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Tactics to Try for a Good Night's Sleep

Tactics to Try for a Good Night's Sleep

5 Essentials for a Good Sleep Environment


Anxiety, stress, jet lag, a medical condition - all could be causes of a sleep disorder or impairment. While treatment of such problems will vary from person to person, a good sleep environment is never a bad idea.


By creating such an environment, it could prove the necessary first step on your road to a better night's sleep (and all the positive effects that come with it). Here are five essentials to keep in mind when creating your own "good sleep environment."


1. Keep the Bedroom a Place of Rest: These days, many of us have notebook computers, wireless Internet, and other mobile devices that make it possible for us to transform any room into an office.


But if you suffer from a sleep disorder, make sure you keep your bedroom a bedroom - a place of rest away from work and play. Don't allow the bedroom to become an office, a playroom, or a TV room. Those who suffer from sleep disorders need to eliminate all distractions in the form of noise, light, or activity.


2. Ideal Temperature: When creating a good sleep environment, you need to make sure you minimize any discomfort. Being too cold or too hot can disrupt a comfortable sleep and once disrupted (for a person with a sleep disorder) it may be difficult to get back into a deep slumber.


Keeping the room at a constant, ideal temperature will help you get and stay asleep. While it's debatable as to what the best temperature is, it can be agreed upon that anything about 75 degrees Fahrenheit is too warm and anything below 54 degrees, too cold.


Try a median between 60-70 degrees (65) as a compromise, but the deciding factor should be you personally and what you find to be "ideal."  If you keep kicking the covers off or shivering yourself awake, adjust the temperature until it's just right - and make note of what that number is for you.


3. Comfortable Bed: One symptom of a sleep disorder or impairment is tossing and turning during the night, and one reason you may be restless is because your mattress is uncomfortable.


As with most anything in life, what's "right" for you (and your back, your posture, your comfort) is specific to your body. However, research has shown that supple mattresses may be more conducive to a good night's rest versus a firmer one.


Definitely avoid sleeping on a lumpy mattress if it can be helped. A new mattress may be in order if you've outgrown your current one, either in size or comfort.  If you have a spouse who prefers a different type of mattress, consider getting the type of bed where each of you set the mattress to your perfect number.


4. Keep the Clock Out of Sight: If you can, try to keep your clock out of sight. Set your alarm and then put it somewhere else or turn it away from you - out of your general view. For instance, instead of having the clock on the nightstand, put it on the dresser in the far corner.


If a clock is visible, you may find yourself staring at it or waking up periodically to look at it. If you're making an effort to create a good sleep environment, it means that you're aware of an impairment.


If you're trying to break the cycle of sleeplessness, then it's important that you don't focus on time. Seeing how early it is or how little time has passed, can only lead to frustration.


5. No Lights: Remember that a dark bedroom can help your body "know" it's time for rest. Light triggers a lot in us and is associated with our waking hours. To help the body adjust to a regular sleep cycle, make an effort to distinguish between daytime and bedtime.


When it's time to sleep, keep light sources to a minimum, including when you get up to go to the bathroom. As with a TV, computer, or video game, you'll want to avoid anything that can stimulate your brain or body out of rest. Even if your eyes are closed, light in your bedroom can disrupt your sleep.


If these steps are taken, in addition to noise reduction and a few other considerations, such as making a separate sleeping area for pets (that are used to sleeping with you) - then you should be on your way to eliminating some of the factors that may have been contributing to your persistent sleep problems.


De-Stressing Before a Snooze


If you're suffering from a sleep disorder, such as insomnia, and would like to begin treating it, one way is to create a relaxing routine that might help your body recognize it's time to sleep.


For certain disorders, such as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) or Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (ASPS), relaxation might not be the answer - but for some, de-stressing before a snooze could prove to be the right medicine.


Think about what relaxes you.  Is it a warm bath?  Reading in a chair? A cup of steaming hot herbal tea? There are a number of self-help stress techniques to consider and finding the right one may take some time.


The investment will be well worth it, because it may mean better sleep that results in less fatigue, drowsiness, or any of the other symptoms associated with sleep deprivation.  Once you discover the right technique for you, try to integrate it into your daily routine.


If it's a cup of herbal tea, try to drink a cup about 30 minutes before you're ready for bed. The tea should not only relax you due to its herbal properties, but also because it's now part of a routine.


If you can stick to a particular schedule, then your body will hopefully adjust to it so that when you take your nightly cup of tea, your body's internal clock will know that it's just about time to power down for the day.


As for the many other de-stressing techniques that might help you, consider reading a favorite book, taking a warm bath, or meditating. Meditation can help relax you, as well as provide you with focus for your slumber.


Meditation techniques come in various forms, but the underlining aspect of the method is that it helps you channel your thoughts. Through meditation, you get an uninterrupted line of concentration that shuts out distractions that could be hindering your sleep process.


Related to meditation is self-hypnosis, which can take the form of repeating words or suggestions in your mind, over and again. This repetition may help lull you into slumber. Visualization, which is engaging in another type of mental journey without outside distraction, is another way to try to relax yourself prior to sleep.


These de-stressing techniques can help you slow the body's processes down, helping to create a bridge between your waking and sleeping moments. Easing into sleep can only be helpful if it works on a consistent basis. Keeping a sleep diary can help you stay on task.


When you begin your battle to defy a sleep disorder, just remember that you shouldn't expect to fall asleep right away. If you know ahead of time that it may take a little time to find the right solution, it will lessen the frustration you feel in your quest for sleep.


How to Eat to Sleep


There are over-the-counter sleep aids, prescription medications, and techniques you can use to train yourself to have better sleep habits.  But one area you may not have considered is controlling your sleep success through your food choices!


We like to joke about having to nap after a Thanksgiving turkey dinner, but there's some truth behind that kidding.  There really are foods that help you sleep - and some that keep you awake, so if you're suffering from a sleep disorder, you'll want to consider your food choices carefully!


Certain foods create a calming effect on your brain, while others rev it up for more activity.  Turkey is a sleep-aiding food, because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that your body uses to produce serotonin, which calms your brain and helps you sleep. 


It's kind of like sewing a piece of clothing - you can make a shirt without a needle, thread, and fabric.  Your body needs tryptophan to help it create neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin, which result in a restful sleep.


When you combine tryptophan-laden foods with carbohydrates, it helps the body absorb it so that you sleep better. Regular high-protein diets can keep you awake if they're no paired with carbs because proteins contain tyrosine, which wakes you up!


To leverage your food choices, try to pair proteins and carbs the way you want your body to work throughout the day. Choose higher protein meals in the morning and afternoon, and eat more carbs in the evenings closer to bedtime.


You can't exclude the tryptophan because an all-carb meal will defeat the purpose, keeping you awake even more.  If you can sneak some calcium into your evening meal, you'll reap even greater rewards, since calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan. 


Foods that are high in tryptophan include beans, chicken, dairy, eggs, hazelnuts, hummus, lentils, meat, peanuts, rice, soy, seafood, sesame and sunflower seeds, and whole grains.  So a perfect evening snack might be whole grain cereal with milk or even oatmeal cookies with milk. 


Full meals could include veggies with meat or chicken, chili and beans, or pasta with cheese.  Just remember that when you over-indulge on a meal, it may cause you to not sleep as well - since your digestive system will be working overtime.


When you eat tryptophan, the sleep-inducing effects won't take place immediately.  It takes about 45 minutes to an hour for you to begin feeling drowsy, so eat early in the evening.


Aside from tryptophan, there are other foods you should be aware of in regards to how it affects your slumber, like caffeine for instance.  Caffeine can be found in many products - even your over-the-counter cold medicine! It stimulates your nervous system, keeping you awake - even when you don't want to be.


Keep a food journal to see how your nighttime meals affect your slumber.  If you discover that certain foods keep you up at night, try to move those to the early menu of your day and reserve the evening for foods that are "sleep-friendly."


Medicating Your Sleep Woes


When sleep deprivation continues for a long period of time - even days in a row - you may be willing to try anything just to give you the ability to catch a few Zs.  Before you get desperate, make sure you understand how each option works.


The first thing many consumers do when a few nights of sleeplessness cause daytime drowsiness is head for the pharmacy for some over-the-counter solutions. Sleep aids can often help initially, but they don't get to the root of the problem.


A sleep aid shouldn't be used as your cure.  It might help you function initially, but you want to find out why you're having sleep issues.  Having to rely on a pill to get some sleep isn't the best option for your health.


Some people get dependent on the pills and can't sleep without them.  Others see too many side effects from the use of sleep aids, or they wind up with complications due to how it interacts with their prescription medicines.


Over the counter sleep aids usually work using an antihistamine, which is what doctors use to treat allergies.  They make you feel sleepy and help you stay asleep.    Some people report feeling sleepy the next day, so it could interfere with your sleep cycles.


Side effects can include constipation, dizziness, memory loss, blurred vision, and dry mouth.  As you grow dependent on them, your need for a higher dosage increases.  A doctor might prescribe something stronger, such as a non-benzodiazephine.


These help you feel sleepy by revving up the natural chemical process of your brain.  If you want a sleep aid for long-term use, they're safer than using over-the-counter, short-term remedies, but they can also lead to an addiction.


It's rare these days, but your doctor might prescribe a tranquilizer if your sleep disorder is severe enough.  These slow your nervous system down to make you sleepy.  It's a short-term solution that can leave you feeling groggy the following day.


You might be put on antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications that act as sedatives if your doctor feels it's the right choice for you.  These are common, but don't have the same potentially addictive features as the other prescription medicines.


If you want to forego the medical options and choose something more natural, then you might consider an herbal treatment for your sleep disorder.  Certain herbs have a reputation for aiding in sleep, such as chamomile, which can be consumed in a tea form.


Valerian root, melatonin, and SAMe are other herbal alternatives you can try.  Make sure you take the proper doses, because sometimes even too much of a good thing can sometimes result in unwanted side effects.


Using White Noise to Mask Sleep Interruptions


If you have difficulty getting to sleep and are easily disturbed, you may want to consider using white noise to help mask noise that seeps into your resting place. This type of sleep therapy is known to help people who are awakened by peripheral noise, such as traffic from the street or a noisy neighbor.


White noise can help mask these other noises so that you can sleep through them, ideally enabling you to achieve a more restful slumber and the benefits that come with it.  White noise is also useful for those who have trouble sleeping when it's "too quiet."


What is white noise?  It's not simply soft ocean waves or the soothing sounds of the autumn wind blowing through the trees.  Technically, it includes all sound frequencies within the range of human hearing combined.


It's similar to the color white being produced from a combination of all other colors, which may be why they call it white noise. The "noise" is random, meaning it doesn't have rhyme or reason unless it's manipulated.


It doesn't follow a pattern like normal sound does. Rather, it's mixed up and in constant transformation, creating the "swooshing" effect that our ears absorb.  According to experts, the reason why white noise is so soothing is because the masking effect produced covers all other sounds - from high to low pitches.


If your sleep is being disturbed by a dog barking outside, white noise theoretically can help muffle, mask, or cancel-out that sound. On a whole, white noise sounds relatively high-pitched to us (though at a "hum").


The reason why it doesn't keep us awake is because the noise essentially overloads our auditory systems and for most of us, provides a distraction from competing sounds. It prevents us from zeroing in on any one sound, so we simply become "numb" to them all.


While we may think of white noise as being tranquil sounds from nature, it's actually closer to the sound a fan makes. Pure white noise can be "tuned" to more closely resemble these soothing, familiar sounds.


An ocean wave gently rolling onto shore or a light rain against the windowpane are sounds now easily found on white-noise CDs that are sold in stores, which also holds the advantage of volume control and repetition. Set your CD on repeat and let the white noise help you sleep through the night.


Other forms of white noise include a ceiling or box fan, static from a radio or a furnace or air conditioner with a low hum.  There are also actual white-noise or sound-conditioning machines, which serve a specific purpose of helping you find the sleep you crave.


Some white noise CDs contain a number of different "scenes" to choose from. All are composed to create an oasis of relaxation and ultimately promote sleep. Find the one that best lulls you to sleep and end those days of feeling tired, drowsy, and irritable.

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