A good night sleep is truly wonderful and therapeutic. It not only feels really great but also has huge health implications.
Did you know that getting a good night’s sleep has been linked to improved heart and immune health, a longer life, increased energy levels and productivity? According to Dr. Michael Breus, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan, “feeling tired should never be considered normal.”
“Sleep is a basic biological necessity-just like eating-and it has an impact on every aspect of your health and your life,” says Lawrence Epstein, MD, chief medical officer of Sleep Health Centers.
When should you fall asleep?
Most need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. To figure out how much sleep you need, take 7.5 hours off your normal wake up time. So if you need to wake up at 7, go to bed at 11:30. If you wake up a few minutes before your alarm, then you know that your perfect bedtime is 7.5 hours. If you’re still sound asleep when the alarm rings, go to bed 20 minutes earlier each night until you find that perfect time.
Sleep issues come in three scenarios. We’ll cover one per blog. You will see some duplication as some of these tips may help in several scenarios.
Scenario #1 – I can’t fall asleep – I can’t shut off my mind, I toss and turn.
Does this sound familiar? It does for me when I work late. Here are things you can do to help you fall asleep per Dr. Michael Breus:
- Be consistent with your sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning even on weekends. I know it may be tempting to sleep in until noon on Sundays but doing so will only disrupt your biological clock and cause more issues. If it’s hard for you to be consistent, use your alarm clock to go to bed and to wake up.
- Keep a sleep diary for two weeks. Track what time you went to bed, how long it took you to fall asleep, how many times you woke up in the middle of the night, what you ate in the evening…I notice that in the rare occasions I eat late, I can’t fall asleep. From everything I’ve read, it’s best to eat before 7 pm.
- Stop smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant and will prevent you from falling asleep. It also increases your chances of getting sleep apnea and other breathing disorders.
- Talk to your doctor about your meds. Beta-blockers prescribed for high blood pressure and antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft may cause insomnia.
- Do not exercise within 4 hours of bedtime. Exercising, especially cardio, improves the length and quality of your sleep. Getting aerobic exercise four times a week has proven to improve sleep quality. It does, however, elevate your body temperature and inhibit sleep so exercise early. I like to work out in the morning because then, I don’t have any excuses to get to the gym.
- While for some of you aren’t kept awake because of caffeine, a general rule of thumb is don’t drink caffeine after 2 pm. That means stay away from coffee, tea and soda. Caffeine is a stimulant that stays in your system for about eight hours. Keep that in mind when you’re thinking about your afternoon latte.
- Keep a journal or notepad by your bed. If you can’t shut off the chatterbox, write down what’s on your mind. Write down your top concerns and what steps you need to take to solve them.
- Take the time to wind down. Just like waking up, you should take about an hour to transition your mind and body from active to relaxed. Spend the last 20 minutes of your night by breathing deeply or reading with a book light. Keep that room dark.
- While it’s best not to eat late or have a heavy meal at night, snack about an hour before bedtime if you’re hungry – if you must snack, combine a carb and either a protein or calcium that contains tryptophan, an amino acid that has been found to boost serotonin, a chemical known for its calming effect. Some options include: whole grain cereal with low-fat milk, a banana with one tsp. of peanut butter, or one piece of whole grain with a slice of turkey or low-fat cottage cheese.
- Stay cool – set your bedroom temperature between 65-75 degrees. When your body temperature is lower, the production of melatonin, a chemical that induces sleep, is triggered making it possible for you to fall asleep. If you’re menopausal, you may want to drop the temperature even lower to help with hot flashes and nighttime sweats.
- Work on your breathing. Inhale for 5 seconds, pause for 3, then exhale to a count of 5. Start with 8 reps and work your way up to 15. Breathe in through your belly not your chest.
- If you don’t get a full night sleep, it’s best to go to bed a little earlier than usual a few nights in a row than try to sleep in the following morning. Waking up late trying to catch up on lost sleep usually makes you feel worse.
- If you need a nap, do so before 3 pm and make sure it’s no more than 30 minutes. If it’s longer than that, it may be harder for you to fall asleep when it’s time for bed.
As many of you know, I’ve had a love story with Altearah for seven years. I use the perfumes every day for their therapeutic benefits or for the fragrance. In terms of sleep, you can use the orange perfume and turquoise perfume several times after 6pm until you go to bed by simply spraying a couple times into the palm of your hand, rubbing dry, and inhaling several times. An hour before bed, right when you’re ready to go to sleep, you want to spray the indigo perfume into the palm of your hands and on your pillow. I sometimes do just the indigo and fall asleep like a baby.
Do you have problems falling asleep? What has worked or not worked for you? I’d love to know.
Dr. Michael Breus’s Insomnia Blog – The Sleep Doctor www.theinsomniablog.com/