impacted. Your internal clock greatly influences when you sleep and the quantity and the quality of your sleep. It is pretty basic: The more stable and consistent your circadian rhythm, the better your sleep.
For all of you “40-somethings,” your sleep patterns may change during this decade of your life simply because you are 40. Psychological stressors like deadlines, marital conflict and financial issues may also prevent you from falling asleep or wake you from sleep throughout the night. Your brain takes longer to “turn off” everything that you encounter during the day. Additionally, sleep apnea, a disorder that causes repetitive airway obstruction during sleep may initially present in this age group, causing nonrefreshing sleep.
Not getting enough hours of sleep is the most common poor sleep habit. A good way of improving this would be to create a family goal for the month by setting a time for each age group that the person belongs in, such as kid, “tween,” teenager and adult/parent to hit the sack. Set a pre-bedtime “curfew” to help get your household prepared for a good night’s sleep. Everyone in your family should get at least six to eight hours of sleep with young children and toddlers needing anywhere between nine and 13 hours, depending on their age.
Pre-sleep rituals are standards to live by. They help to break the connection between all the stress of the day and bedtime. Even more important for children, these habits can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as an hour. Some people find fall-asleep-fast relief by making a “worry-list” of all the stressors of the day, along with a plan about how to deal with them tomorrow. Some people place a pad of paper and pen by their bed to jot down thoughts that occur during the night, which can then be reviewed and acted on the next morning. There’s also meditation, reading something relaxing or taking a hot bath to help calm and “rinse away” the day’s worries.
Consuming coffee, smoking cigarettes or drinking some beers with friends could also spell disaster for a good sleep tonight. Believe it or not, caffeine can stay in your system for up to 14 hours, increasing the number of times you awaken at night. The effects of nicotine are similar, with a difference being that at low doses, nicotine tends to act as a sedative. But at high doses it causes arousals during sleep, leading to a restless, sometimes sweaty sleep pattern that may leave you with a groggy or “hung-over” feeling the next day. According to Sleep Review magazine, reducing sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night reduces daytime alertness by about one-third.
Observe Better Sleep Month by making a commitment to yourself this May. Getting a better night’s sleep creates a positive attitude. It is crystal clear how critical a sound sleep is to your health and well-being, so if you are not sleeping well or if you think you have a sleep disorder because of many years of a bad night’s rest, see your doctor or a sleep specialist.

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