Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Better Sleep

I recently had the opportunity to speak at Sevierville’s First United Methodist Church’s WINGS (Women Inspired, Nurtured, Growing Strong) weekend on getting better sleep.  Here are some of the tips I found and taught.

1. Getting better sleep improves your life.  When you sleep well, your mood, concentration, memory and immunity improve.  Your motor coordination also improves.  Studies have shown that sleep deprived drivers often exhibit similar qualities as drunk drivers.

2. Avoid nicotine before bed.  Smokers often go through withdrawal at night.

3. Avoid caffeine. Caffeine, a stimulant, stays in your system for roughly 8 hours. Even if you don’t think caffeine affects you, try cutting back or cutting it out completely for a week and see if your sleep improves.

4. Avoid alcohol close to bedtime. It usually takes about 1 hour per drink to completely metabolize alcohol.  Even though alcohol is a depressant, it has been known to disturb sleep.  Make sure you have enough time after drinking for your body to fully metabolize alcohol in order to get a good night’s sleep.

5. Create a sleepy environment.  Most people sleep best in a cool, dark, quiet place. Use your bedroom only for sleep and intimacy with your spouse in order to promote cues for relaxation rather than work or stress.  A comfortable pillow and mattress will promote better sleep by allowing you to stay asleep longer.  Turn off the television so that the commercials and noise won’t stimulate your mind (thereby keeping you awake or waking you after you have drifted off to sleep), and so the light from the television won’t interrupt your internal clock.

6. Exercise a minimum of 20-30 minutes each day. This exercise can be broken down into 5 minute segments throughout the day.  Make sure to finish exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime to allow time for your body temperature to drop to optimum levels.

7. Stop eating at least 2 hours before bedtime.

8. Finish all liquids at least 2 hours before bedtime to avoid nighttime toilet trips.

9. Develop a ritual. A nighttime routine can send cues to your brain to start releasing hormones that help you relax and sleep.

10. Get your worries under control. Practice your deep breathing, meditation, prayer, scripture reading, journaling, and progressive muscle relaxation to relax both your mind and your body, getting your worry off your mind so you can rest well.

Putting these simple tips into practice should improve your sleep considerably.  For more help on getting your worries under control, seek the advice of a professional who can provide a world of new skills and ideas that will work for you.