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Top 10 Sleep Mistakes and Their Solutions

Top 10 Sleep Mistakes and Their Solutions

 

Although we may not like to admit it, many of the sleep problems we experience are the result of bad habits and behaviors. We stay up late or sleep in late. We eat foods that disagree with us or enjoy a drink late at night, oblivious to its disruptive impact on our sleep rhythms. Over time, we teach our body not to sleep. For relief we often turn to sleeping pills, which mask rather than solve the problem, and can lead to addiction. Ultimately for real success, with insomnia as with any chronic problem, one must look for the underlying imbalances and root causes and address those.

Here are the common sleep “mistakes” I see in my practice and their solutions.

MISTAKE #1 Not keeping a consistent sleep schedule.
We often think we can make up for lost sleep by going to bed extra early another night, but the body clock’s ability to regulate healthy sleep patterns depends on consistency. We stay up late on weekends, expecting to make up sleep later or use the weekend to make up for lost sleep during the week. Both practices disrupt bodily rhythms and late-night weekends in particular can cause insomnia during the workweek.

SOLUTION: Create a routine and stick to it.
Getting up and going to bed around the same time, even on weekends, is the most important thing you can do to establish good sleep habits. Our bodies thrive on regularity, and the best reinforcement for the body’s internal clock is a consistent sleep schedule.

Waking and sleeping at set times reinforces a consistent sleep rhythm and reminds the brain when to release sleep and wake hormones, and more importantly, when not to.

MISTAKE #2 Using long naps to counter sleep loss. 
Long naps during the day especially after 4 p.m. or even brief nods in the evening while watching TV can damage a good sleep rhythm and keep you from enjoying a full sleep at night.

SOLUTION: Nap for no more than 30 minutes.
If naps are absolutely necessary, make sure you only nap once a day and keep it under a half hour and before 4 p.m. In general, short naps may not hurt sleep and in fact a short siesta for half an hour after lunch or a 20 minute power nap before 4 p.m. works well for many people.

MISTAKE #3 Not preparing for sleep.
Expecting the body to go from full speed to a standstill without slowing down first is unrealistic. Our bodies need time to produce enough sleep neurotransmitters to send feedback signals to the brain’s sleep center, which will result in the release of sleep hormones to allow you to sleep.

SOLUTION: Take the time to slowly shift into sleep. 
a) Create an electronic sundown. By 10 p.m., stop sitting in front of a computer screen (or TV screen) and switch off all electronic devices. They are too stimulating to the brain and will cause you to stay awake longer.
b) Prepare for bed. Dim the lights an hour or more before going to bed, take a warm bath, listen to calming music or soothing sounds, do some restorative yoga or relaxation exercises. Getting your mind and body ready for sleep is essential. Remove any distractions (mentally and physically) that will prevent you from sleeping.

MISTAKE #4 Not giving your body the right sleep signals. 
Our bodies depend on signals to tell them when to fall asleep and wake up, the two most fundamental ones being darkness and light. But we live and work in artificially lit environments and often miss out on the strongest regulatory signal of all, natural sunlight. When we do go to sleep and our bodies need complete darkness for production of the important sleep hormone, melatonin, our bedrooms are not pitch dark, thereby interfering with this key process.

SOLUTION: At night, keep the room as dark as possible.
Look around your bedroom: the alarm clock read-out that glows in bright red; the charging indicator on your cell phone or PDA, the monitor on your computer, the battery indicator on the cordless phone or answering machine, the DVD clock and timer. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of sleep hormones and therefore disturb your sleep rhythms.

Conceal or move the clock, cover all the lights of any electronic device and use dark shades or drapes on the windows if they are exposed to light. If all of that is not possible, wear an eye mask.

If you get up in the middle of the night, try keeping the light off when you go to the bathroom. Use a flashlight or night light.

MISTAKE #5 Having a bed time snack of refined grains or sugars.
These are metabolic disruptors which raise blood sugar and overstress the organs involved in hormone regulation throughout the body. This hormone roller coaster can affect sleep cycles by waking you up at odd times during sleep as the hormone levels fluctuate.

SOLUTION: If you have to eat, have a high-protein snack.

It is better not to have anything before bed. But if you must eat something, a high protein snack will not only prevent the hormone roller coaster, but also may provide L-tryptophan, an amino acid needed to produce melatonin.

MISTAKE #6 Using sleeping pills to fall and stay asleep. 
Sleeping pills mask sleep problems and do not resolve the underlying cause of insomnia. Many sleep studies have concluded that sleeping pills, whether prescription or over-the-counter, do more harm than good over the long-term. They can be highly addictive and studies have found them to be potentially dangerous (see references, page 11).

For short term use, there may be indications for needing sleeping pills, but over time, sleeping pills can actually make insomnia worse, not better. If you have been taking them for a long time, ask your doctor to help you design a regimen to wean yourself off them.

SOLUTION: Learn relaxation techniques. 
Aside from physical problems, stress may be the number one cause of sleep disorders. Temporary stress can lead to chronic insomnia and circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Many people tell me they can’t switch off their racing minds and therefore can’t sleep.

Do some breathing exercises, restorative yoga or meditation. These will calm the mind and reduce the fears and worries that trigger the stress.

MISTAKE #7 Using Alcohol to fall asleep.
Because of alcohol’s sedating effect, many people with insomnia drink alcohol to promote sleep. Alcohol does have an initial sleep inducing effect, but as it gets broken down by the body, it usually impairs sleep during the second half of the night leading to a reduction in overall sleep time. Habitual alcohol consumption just before bedtime can reduce its sleep-inducing effect, while its disruptive effects continue or even increase.

SOLUTION: Take nutrients that calm the body and mind, getting you ready for sleep. 
Don’t drink alcohol to help you sleep. Look for a calming formula that has some of the following: amino acids, L theanine, taurine, 5 HTP and GABA, and herbs like lemon balm, passion flower, chamomile and valerian root. Taking the minerals, calcium and magnesium at night is also helpful. For some people, especially those of us over 50, melatonin can be helpful too. This is because the body produces less melatonin with advancing age and may explain why elderly people often have difficulty sleeping and respond well to melatonin.

MISTAKE #8 Watching television to fall asleep.
Because we have no trouble at all falling asleep in the living room in front of the TV many of us watch TV in bed to fall asleep. But when we fall asleep in a bed watching TV, we invariably wake up later on. This sets up a cycle or conditioning that reinforces poor sleep at night. I have had many patients over the years develop insomnia due to this type of conditioning.

SOLUTION: Get the TV out of the bedroom.
Don’t watch TV in bed. The bed should be associated with sleep (and sex).

MISTAKE #9 Staying in bed hoping to fall asleep.
If you can’t fall asleep within 30-45 minutes, chances are you won’t for at least another hour, and perhaps even longer. You may have missed the open “sleep gate” or missed catching the sleep wave. A “sleep gate” is the open window of time your body will allow you to fall asleep. Researchers have found that our brain goes through several sleep cycles each night where all sleep phases are repeated. These cycles last from 90 minutes to two hours, and at the beginning of each cycle, the body’s “sleep gate” opens. You won’t be able to fall asleep when your sleep gate is closed. 

SOLUTION: Catch the sleep wave. 
If you find you can’t fall asleep within 45 minutes, get up and get out of the bedroom. Read a book, do a restorative yoga pose or do some other calming activity for another 1 -1 1/2 hours before trying to sleep again. Staying in bed only causes stress over not sleeping.

It is like surfing; you need to catch that sleep wave. Have you ever been exhausted and yet you avoid going to sleep and then a few hours later when you are ready for bed, you are suddenly wide awake? You missed the wave.


MISTAKE #10 Making sleep a performance issue. 
Often just thinking about sleep affects your ability to fall asleep. What happens frequently is that the way you cope with the insomnia becomes as much of a problem, as the insomnia itself. It often becomes a vicious cycle of worrying about not being able to sleep which leads to worsening sleep problems. Like so many things in life, it is about letting go, going with the flow. Sleep needs to become a natural rhythm like breathing, something that comes automatically and you don’t think about.

SOLUTION: Let go and go with the flow.
Use the time to practice breathing exercises or meditation and to become aware of how what you eat, what medications you take, what behaviors or certain activities can affect your sleep cycle.

Increase your awareness by paying attention to your body and becoming conscious of how you react to different foods and situations. Use this time productively, instead of getting upset that you can’t fall asleep.

One final point.
For chronic insomniacs, especially if you are a heavy snorer, make sure Sleep Apnea is not the cause. This is a serious condition that affects at least 12 million Americans, many of whom have not been diagnosed. Usually they are heavy snorers. What happens is that the tissues at the back of the throat relax and in so doing block the airways. The brain senses oxygen deprivation, and sends wakeup signals. There is a release of adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormone. Not only does this interfere with sleep, it can increase blood pressure, raising your risk of heart problems and stroke. It can also interfere with insulin sensitivity, and increases your risk of diabetes.

EFERENCES

1. What’s wrong with prescribing hypnotics?“. Drug Ther Bull 42 (12): 89-93. December 2004. doi:10.1136/dtb.2004.421289PMID 15587763http://www.nelm.nhs.uk/en/NeLM-Area/Evidence/Drug-Class-Focused-Reviews/498264/.

2. D. Maiuro PhD, Roland (13 Decemember 2009). Handbook of Integrative Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Medicine: Perspectives, Practices, and Research. Springer Publishing Company. pp.128-130. ISBN 0-8261-1094-0http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=4Tkdm1vRFbUC

3. Lader, Malcolm Harold; P. Cardinali, Daniel; R. Pandi-Perumal, S. (22 March 2006). Sleep and sleep disorders: a neuropsychopharmacological approach. Georgetown, Tex.: Landes Bioscience/Eurekah.com. p.127. ISBN 0-387-27681-5.

4. Authier, N.; Boucher, A.; Lamaison, D.; Llorca, PM.; Descotes, J.; Eschalier, A. (2009). “Second Meeting of the French CEIP (Centres d’Evaluation et d’Information sur la Pharmacodependance). Part II: Benzodiazepine Withdrawal.” Therapie 64 (6): 365-370. doi:10.2515/therapie/2009051PMID 20025839.

5. Glass J, Lanctot KL, Herrmann N, Sproule BA, Busto UE (November 2005). “Sedative hypnotics in older people with insomnia: meta-analysis of risks and benefits“. BMJ 331 (7526): 1169. doi:10.1136/bmj.38623.768588.47PMID 16284208PMC 1285093http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/331/7526/1169

By Frank Lipman MD,  an internationally recognized expert in the fields of Integrative and Functional Medicine. A practicing physician, he is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in NYC, where for over 20 years his personal brand of healing has helped thousands of people reclaim their vitality. To bring his approach to a wider audience, he created Eleven Eleven Wellness, Guided Health Solutions. He is the author of Revive (previously called Spent) and Total Renewal. To hang with Frank, visit his blog, follow him on Twitter or join his Facebook community today.

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Excellent Health is found along your journey and not just at your destination. Would it make sense for us to spend several minutes together to discuss your Health Issues or Problems and how HealthyHighway can help YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life? Please complete the information on our Contact Us page to schedule your consultation today! I look forward to helping YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life!

Live Well!

Leesa Wheeler

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author

ring ~ 770-393-1284

write ~ info@healthyhighway.org

visit ~ www.HealthyHighway.org

consult ~ www.healthyhighway.org/contact.html

chews ~ www.Chews4Health.com/Leesa

enjoy ~ www.Chewcolat.com

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8 Foods That Surprisingly Impact Sleep

8 Foods That Surprisingly Impact Sleep

 

 We all know that drinking coffee before bed will make it hard to fall asleep, and that drinking warm milk will help us fall asleep faster —  at least according to our mothers. But did you know that there are plenty of other foods that can impact our slumber? By making a few small changes in your diet, you may not be cured of your insomnia, sure, but you’ll be much better off for it. Check out some of the best — and worst — foods for a good night’s rest.

 

1. Good: Walnuts & Almonds

Almonds contain hefty doses of magnesium, tryptophan and melatonin, a trifecta of ideal sleep-promoting aids. Try eating a handful an hour or so before bed.

 

2. Bad: Grapefruit.

There’s nothing like heartburn for keeping you up all night, and grapefruit increases your stomach’s acidity. If you’d like to avoid heartburn, stay away from grapefruit and other citrus fruits and juices before hitting the sack.

 

3. Good: Oatmeal.

Most of us only eat the stuff in the morning, but the benefits of eating oatmeal before bed might change your habits. Oatmeal is full of plenty of sleep-promoting nutrients, like magnesium, potassium calcium and phosphorous.

 

4. Bad: Celery.

No, really! Celery is certainly a healthy veggie, but it’s not best to eat it before bed. Why? Well, celery is a natural diuretic, and, unless you want to disrupt your slumber with a middle of the night bathroom run, it’s best to avoid it.

Other Natural Diuretics to Avoid Before Bed: Ginger, Parsley.

 

5. Good: Raspberries & Tart Cherries.

Melatonin is a popular supplement for sleep aid, and there are a few, though not many, natural sources of the stuff. Your best bets are raspberries and tart cherries.

 

6. Bad: Greasy & Fried Foods.

People who eat fatty, greasy and fried foods in the evening tend to get less productive sleep than those who don’t. Your stomach is working extra hard to digest the stuff, and can lead to indigestion and heart burn. It’s fine to indulge in calorie-rich foods every once in a while, but try to do so at least 3 hours before you go to sleep.

 

7. Good: Bananas.

With plenty of potassium and magnesium, bananas are an excellent late night snack and natural muscle relaxer. It also contains tryptophan, the same amino acid that gives turkey its famous sleep-inducing reputation.

 

8. Bad: Spicy Foods.

Spicy foods will certainly take a toll on your gut, but they also may impact your sleep. It’s best to avoid spicy meals right before hitting the sack.

by Katie Waldeck

Katie is a freelance writer focused on pets, food and women’s issues. A Chicago native and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Katie now lives in Oakland, California.

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Excellent Health is found along your journey and not just at your destination. Would it make sense for us to spend several minutes together to discuss your Health Issues or Problems and how HealthyHighway can help YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life? Please complete the information on our Contact Us page to schedule your consultation today! I look forward to helping YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life!

Live Well!

Leesa Wheeler

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author

ring ~ 770-393-1284

write ~ info@healthyhighway.org

visit ~ www.HealthyHighway.org

consult ~ www.healthyhighway.org/contact.html

chews ~ www.Chews4Health.com/Leesa

enjoy ~ www.Chewcolat.com

follow ~ www.twitter.com/HealthyHighway

learn ~ www.healthyhighway.wordpress.com

like ~ www.tinyurl.com/Facebook-HealthyHighway

join ~ www.tinyurl.com/googleplusHealthyHighway

link ~ www.linkedin.com/in/leesawheeler

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7 Surprising Signs You Need to Sleep More

7 Surprising Signs You Need to Sleep More

One in three Americans aren’t getting enough  sleep — are you one of them? Click through to check out some of the most  surprising consequences of sleep deprivation. How many hours do you get each  night? Let us know in the comments section.

1. You’re Feeling Weepy.

Have you ever felt like you might burst into  tears at the drop of a hat after you pulled an all-nighter? Researchers  at UC-Berkeley have linked sleepless nights to our inability to reason and  handle perceived threats. That minor squabble with a friend or sappy movie on TV  may not seem so terrible on a day when we’re well-rested.

2. You Just Can’t Focus.

From plane crashes to oil spills, some of the worst disasters in recent  memory have been attributed, at least in part, to fatigue. Similarly, one study  has suggested that medical interns on the night shift were two times as likely  to misinterpret test results from patients. Sure, most of us don’t have the  lives of innocent people in our hands on a daily basis (well, outside of our  cars.. more on that later), but sleep deprivation can have serious consequences  on our everyday lives. Sleepiness can impact your brain’s ability to focus and  stay alert, thus making it more difficult to understand and process new  information.

3. You Always Feel Sick.

Everyone in your family has avoided the cold this winter, but you’ve had the  sniffles since Thanksgiving. What gives? Take a look at your sleep habits. If  you’re not getting enough shut eye, your immune system is not working as well as  it could be, thus making you more susceptible to catching viruses or bacterial  infections. And it doesn’t just make you more likely to catch a cold, it can  also make it harder for you to recover.

4. You’re Never Hungry.. Or You’re Always  Hungry.

Everyone is different, even when it comes to how sleep deprivation impacts  our appetites — and neither of them are healthy. A lack of sleep throws our  internal clock , and our hunger hormones, off balance. For some of us, this  means that we eat more than we normally would, and for others it means we don’t  want to eat at all.

5. Your Skin is Dry.

Sleep is a time for your body to repair itself — including creating new skin  cells. That, plus all of the essential vitamins, water, and nutrients that your  skin needs to stay healthy, can cause your skin to dry out.

6. You’re Sloppy.

Spill your coffee on the newspaper this morning? Sleeplessness can impact  your motor skills and ability to react quickly to things around you. Maybe  you’re not just a klutz, perhaps  you need more sleep!

7. You’re Forgetting Everything.

Can’t remember what you ate for breakfast? You may need a few more hours of  shut eye. Sleep impacts how your brain stores information, including, yep, where  you left your glasses. And it’s not just your short-term memory: sleep  deprivation has been shown to have negative consequences of student’s test  scores and grades.

By Katie Waldeck

Katie is a freelance writer focused on pets, food and women’s issues. A  Chicago native and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Katie now lives  in Oakland, California.

33 Tips for Better Sleep!

33 Tips for Better Sleep

 

Sleep is one of the great mysteries of life. Like gravity or the quantum field, we still don’t understand exactly why we sleep—although we are learning more about it every day.  We do know, however, that good sleep is one of the cornerstones of health.

Six to eight hours per night seems to be the optimal amount of sleep for most adults, and too much or too little can have adverse effects on your health.

Sleep deprivation is such a chronic condition these days that you might not even realize you suffer from it. Science has now established that a sleep deficit can have serious, far reaching effects on your health.

For example, interrupted or impaired sleep can:

  • Dramatically weaken your immune system
  • Accelerate tumor growth—tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions
  • Cause a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you’ve already eaten, which can wreak havoc on your weight
  • Seriously impair your memory; even a single night of poor sleep—meaning sleeping only 4 to 6 hours—can impact your ability to think clearly the next day
  • Impair your performance on physical or mental tasks, and decrease your problem solving ability

When your circadian rhythms are disrupted, your body produces less melatonin (a hormone AND an antioxidant) and has less ability to fight cancer, since melatonin helps suppress free radicals that can lead to cancer. This is why tumors grow faster when you sleep poorly.

Impaired sleep can also increase stress-related disorders, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Constipation
  • Mood disorders like depression

Sleep deprivation prematurely ages you by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as Peak Fitness Technique). Growth hormone helps you look and feel younger.

One study has even shown that people with chronic insomnia have a three times greater risk of dying from any cause.

Lost sleep is lost forever, and persistent lack of sleep has a cumulative effect when it comes to disrupting your health. Poor sleep can make your life miserable, as most of you probably know.

The good news is, there are many natural techniques you can learn to restore your “sleep health.”

Whether you have difficulty falling asleep, waking up too often, or feeling inadequately rested when you wake up in the morning—or maybe you simply want to improve the quality of your sleep—you are bound to find some relief from my tips and tricks below.

Optimizing Your Sleep Sanctuary

  • Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your internal clock and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep. This will help decrease your risk of cancer.  Close your bedroom door, and get rid of night-lights. Refrain from turning on any light at all during the night, even when getting up to go to the bathroom. Cover up your clock radio. Cover your windows—I recommend using blackout shades or drapes. All life evolved in response to predictable patterns of light and darkness, called circadian rhythms. Modern day electrical lighting has significantly betrayed your inner clock by disrupting your natural rhythms. Little bits of light pass directly through your optic nerve to your hypothalamus, which controls your biological clock. Light signals your brain that it’s time to wake up and starts preparing your body for action.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Many people keep their homes and particularly their upstairs bedrooms too warm. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 60 to 68 degrees. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep. When you sleep, your body’s internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep. Scientists believe a cooler bedroom may therefore be most conducive to sleep, since it mimics your body’s natural temperature drop.
  • Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). These can disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well. To do this, you need a gauss meter. You can find various models online, starting around $50 to $200. Some experts even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to kill all power in your house.
  • Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your bed. If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least 3 feet. Remove the clock from view. It will only add to your worry when you stare at it all night… 2 a.m. …3 a.m. … 4:30 a.m.
  • Avoid using loud alarm clocks. It is very stressful on your body to be suddenly jolted awake. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, an alarm may even be unnecessary. I gave up my alarm clock years ago and now use a sun alarm clock. These clocks include a built-in light that gradually increases in intensity, simulating a natural sunrise.
  • Reserve your bed for sleeping. If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, you may find it harder to relax and drift off to sleep, so avoid doing these activities in bed.
  • Consider separate bedrooms. Recent studies suggest, for many people, sharing a bed with a partner (or pets) can significantly impair sleep, especially if the partner is a restless sleeper or snores. If bedfellows are consistently interfering with your sleep, you may want to consider a separate bedroom.

Preparing for Bed

  • Get to bed as early as possible. Your body (particularly your adrenal system) does a majority of its recharging between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. In addition, your gallbladder dumps toxins during this same period. If you are awake, the toxins back up into your liver, which can further disrupt your health. Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and which nature intended for humans as well.
  • Don’t change your bedtime. You should go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, even on the weekends. This will help your body to get into a sleep rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep and get up in the morning.
  • Establish a bedtime routine. This could include meditation, deep breathing, using aromatherapy or essential oils or indulging in a massage from your partner. The key is to find something that makes you feel relaxed, then repeat it each night to help you release the tensions of the day.
  • Don’t drink any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed. This will reduce the likelihood of needing to get up and go to the bathroom, or at least minimize the frequency.
  • Go to the bathroom right before bed. This will reduce the chances that you’ll wake up to go in the middle of the night.
  • Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan needed for your melatonin and serotonin production.
  • Also eat a small piece of fruit. This can help the tryptophan cross your blood-brain barrier.
  • Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars. These will raise your blood sugar and delay sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you may wake up and be unable to fall back asleep.
  • Take a hot bath, shower or sauna before bed. When your body temperature is raised in the late evening, it will fall at bedtime, facilitating slumber. The temperature drop from getting out of the bath signals your body it’s time for bed.
  • Wear socks to bed. Feet often feel cold before the rest of the body because they have the poorest circulation. A study has shown that wearing socks reduces night wakings. As an alternative, you could place a hot water bottle near your feet at night.
  • Wear an eye mask to block out light. As discussed earlier, it is very important to sleep in as close to complete darkness as possible. That said, it’s not always easy to block out every stream of light using curtains, blinds or drapes, particularly if you live in an urban area (or if your spouse has a different schedule than you do). In these cases, an eye mask can be helpful.
  • Put your work away at least one hour before bed (preferably two hours or more). This will give your mind a chance to unwind so you can go to sleep feeling calm, not hyped up or anxious about tomorrow’s deadlines.
  • No TV right before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom or even completely out of the house. It’s too stimulating to the brain, preventing you from falling asleep quickly. TV disrupts your pineal gland function.
  • Listen to relaxation CDs. Some people find the sound of white noise or nature sounds, such as the ocean or forest, to be soothing for sleep.
  • Read something spiritual or uplifting. This may help you relax. Don’t read anything stimulating, such as a mystery or suspense novel, which has the opposite effect. In addition, if you are really enjoying a suspenseful book, you might be tempted to go on reading for hours, instead of going to sleep!
  • Journaling. If you often lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful keep a journal and write down your thoughts before bed. Personally, I have been doing this for 15 years, but prefer to do it in the morning when my brain is functioning at its peak and my cortisol levels are high.

Lifestyle Suggestions That Enhance Sleep

  • Reduce or avoid as many drugs as possible. Many drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, may adversely affect sleep. In many cases, it is helpful to look into alternatives to address the condition causing the drugs to be taken in the first place.
  • Avoid caffeine. At least one study has shown that, in some people, caffeine is not metabolized efficiently, leaving you feeling its effects long after consumption. So, an afternoon cup of coffee or tea will keep some people from falling asleep at night. Be aware that some medications contain caffeine (for example, diet pills).
  • Avoid alcohol. Although alcohol will make you drowsy, the effect is short lived and you will often wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol will also keep you from entering the deeper stages of sleep, where your body does most of its healing.
  • Make certain you are exercising regularly. Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day can improve your sleep. However, don’t exercise too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake. Studies show exercising in the morning is the best if you can manage it.
  • Lose excess weight. Being overweight can increase your risk of sleep apnea, which can seriously impair your sleep. (Click here for my nutritional recommendations.)
  • Avoid foods you may be sensitive to. This is particularly true for sugar, grains, and pasteurized dairy. Sensitivity reactions can cause excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset, bloating and gas, and other problems.
  • Have your adrenals checked by a good natural medicine clinician. Scientists have found that insomnia may be caused by adrenal stress.
  • If you are menopausal or premenopausal, get checked out by a good natural medicine physician. The hormonal changes at this time may cause sleep problems if not properly addressed.

If All Else Fails

  • My current favorite fix for insomnia is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Most people can learn the basics of this gentle tapping technique in a few minutes. EFT can help balance your body’s bioenergy system and resolve some of the emotional stresses that are contributing to your insomnia at a very deep level. The results are typically long lasting and improvement is remarkably rapid.
  • Increase your melatonin. Ideally it is best to increase levels naturally with exposure to bright sunlight in the daytime (along with full spectrum fluorescent bulbs in the winter) and absolute complete darkness at night. If that isn’t possible, you may want to consider a melatonin supplement. In scientific studies, melatonin has been shown to increase sleepiness, help you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep, decrease restlessness, and reverse daytime fatigue. Melatonin is a completely natural substance, made by your body, and has many health benefits in addition to sleep. I prefer to use a sublingual melatonin product because it is absorbed much faster and therefore works more quickly.

By Dr. Mercola

Dr. Mercola has been passionate about health and technology for most of his life. As a doctor of osteopathic medicine, he treated many thousands of patients for over 20 years. In the mid 90’s he integrated his passion for natural health with modern technology via the internet and developed a website, Mercola.com to spread the word about natural ways to achieve optimal health.

The Power Nap: Tips and Benefits

The Power Nap: Tips and Benefits

The Power Nap: Tips and Benefits

Name your top 5 guilty pleasures (we’re lumping every delicious, fat- or  carb-loaded goody into one naughty pleasure). Isn’t napping one of them? Honestly, there’s nothing like a solid 20-30 minute crash in the middle of the day when you’re feeling tired or foggy. Add the bonus of numerous studies confirming the healthful benefits of the power nap, and let that guilt morph into a fully validated, blissful snooze.

I’ve read long lists of the benefits of napping, but they pretty much boil down to the following three:

1. Clearer thinking and acuity: A foggy brain struggling to focus and make decisions is an impaired brain. A NASA study showed that a 30-minute nap improved cognitive abilities by roughly 40 percent. Other studies suggest that with a 20-minute nap, the brain can become fully loaded again, neurons fire more effectively and we reap the benefits of being more alert, able to think clearer, enhancing our memories, our ability to problem solve, come up with creative ideas, work efficiently and learn new information.

2. Increased energy and stamina: Harking back to the tale of the tortoise and the hare, it’s not always the one who runs the hardest that wins. Studies show that short naps revive physical energy and increase stamina and endurance, ultimately affecting performance.

3. Protection against heart attack: A 2007 study by the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that in cultures where afternoon napping is common (i.e., 30-minute siestas at least three times a week), there was a 37 percent lower risk of heart-related death. For individuals who napped only occasionally, the risk was lowered by 12 percent. Both the stress-reducing and restorative effects of napping boost cardiovascular health.

To maximize the effectiveness of your nap, try the following:

1. Early afternoon is the recommended time for a power nap. Napping too late in the day can interfere with night time sleeping, which serves to defeat the purpose of giving your body what it needs to function optimally.

2. Keep it brief. Napping beyond 40 minutes can result in a prolonged groggy feeling and undermine the reviving effects a 20-30 minute nap provides. See what works for you. For some people, anything beyond 10 minutes leaves them in too much of a haze.

3. A quiet setting with low light is optimum for a solid nap. Some businesses (think Google) even have EnergyPods, cocoon-like chairs with headphone jacks, where employees can crash and get revived mid-workday. While most businesses don’t offer this luxury, finding a space and a way to decompress for a few is a worthwhile endeavor. Perhaps you will be the one to get a quiet/meditation-type space created in your office.

4. As counterintuitive as this may seem, having a cup of coffee just prior to napping can help bolster alertness. It takes about 20 minutes for the caffeine effect to kick in, so it shouldn’t interfere with your sleep.

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