We all know doctors recommend 7-8 hours of sleep for optimum health, but for most of us, that can be difficult. With busy lives and schedules, it is harder and harder to get the sleep we need. Then no sooner are we sound asleep that we have to wake up. This is normal. Nobody sleeps all night, literally. Sleep goes through stages varying from person to person. If you are experiencing sleeplessness regularly or lack of sleep is affecting you the next day, it is something to bring up with your family doctor. For those of you using fitness trackers, much of the info can be inaccurate, and it can often have you worrying about it rather than sleeping.
The key to a better night’s rest is to practice good sleeping habits regularly. Make your bedroom a place of rest and uninterrupted relaxation. HD TVs have almost made the bedroom a home theater. As a matter of fact, bedrooms should be a “no blue lights zone.” When we use our bedrooms for activities other than sleep, we are training ourselves to stay awake. Try to make a rule of having no caffeine after mid-afternoon. Alcohol does not help; you will crash, but blood sugar and cortisol will spike, making for a wakeful rest of the night. The same goes for high sugar snacks. A good bedtime snack is small with complex carbs and protein, like peanut butter on whole-wheat toast or high grain cereal and milk. Keep exercise time well before sleep.
Much of our sleeplessness is caused by our busy minds. Often bedtime is the first time we are alone with our thoughts, and they can be racing. A relax period before bed is helpful. Listen to music or read. Many people find journaling therapeutic. Whether it is just jotting down what you are grateful for or writing to unload what’s on your mind, journaling can bring on sleep mode in your mind. An actual mindset change can work too. Do not think of yourself as a bad sleeper. Do not focus too much on getting X number of hours. We all have blips in our sleep, and sleeping brilliantly every night is beyond most of ours reach. But being aware is halfway to sleeping better.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH AND DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO