by Lucas Myers
Feeling cranky or run down lately? With days getting shorter and the holidays around the corner many of us may feel that we are always running behind. The solution may be more rest through better sleep. In fact, any number of things might be interfering with a good night's sleep. The pressures of family responsabilities and work, unexpected illnesses, relationship issues, or economic hardships can impact anyone. Although many situational factors may be outside your ability to control, there are a few habits that can be adopted which encourage better sleep. By some estimates you may spend as much as a third of your life sleeping. Here are ten simple tips you can start with to make sure you're making the most of it:
Timing is everything
Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. Having a consistent schedule reinforces the natural sleeping and waking cycle called the “circadian rhythm” that our bodies have evolved to regulate a good night sleep. Even though it may be tempting, try to maintain your schedule even on weekends and holidays so you don't disrupt that natural pattern.
Don't try to force it
Do something relaxing before bed – if you lay in bed for more than 15 minutes and do not drift off, rise and repeat – agonizing over sleeplessness will only exacerbate the problem.
Eating and drinking shouldn't mix with bedtime
Being too hungry, or too full, can create discomfort that keeps you awake. Wait at least 2-3 hours after dinner before bed. Spicy food can cause heartburn. Pay special attention to use of nicotine, caffeine and alcohol before bed. They contain chemicals which can ruin the quality of your sleep. Limit what you drink before bedtime to prevent disruptive late night trips to the restroom. An exception may be non-caffeinated herbal tea or milk; these are soothing for some.
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of our 10 Tips to Improve Your Sleep.
REMEMBER: Having an occasional sleepless night is normal, but if you are experiencing a pattern of restless or sleepless nights, don't hesitate to seek an expert, especially if lack of sleep is beginning to interfere with your normal daytime functioning. Contact your doctor to determine whether physical causes may be contributing to sleep problems. If your physical health is sound, contact a psychologist with experience treating sleep problems. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other evidence-based treatments are highly effective for improving sleep. If you are in the San Diego area and you would like to speak with one of our other qualified therapists, you may contact the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management at 858-354-4077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Dement, William C; Vaughan, Christopher (1999). The promise of sleep: a pioneer in sleep medicine explores the vital connection between health, happiness, and a good night's sleep. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN 0-385-32008-6.
Sleep Tips: Seven steps for better sleep. Mayo Clinic Staff. Retreived on November 25th, 2013 from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sleep/HQ01387
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