Secrets to Sleeping Well

Sleep is a major component in our search for health, but few people today are getting the deep sleep, which is necessary for revitalization of their brains and other organs in their bodies. Poor sleep habits are among the most common problems encountered in our society. We stay up too late and get up too early. We interrupt our sleep with drugs, chemicals and work; and we over stimulate ourselves with late night activities, such as, television.

If you want to be productive, mentally-sharp, emotionally balanced and full of energy, it is dependent upon the proper sleep that you get consistently every night. The cure to sleep difficulties and daytime fatigue can often be found in your daily routine. Good sleep strategies are essential to deep, restorative sleep you can count on, night after night.

How much sleep do you require? Some people think that they are doing well on five hours, but long term they are building up a major sleep deficit. We are humans and night time used to be for sleeping, until electricity came into being. Human beings require at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Everyone is different, but our need for proper rest is critical. Lack of sleep can cause mental problems, stress, heart problems, and also lead to obesity. It effects every cell in our body.

There was an article in USA Weekend Nov 26 – 28, 2010 – the Health Smart column that too little sleep may actually keep body fat immovable according to research from the University of Chicago. This study showed dieters who slept 8.5 hours during one period and 5.5 hours during another period lost about the same amount of weight (just under 7 pounds), but the composition was different: When they slept more, they took off body fat; when they slept less, they lost more muscle mass: (which lowers metabolism). During less sleep time, participants also felt hungrier and had higher levels of gherlin in their blood, an appetite-boosting hormone. Sleep experts say most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Let‘s look at your personal habits: Do you have a set bedtime and an awakening time? Do not permit this time to be usurped. Consistency is very important, as it is imperative that you get the right amount of sleep for your body on a nightly basis. This is how you get your body used to falling asleep at a certain time. Even if you are retired and not working, this is an essential step in getting to sleep regularly at the right time.

How many times have you heard that we need to be in bed well before midnight? My grandmother used to say that every hour before 11 P.M. was worth 2 hours in comparison to after 11. I do believe that we can change at any age, if we approach our sleep time logically. It makes sense that there is a great deal going on internally, while we sleep. Our best sleep rejuvenates our bodies and brains on a nightly basis.

My former husband as a child had to go to bed no later than 8;30 all through high school. He was an all A student who was class valedictorian. I never got enough sleep, because I was reading under the covers…and my grades suffered. I think many parents are unaware – how important sleep is and parents under estimate the number of hours that their children should be getting. I think our whole society could be improved, if everyone simply got enough sleep.

Regarding a daily nap, it could be beneficial, if it is early enough in the day and lasts no longer than 45 minutes. However, if one naps longer, it is no wonder that one wouldn’t be able to sleep at night..

Avoid using alcohol as a crutch in order to get to sleep. Many people believe alcohol helps them sleep. While alcohol has an immediate sleep-inducing effect, a few hours later as the alcohol levels in your blood start to fall, there is a stimulant or wake-up effect. It is also wise not to drink 4 – 6 hours, before bedtime, so it definitely won’t effect your sleep.

Avoid caffeine 4 – 6 hours before bedtime. This includes caffeinated beverages such as, coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate. Also, avoid heavy, spicy, grains or sugary foods 4 – 6 hours before bedtime. Dairy is another food implicated in children’s bed-wetting. It could also affect an adult’s sleep.

Exercise regularly, it will help you sleep, but don’t exercise within two hours of bedtime, it can decrease your ability to fall asleep.

It would be beneficial to develop a bedtime routine. For example, take a hot bath or shower (but make sure you use a filter that removes chemicals). It only has to be for a few minutes, but it will relax you. Then put on a pair of socks to keep your feet warm. Open the window to properly ventilate the room and keep the room temperature around 65 degrees F or 18 degrees C. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can affect the quality of one’s sleep.

The bed should only be used for two purposes: Sleeping and Sex. Don’t use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room. Get the TV out of your bedroom and your life will change. Your body will learn that the bed is associated primarily with sleeping.

Make sure your bedroom is pitch dark and that there are no electronic devices within 3 feet of the bed. Electro-Magnetic Fields (EMF’s) disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well. To check, you could get a gauss meter. They are available on the internet. Even the tiny lights of a TV set or computer can throw off the body’s internal clock. Make sure that all light is gone from your sleeping place. If you need to go to the bathroom during the night, don’t turn on any lights as it can throw your body out of balance. It can make it more difficult to get back to sleep. If you are still affected by any light, use an eye mask.

Needless to say, absolute silence is an important factor. It isn’t easy to sleep with dogs barking or neighbors blasting their TV.

Another night-time ritual is a tryptophan snack, for example, a banana and a tablespoon of almond butter.. I found drinking a glass of water along with 2 capsules of tryptophan will put me right to sleep. I sleep through the night without having to get up, until I have had sufficient sleep. I don’t need an alarm clock to awaken me. This is far more natural than being jarred awake by a loud alarm.

If you are having difficulty sleeping, perhaps it could be your bedding or mattress. To create a healthy bedroom, it pays to find out about your bedroom products. Formaldehyde is one of the chemicals being used in the manufacturing of mattresses (as a component in adhesive and flame retardant). It has been called a “severe poison“, because people may react to it in different ways. It could cause severe abdominal pain, headaches and diarrhea. People who are exposed to this poison in their mattress for many hours every night, may be unaware of what is causing their distress.

Also toxins in bed linens cause fatigue and allergies. Make sure that sheets and pillowcases are made from organic cotton with only natural dyes being used. Even the carpet in the bedroom, could be out-gassing. All these things could affect one’s sleep.

In 2005, Walter Bader, author of the book, Toxic Bedrooms, sent mattresses to an Atlanta lab for testing. A memory foam model was found to emit 61 chemicals, including the cancer-causing benzene and naphthalene. While it’s a law in the United States that all mattresses must have flame-retardant chemicals, manufacturers can custom-make you a flame-retardant free mattress with a doctor’s note.

The majority of mattresses are made with chemicals, foams, plastics, which all could be adversely affecting your health and the quality of your sleep.

Getting back in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle – your circadian rhythm – is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep. Keeping a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, will help you feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times. This holds true even if you alter your sleep schedule by only an hour or two. Consistency is important.

Another suggestion would be to keep a Sleep Journal. It is something to help you keep track of, when you got in bed, how long it took you to fall asleep (don’t look at a clock…estimate). Record in the morning how many times you had to get up to go to the bathroom. This should warn you not to drink for at least two hours, before bedtime. Keep a record of what time you woke in the morning. If you had a hard time sleeping, remember your thoughts. Put down all your concerns, then dismiss them at bedtime. This diary could help you identify patterns and conditions, which are impacting the quality of your sleep.

Try to avoid sleeping pills. Many cause memory loss over time. There are a number of sleeping pills advertised on the market, but they come with a long list of toxic side effects, which affect your health and longevity long term. It is far better to find natural solutions. Some people have found that melatonin works for them or valerian. These are far less toxic than prescription drugs. However, check out all the other points I covered to avoid sleeping problems.

I have been there too. I know what it feels like to lie there for hours every night and not be able to fall asleep – and the next day is entirely ruined. It is very draining to experience this night after night. It feels wonderful now to get into bed and within minutes I’m transported to Dream Land. I want the same for you.

Healthfully Yours,

Barbara Charis

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