The Green Sheet Online Edition
January 28, 2008 • Issue 08:01:02
When the sandman is AWOL
It's 3 a.m. You know this because you're in bed, hoping for some shuteye before the alarm rings at 6 a.m. Sound familiar? Insomnia, a common sleeping disorder in the United States, affects approximately 33% of adults; 10% have a persistent problem with it.
So, there you are: sleepless. You try to turn off your brain but can't. Thoughts circle through your mind. You start to panic about how tired you will be the next day. You wonder how you will make it through.
Here are some suggestions:
- Don't stare at the clock. Focusing on the passing minutes usually produces anxiety about the situation, making it more difficult to get to sleep. Turn the clock around so you can't see the time.
- Relax. Take some deep breaths, concentrate on your breathing and clear your mind.
- Think positive thoughts. Tell yourself you will go to sleep and really believe that you will.
- Take a bath. Soaking yourself in a warm tub will help you to unwind.
- If your television is on, turn it off. The light and noise it emits could be keeping you from dozing off.
But what if the problem persists? Not to worry. Each evening offers a fresh start. After your appointments and before bedtime, take some of the following preventive measures to ensure you will slumber with ease:
- Communicate your needs. If you're on the road, ask hotel staff what amenities are available. Can you soak in a Jacuzzi before bed? Is there a spa with a masseuse? Can you move to a quieter area of the building?
- Avoid caffeine, which is a stimulant meant to keep you awake. Stick to caffeine-free beverages late in the day. And remember, coffee isn't the only thing that can make you jittery. Chocolate, tea and certain medications are also very high in caffeine. Many pain relievers contain it, so look closely at product labels.
- Don't take naps. Particularly when taken in the late afternoon or evening, naps can leave you wide awake later when you should be tired.
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine. Like caffeine, both disrupt sleeping patterns.
- Use sleep-aids, if necessary. Purchase some over-the-counter sleep medications, and buy an eye mask and earplugs to have on hand.
- Go to bed earlier. Try to get to bed earlier than when you actually need to get to sleep. Then you can ease into your dreams.
It helps to maintain good sleeping habits in your day-to-day life. Here are some wholesome practices:
- Establish a regular routine. Stick to a sleep schedule, and go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Make your bedroom a sanctuary. Don't hang out in bed, watch television or use your computer while in bed. Create a sleep-promoting environment that is quiet, dark, cool and comfortable.
- When you travel, research your destination before you leave home. If you are going out of town, find out which amenities your hotel offers to promote relaxation, and plan to use them.
- Pack the comforts of home. Bring some cozy pajamas or a favorite blanket or pillow. A few familiar items can help immensely when trying to relax.
- Exercise every day. This will promote your well-being and make it easier for you to sleep well. But, exercise is energizing, so make sure you do it long before bedtime.
- Devote a diary to record your sleep habits. And if lack of sleep becomes a chronic problem, consult your doctor.
In our time-crunched universe, we tend to feel there are not enough hours in the day. We put high expectations on ourselves, and our basic needs are often unmet.
Some experts say if you can't sleep, don't force it. If you can't sleep, just relax.
Once you stop worrying about it, you may soon be opening your eyes to the rising sun, instead of to red, glowing digital numbers in the dark.
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