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Tips for better sleep

Listen to Guided Imagery. The soothing voice and music calm agitation and hyper vigilance in the more primitive, survival-based parts of the brain, while the words and images offer just enough “cognitive recruitment” to distract the thinking parts of the brain from the day’s lists, worries and resentments. Together, this turns out to be the perfect combination for sleep, and it’s not just our bias-we can now point to an impressive spate of research to prove it.

Write. Before bedtime, try to make a habit of jotting down all the things you need to address the next day, so that you are, in essence, getting them out of your head and onto a sheet of paper. Journaling thoughts and feelings also serves the same purpose in a more wide-ranging way.

Establish a Bedtime Routine. Relaxing rituals before bedtime can condition you to reliably and regularly fall asleep. A warm bath, calming aromatherapy fragrances, reading, soothing music and prayer are some favorites, but feel free to create your own.

Keep the Room Dark. Blinking LED lights, reflected light from the street and lights from computers and TV screens are real sleep disturbers. Invest in room-darkening shades and cover intrusive electronic lights you can’t move out of the room, and you’ll be surprised at the difference this makes in the quality of your sleep and the time it takes you to fall asleep.

Exercise Earlier. If you work out at night, it would be better to switch to the morning or afternoon-not before bedtime. Evening exercise revs up your system at the time it needs to be settling down.

Easy on the Alcohol. If you drink alcohol at dinner or after, this might help you fall asleep in the short term, but it’s also likely to be what’s waking you up a couple hours later. Booze is a terrible intervention for insomnia.

Don’t Try Too Hard. If you find yourself unable to sleep, get out of bed and either do something useful, so the time isn’t wasted, or do something boring, so you’ll get sleepy. The worst think you can do is just lie there thinking, “I have to get some sleep!!! I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!!” because that’s exactly what will keep you wide awake.

Consider Meds to Break a Protracted Cycle. If you’re in an overlong cycle of insomnia, consider working with your doc to get a prescription-not as a permanent solution, but to break the cycle of sleeplessness, because that can take on a life of its own. Experiment over the weekend when you don’t have to worry about being sharp for work the next day.

Belleruth Naparstek
Healthjourneys News Winter 2000

 

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