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7 Tips For Better Sleep

According to Dr. Judith Reichman, as we get older our inner clock changes. For teenagers it is set to "late to bed, late to rise." After years of sleep experience, we are more likely to fall asleep at dusk and awaken at dawn.

Dr. Reichman says, "There are many times when your alarm clock and your inner clock simply don't correspond. For those who work at night, this becomes a chronic issue."

"At least 40 percent of American women sometimes can’t find the time to sleep. They’re simply too busy! And not everyone needs eight hours a night — some people need as many as 10 hours." claims Dr. Reichman.

It's not just women who suffer from sleep deprivation...

For example, sleep apnea is fairly common among men, and yet menopausal woman are as likely as men to suffer from this disorder too.

Stress is considered by most sleep experts to be the No. 1 cause of short-term sleeping difficulties.

There are two kinds of sleep in a normal sleep cycle - rapid eye movement or dreaming sleep (REM) and quiet sleep (non-REM). Everyone has about four or five cycles of REM and non-REM sleep a night. For older people, the amount of time spent in the deepest stages of non-REM sleep decreases. This may explain why older people are thought of as light sleepers.

Although the amount of sleep each person needs varies widely, the average range is between 7 and 8 hours a night. As we age, the amount of sleep we can expect to get at any one time drops off. By age 75, for many reasons, some people may find they are waking up several times each night. But, no matter what your age, talk to a doctor if your sleep patterns change.

Some serious questions about sleep for you to consider...

  • Does it often take you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night?
  • Or do you wake up frequently during the night - or too early in the morning - and have a hard time going back to sleep?
  • When you awaken, do you feel groggy and lethargic?
  • Do you feel drowsy during the day particularly during monotonous situations?

If you answered "yes" to any one of these questions, you may have a "sleep debt" that is affecting you in ways you don't even realize. And, you aren't alone. A recent NSF "Sleep in America" poll found that 60% of American adults experience sleep problems.

Few people recognize the importance of adequate rest, or are aware that effective methods of preventing and managing sleep problems now exist.

For example, did you know that the immune system is at its strongest while you're sleeping? This research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology. Researchers at Stanford University infected fruit flies with two strains of bacteria, with one group getting the infection during the day and the other at night. According to the research, fruit flies that were infected at night were more likely to survive the infection than fruit flies infected during the day.

Mimi Shirasu-Hiza, who led the team of researchers, told medHeadlines that the findings suggest the immune system is stronger at night, when all the other bodily functions are resting. The research also found that flies with impaired circadian rhythms had a difficult time staving off the infection.

Your circadian biological clock regulates the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. Circadian disruptions such as jet lag put us in conflict with our natural sleep patterns, leaving us feeling poorly and having more difficulty thinking and performing well. Because of this, it is important to keep a regular sleep schedule and allow plenty of time for quality sleep.

Another interesting study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicates that lack of sleep seems to influence the levels of hunger-regulating hormones in such a way that hunger increases. Their findings suggest it is possible that chronic lack of sleep might lead to overeating.

Here are 7 Tips to Help You Get Better Sleep

Here are 7 tips which may help those of our visitors who are suffering from lack of sleep in their lives. Some are obvious...

Sleep Tip 1 - Avoid Caffeine And Alcohol

Did you know, some people who take even a small amount of caffeine into their body (whether through food or drink) can sometimes suffer the stimulant effects up to 12 hours later? Keep in mind that the half-life of caffeine is 7.5 hours. You'll want to avoid taking caffeine at least that amount of time before bed.

Also, although alcohol is considered a relaxant, drinking wine with your dinner may relax you, but it also interrupts the sleep cycle and causes midnight wakefulness.

Sleep Tip 2 - Avoid Cigarettes

It's common knowledge that cigarettes contain stimulants. Aside from long-term health damage and the possibility of burning down your house, smoking before bed or while in bed can cause a sleepless night.

Sleep Tip 3 - Establish A Bedtime Routine

Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine that will allow you to unwind and send a "signal" to your brain that it's time to sleep. Avoiding exposure to bright light before bedtime and taking a hot bath may help. Consider your sleep environment. Make it as pleasant, comfortable, dark and quiet as you can.

When you develop a bedtime routine and do the same things each night, you tell your body that it's time to wind down. Some people watch the evening news, read a book, or soak in a warm bath.

Sleep Tip 4 - Time Your Exercise Routine

When you exercise, whether you are physically fit and a regular or occasional exerciser, the type of exercise you select, and your age or sex may all affect sleep. Some studies suggest that exercise 2-3 hours before bedtime can keep sleep at bay.

Exercise regularly, but do so at least three hours before bed-time. A workout after that time may actually keep you awake because your body has not had a chance to cool down.

Sleep Tip 5 - Do Not Eat Or Drink Too Much Before Bedtime

A heavy meal close to bedtime may make you less comfortable when you settle down for your night's rest. At the same time, going to bed hungry can be just as disruptive to sleep as going to bed too full. If you must eat before bedtime, choose a light snack only.

Drinking too much of any beverage can lead to more awakenings because of the need to urinate during the night. Also, the older we get, the more we experience these nighttime awakenings. Try to restrict your fluids before bedtime to help promote an uninterrupted night's sleep.

Everything you eat can affect nighttime slumber. For example, tomato products and spicy foods give many people heartburn (as does eating too fast). What does heartburn have to do with sleep? Lying down makes heartburn worse, and heartburn itself makes falling asleep more difficult. Heartburn also awakens sleepers with middle-of-the-night discomfort.

Sleep Tip 6 - Games For Falling Asleep

Try not to worry about your sleep. Some people find that playing mental games is helpful. For example, by now most everyone has heard about "counting sheep" to help them fall asleep. It may sound funny, and yet ...for some people who are experiencing stress in their lives... it can be exactly what they need to relax their minds and refocus their thoughts away from daily concerns.

For example, think black - a black cat on a black velvet pillow on a black corduroy sofa, etc.; or tell yourself it's 5 minutes before you have to get up and you're just trying to get a few extra winks.

Sleep Tip 7 - Have a Good Sleeping Environment

Get rid of anything that might distract you from sleep, such as noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or a TV or computer in the bedroom. Also, keeping the temperature in your bedroom on the cool side can help you sleep better.

Personally, I like diffusing calming therapeutic grade essential oils that aid in relaxation. Gentle scents like lavender or blends like "Peace and Calming" which can also be rubbed onto the bottoms of your feet for a peaceful night's sleep.

When stress becomes super high during hectic times, I also enjoy listening to soothing relaxation audios such as Susie Mantell's "Your Present: A Half Hour of Peace" audio book (audio CD).

Or even better for ambient sound control in your bedroom, you can try one of the Marsona Sound Conditioners (available through Amazon and elsewhere). A good quality sound conditioner can have you sleeping like a baby. The portable travel types are best for hotel rooms and people on the go. You'd be surprised at how effective they can be for a great night's sleep!

Additional Comments and Information About Sleep Needs

Sleep needs vary. In general, most healthy adults need an average of eight hours of sleep a night. However, some individuals are able to function without sleepiness or drowsiness after as little as six hours of sleep. Others can't perform at their peak unless they've slept ten hours. And, contrary to common myth, the need for sleep doesn't decline with age (although the ability to get it all at one time may be reduced).

Keep in mind, it's not just the quantity of sleep that counts, it's also the quality.

Special Note: If your sleep problems persist for longer than a week and are bothersome, or if sleepiness interferes with the way you feel or function during the day, a doctor's help may be needed. To get the most out of your doctor's visit, you'll find that it is often helpful to keep a diary of your sleep habits for about ten days to identify just how much sleep you're getting over a period of time and what you may be doing to interfere with it. It can help you document your problem in a way that your physician can best understand. And most important if suspected, a person having signs of sleep apnea should see a doctor.

The bottom line on sleeping is this: Adequate sleep is as essential to health and peak performance as exercise and good nutrition. If you aren't getting enough, talk to your physician. You deserve it.

We hope this short article helps. Pleasant dreams!

Sources And Additional Resources for Better Sleeping and Getting a Good Night's Sleep