Thursday, June 23, 2005

Sleep

Don't forget to check out the new poll. Plus, I haven't had a word or quote of the day for awhile so I added that too. Another blogger gave me the idea of posting an interactive question so I thought I'd give it a shot.

I've been having a hard time sleeping lately. (I've had SO much on my mind!) Since part of the focus of this blog is health, diet, and exercise, I thought I'd talk about sleep. Sleep is an integral part of diet and exercise. When you sleep, your body repairs all the muscles you've damaged from exercise and repairs injuries. It's during this time that you become strong and buff.
When you skimp on sleep, stress hormones, such as cortisol, rise, causing your blood pressure to rise and making you feel more hungry. Stress hormones also slow down your metabolism, causing you to cling to every calorie. This can sabotage weight-loss efforts. Plus, you decreased focus, concentration, and energy, meaning you won't perform well...at anything. You won't want to do your workouts, and when you do, you won't be able to do them at the intensity you were doing after a good night of sleep. Studies have shown that drivers who are sleep-deprived perform as badly as drunk drivers behind the wheel. Sleep-deprivation causes many fatalities from car accidents each year! Needless to say, sleep is important.
So, number 1, make an effort to get a minimum of 7-8 hours each night. Everyone needs a different amount. To figure out what you need, try going to bed at a regular time for a few days and waking up without an alarm clock. Figure out how many hours your body needs. For me, I need a solid 8 under normal circumstances, and 10 when I'm stressed or in training. What a pain. Why can't I be one of those 6-hour a night people?
Okay, so you've made sleep a priority. That's all well and good, but many of us suffer from insomnia. Here are some tips to help you nod off each night:

1. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning, even on weekends. Your body likes routine.

2. Avoid naps. If you have to nap, don't nap after 5 p.m., and avoid naps over 1 hour. (Personally, my naps are 3 hours. I'm a very bad girl. Moral? Do as I say, not as I do.)

3. Avoid caffeinated drinks after 3 p.m. Avoid alcoholic drinks. They can make you feel drowsy at first, but can wake you up later on.

4. Exercise routinely to help physically tire you out.

5. Allow yourself wind-down time. Two-hours before bedtime, wrap up what you were doing. Don't start any new activities. 1-hour before bedtime, relax, read a book, do something calming and pleasurable. Reading helps me turn off my brain so I stop focusing on all my worries and what I have to do tommorrow.

6. Turn off the t.v.

7. To drink or not to drink? This is a toughie. I love hot chamomile tea with a dash of skim milk and Splenda right before bedtime. It makes me very sleepy. However, it means I will have to pee several times throughout the night. Resolution? Try drinking the tea earlier to give your bladder time to respond.

8. Turn up the a.c. Your body temperature needs to drop about a degree to fall asleep. Also, try taking a hot shower or bath before bedtime. This always makes me sooo sleepy. A hot bath helps your body temperature drop afterward, lulling you to sleep.

9. If your mind is running a mile a minute after you're in bed, try a trick that works for me 90% of the time. First, make sure you don't look at the clock with every toss and turn. It doesn't help to see how much sleep you're losing. It only makes you worry more. Second, make sure you're in a comfortable position. I usually find laying on my back relaxing at first. Third, try a meditation trick. There are two things I try (which I also do when I meditate) to help turn off my brain. The trick is to occupy your mind with something that allows you to focus on something soothing and shift your attention elsewhere.
The first meditation trick involves focusing on relaxing each body part, one at a time. I start with my feet. I focus on my feet until they are tingling and slightly tense. I then consciously relax my feet, feeling all the tension oozing out of them. I know it's working when they feel slightly numb. I then move up the body methodically to the calves, knees, thighs, and so on until I reach the head. I'm usually off in dreamland before I reach my neck.
The second meditation trick involves imagining colors. I start with the color red and go through each color until I reach purple, telling myself I will be asleep by the time I get there. I focus on objects that are red, like an apple, a fire engine, my favorite dress, etc. The objects then become blurry and my inner field of vision is completely occupied by the color red. I focus on it (softly) until all I see is red, and I feel like I could touch it. I then move onto the next color--yellow, then green, blue, and finally purple. Lately, I've been asleep by the time I reach blue.
When I say focus, I mean soft focus, the type you use when you meditate. Don't force it, like when you're figuring out a tough math problem. Instead, let it come to you in waves. This will help you relax.

10. Finally, if you do need to take medication (I use Benadryl as a last resort--sleepiness can be a good side effect), make sure you take it early enough in the evening that it won't leave you feeling hung over the next day. Sometimes medication can make you feel more tired the next day so this should be a final resort after all else fails.

11. If it's been over two hours, and you're still wide awake, get out of bed and move to the sofa. Try doing a relaxing activity like reading or watching t.v. You don't want to associate the bed with tossing and turning.


Hope this helps! Sleep well, all!

3 comments:

blake said...

You don't count sheep?
Dumb joke, I know. It sounds corny but what works for getting myself to sleep was in the movie Saving Private Ryan. You trick your mind into trying not to get to sleep. When I'm thinking of trying to stay up late, within about five minutes I'm zonked out. A weird way to calm a rebellious mind, I guess.

Kevin said...

I have always struggled with going to sleep...that is a frustration that I have tried to overcome for a long time.

I do the t.v. thing too though. I find it actually harder to go to sleep if there is no noise. I watch movies as well, and when they are over, my dvd player changes to a blank screen...that way my sleep is not effected by a t.v. being on all night.

Rachel said...

I like watching Seinfeld, Leno, or Conan before bed. Something funny.