How to get a better night's sleep

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Sleep…it’s essential for a person’s health and well-being. Sounds easy: fall sleep, wake up feeling refreshed, full of energy and alert. But in reality, getting a good night’s sleep for some can be difficult. In fact, according to the CDC, there is an estimated 50 to 70 million US adults who have a sleep or wakefulness disorder.

I read a really informative article in the September 2016 issue of Family Circle on ways to fall and stay asleep and here is the gist of the info…

Depending on your age, getting 7 to 10 hours of sleep is optimal for overall good health. Getting sufficient amounts of sleep can actually…

  • Improve your mood.
  • Improve your sex life.
  • Decrease chronic pain.
  • Improve health.
  • Lower your risk of injury.
  • Boost and create a stronger immunity.
  • Give you better weight control.
  • Create clearer thinking.
  • Improve memory.

Sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. (Among other things.) So obviously getting enough sleep is very important. If you are someone who has trouble falling or staying asleep, here are 7 things that could possibly help you not only get some shut-eye but even experience a better, more peaceful slumber. (Number 1 is my favorite!)

  • Sleep With Pets – Yes, sleep with pets. According to a report by the Mayo Clinic, some pet owners say sleeping with their furry family member can actually offer a sense of comfort and security. Of course if your pet likes to hog the covers or snores really loud, this may not be the right option for you and your pet.
  • Don’t Hit The Snooze Button – A few more minutes might seem like a good idea, especially when you’re all snug and warm in your bed. But any extra sleep you may get in between you hitting the snooze button, will be light and fragmented, not restful and restorative, according to Rebecca Robbins, PhD, co-author of Sleep for Success! And once that alarm initially goes off, chances are you’ve been pulled from the restorative REM cycle. Robbins, who is also a postdoctoral fellow at NYU School of Medicine suggests that instead of reaching for the snooze button, you instead set your alarm for the latest possible time. “Then get out of bed and start your day,” she says.
  • It’s OK To Rest If Not Actually Sleep – I personally have a really hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. I spend tons of time worrying about how I’ll feel the next day as I toss and turn. And the more I worry, knowing I’m going to be tired the next day, the more I get stressed, further preventing me from falling asleep. I had always heard that unless you totally fell asleep, “resting” didn’t really help you. Good news though, according to W. Christopher Winter, MD, owner of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, “Even if you wind up resting all night, you’ll feel pretty good in the morning.”
  • You CAN Catch Up On Sleep – This particular information is something I have heard the experts disagree on quite a bit. Some say you can never “catch up” on sleep while others say it’s totally possible. Some research studies show that extra rest after deprivation has been show to improve your health. In a recent study, when adults were restricted to just 4.5 hours of sleep for four nights, their insulin sensitivity dropped 23%. Long story short; Sleep debt impedes your insulin control and ups your risk of diabetes. But when those people slept for about 10 hours a night over the weekend, their insulin function returned to normal. “You shouldn’t make catching up a habit,” warns study author Josiane Broussard, PhD, of the University of Colorado. “But if you can’t get consistent rest during the week, it’s important to make sleep a priority over the weekend.”
  • Take A Nap – If you get groggy during the day, a short power nap can really be beneficial. Make sure you take it before 3 p.m. and keep it to about 30 minutes. It should leave you feeling refreshed and energized. If you have insomnia though, taking a nap during the day can make it even more difficult to fall asleep at night.
  • Skip The Sleeping Pills – An occasional pill isn’t going to hurt but if you have chronic trouble sleeping, you really should see a doctor. Sleeping pills, just like most medicines, can have side effects and even become habit-forming, making you even more dependent on them. The American College of Physicians has come out with new guidelines suggesting cognitive behavioral behavior (CBT) can be even more effective for insomnia than pills without the side effects. CBT can include things like having a set bedtime you stick to, relaxation techniques, and coaching on how to calm a racing brain, among other things.

Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding alcohol before bedtime can also help, especially with snoring, which can be a sign of sleep apnea. Here are a few more ideas on how to get a good night’s rest (from sleep experts.)

Use a fan at night. Sleeping in a cool room can help you fall asleep and the hum of the fan acts as a white noise.

If you do watch TV before going to bed, watch something that will help you relax versus scary or political shows.

If you have trouble with your mind racing at night try keeping a pad of paper next to your bed so you can jot down any thoughts that pop into your head. Mayo Clinic sleep specialist Lois Krahn, MD says that after you write your list, repeat to yourself, “Now’s not the time to solve this problem. I’ll get to that tomorrow.” She also suggests listening to a podcast-something calming like learning about cherry blossoms in Japan-to distract yourself from drop-off schedules.

Unplug from all your electronics. The blue light from your phone discourages melatonin release, keeping your brain in “awake party mode,” explains Robbins.

My personal problem is staying asleep. I wake up around 3 in the morning and then can’t get back to sleep. And the more time that passes, the more stressed I get that I’m not asleep. For this situation, Robbins suggests you get out of bed rather than tossing and turning. She says to do anything mindless from folding clothes to washing dishes. She adds, go to bed when you’re absolutely tired and you’ll slip into a deep sleep.

Hopefully if you have trouble falling or staying asleep, one or more of these suggestions will help you get a better night’s rest. Heck, this article is so long you might just fall asleep while reading it! (Ha!)

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