Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nighty Night

This post is dedicated to all the sleepless friends and colleagues :-) Let's start with WHY: I am a very well scheduled person and I always go to bed around 10-11pm in order to get my 8h sleep. It's not a because I am a boring person -as some do think- but because the best time to sleep is between 11pm-1am. After this you'll only rest more or less. Also a good sleep is the key to ever lasting health and beauty (got you :-0). The other reason for me to do that is that when doing diffrent my body highly suffers. Now I don't refer to a party once in a while but to an experiment I lived some years ago. It was my first job in Germany and I was supposed to work at McDonald's for 3 months, night shift (7pm-4am), no vacation (guess that's what foreign students get :-0). Unnecessarly to mention that sleeping from 10am-3pm didn't help as there was so much light and noise and my body couldn't accomodate. Also feeding myself during night time led to 10kg more. Some grey hair also showed up and from that time I decided to never do that again. Of course after coming back home my body recovered and I was happy again:-)

Now that was just an example of why I cherish sleep and even try to take a nap during weekends :-) But what if you want to sleep and can't? Research suggests our sleep patterns are determined by our genes; about 10% of us are morning larks (like ME :-)) and 10% night owls, with the rest of us somewhere in between. You have as much chance of changing this as you would changing your eye color.

We wake naturally many times during the night, as each sleep cycle of about two hours ends. Plus, our body clocks aren’t programmed to make us feel sleepy and alert only twice in each sleep cycle. Animals — and human babies — often naturally sleep and wake many times in a day; and in hot countries, it’s normal to sleep for five hours at night and three in the afternoon as a siesta.At night, the body normally shifts from deep sleep to the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of light pre-waking sleep from 3am onwards. REM sleep prompts the body to wake up, so it is normal to have up to 60% of REM sleep in the second half of the night.

Once we’re in the pre-waking phase, signals in the environment can also easily disturb sleep — a boyfriend snoring (not mine :-)), the cat jumping on the bed, needing the loo, early summer dawn breaking or being too hot (for instance, during menstruation, a woman’s body temperature rises and she is more likely to wake).

Assuming we now understood some phisical causes of waking up during the night and not being able to fall a sleep, I would like to present you now some tips on sleeping better :

  1. Worries and concerns with life, finances, work, family or relationships all wrestle for attention in the brain and prevent the physiological and chemical changes necessary for sleep to occur. Try switching off!
  2. Most people seek and are sedated by entertainment and then are forced to deal with the issues in their lives once the only voice that can be heard is their own in the quiet of the bedroom.So shut down the TV, clean your thoughts and then go to bed!
  3. Right atmosphere: light in the room, noise and comfort. If a person is not comfortable, they are too hot, too cold, or can feel the springs in the matress then sleep will be difficult.
  4. Medical conditions, alcohol or medications also have their influence on how readily the body can prepare itself for slumber.
  5. Go to bed when you're sleepy-tired, not when it's time to go to bed by habit.
  6. Wind down during the second half of the evening before bedtime. More specifically, 90 minutes before bed, don't get involved in any kind of anxiety provoking activities or thoughts. Don't open your mail, email or watch the evening news. Those events are not always anxiety producing, but you never know when they will be.
  7. Practice breathing with your abdomen, using low slow evenly spaced breathes that make your belly move more than your chest. Focus on tightening then relaxing major muscle groups, starting with your toes and ending with your forehead.
  8. Your bed is for sleeping, if you can't sleep after 15-20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing.
  9. Set your room temperature to be cool rather than warm.
  10. Don't count sheep; counting is stimulating.
  11. Exercise in the afternoon or early evening, but no later than 3 hours before bedtime.
  12. Don't over-eat; and eat 2-3 hours before bedtime. And don't eat meat in the evening! Meet needs much longer to be digested. Milk &Honey> Yes it works ;-) with almonds also. Or tea.
  13. If you awake in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep within 30 minutes, get up and do something else. BUT: Avoid turning on the lights or working at a computer. Light entering your eyes will stimulate your brain's day/night balance and keep you awake.
  14. Avoid all coffee, alcohol and cigarettes 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  15. If you have disturbing dreams or nightmares, use your mind's eye to "add" and ending that you prefer. It sounds a bit weird, but force yourself to imagine a whole different ending scene. Write the replacement ending in a notebook if you can't hold onto it. Or say a prayer and switch off again!
  16. Listen to calming music reading something nice before sleeping.
  17. Take a shower before going to bed. Water massage will relax your muscles.
And of course, if sleep problems persist, contact your physician as it may be from some drugs you are taking or who knows why :-) Hope you'll sleep better tonight. Nighty Night!


andypiper said...

"Posted at 3.07 am" hehe.

I'm soooo tempted to make a lot of jokey comments but that would not be nice. Seriously, this is a good reminder of good practices. I did a presentation on better habits for better sleep in my first job after university... it's a long story...! and this has reminded me of a lot of that.

Here's to a happy weekend!

Heather Kephart said...

What wonderful insight and advice! A great post with substance from a woman with a desire to help. :)

Silvia said...

@andy...strange cause just posted 2pm CET. Guess I didn't set up my location :-)

and yes, the miserymaker should behave today :-)

@heather thanks,means a lot coming from another happymaker :-)