Yourself to Better Sleep
sleep when I'm dead," the old adage goes,
but how you live depends on how you sleep. A
growing body of research indicates that sleep
is essential for mental and physical performance,
as well as emotional and physiological health.
Lack of sleep can affect major health problems
including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular
troubles and obesity, as well as significantly
impair cognitive and motor performance such
as driving, according to the National Sleep
Foundation (NSF). In fact, one recent study
essentially demonstrated that sleep deprivation
impaired performance and alertness more significantly
than being legally drunk.
if you think sleep deprivation just makes you
cranky, consider the findings of a University
of Pennsylvania study. The study found that
people who got less than a full night's sleep
for one week reported feeling more stressed,
angry, sad, and mentally exhausted than they
did with adequate sleep. When subjects did get
sufficient sleep, their mood significantly improved.
is more important than we thought," says
Robert Ballard, M.D., a board-certified sleep
specialist at the National Jewish Medical Research
center in Denver, Colo. "Sleep is viewed
as a luxury or as laziness in our society. But
if you deprive yourself of sleep, you put yourself
at risk - for chronic illness, reduced immune
function, cardiovascular disease, impaired cognition
and compromised executive mental function, as
well as accidents."
the consequences, millions of North Americans
aren't getting their Zs. According to NSF surveys,
60 percent of adults report having sleep problems
a few nights a week or more. More than 40 percent
of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe
enough to interfere with their daily activities
at least a few days each month. And a majority
of respondents admit that not getting enough
sleep impairs work performance, increases the
risk for injuries and making mistakes, and makes
it more difficult to get along with others.
know you need a good night's sleep, but what
can you do to get it?
to Ballard, studies suggest cognitive behavior
therapy, an old treatment concept applied in
a new way to target sleep, is more effective
than pharmacology for insomniacs. Psychologically,
thoughts and behavior patterns may be inhibiting
your sleep. Reconditioning attitudes and habits
can re-program the brain and body to sleep rather
than remain alert in bed.
people spend too much time awake in bed, it
becomes conditioning for awake-ness. That needs
to be re-conditioned," says William Moorcroft,
Ph.D., a sleep specialist at Northern Colorado
Sleep Consultants in Loveland, Colo., and author
of Understanding Sleep and Dreams (Kluwer).
mild insomniacs, Moorcroft recommends establishing
a 15-minute ritual before bed as a psychological
barrier between the worries of the day and sleeping.
Additionally, he advises turning off the television,
sleeping in a cool room, and learning to relax
suggests avoiding caffeine after noon and alcohol
altogether, as well as finding a comfortable
bedroom environment. For the latter, climate
plays a role because extreme temperatures prevent
and disrupt sleep. The body naturally cools
itself during sleep by decreasing its internal
temperature, sometimes as much as four degrees
nightly, which is why many sleep researchers
recommend sleeping in a cool room. However,
even experts fail to agree on what that ideal
complicate matters, couples often find their
ideal sleeping temperatures are not compatible.
Women often sleep colder than men, and pregnant,
nursing and menopausal women tend to experience
dramatic temperature changes, which means finding
thermostatic harmony can be a nightmare. "My
husband and I constantly battle the too hot-too
cold sleeping dilemma," said newlywed Jennifer
Berry of Boulder, Colo.
solution comes in the form of a new thermal
technology in bedding that makes the Goldilocks
promise to keep you "not too hot, not too
cold, but just right." Originally developed
for NASA to combat the extreme temperature variations
astronauts experience in space, Outlast technology
employs thermocules to absorb, store and release
latent heat energy. When imbedded in fabrics
(such as bedding) the imperceptible thermocules
dynamically keep track of your individual temperature
and absorb or radiate heat as necessary. This
allows you to remain a constant temperature
(without tossing a leg out from under the covers
or yanking the duvet from your partner's side
of the bed) while your bed partner remains in
his or her own comfort zone.
Michael Fox of Burlington, Vt., it made all
the difference. "When I sleep I am like
a furnace. I often wake up in a pool of sweat
and have nightmares because of overheating.
I have tried for my entire life to find the
right combination of blankets and comforters
of varying weights. Nothing has ever worked
until this [Outlast] comforter. I am totally
blown away!" he says. The technology is
available in pillows, comforters and mattress
pads by EvenTemp by Wamsutta.
what you ingest affects your rest. A variety
of natural herbal teas can ease you into sleep,
and both Ballard and Moorcroft agree that the
ritual of sipping tea before bed may be as beneficial
as the tea itself.
Western herbs that are easily found as teas
in grocery and health food stores, I recommend
lemon verbena, valerian, lavender, passion flower
and chamomile, taken an hour or two before bed,"
suggested Tish McCrea, M.S, L.Ac., a Chinese
herbalist and acupuncturist in Huntington, N.Y.,
and professor of Chinese medicine at The New
York College of Health Professions in Syosett,
N.Y. Multiple Chinese herbs work well as sleep
aids, however sleep disorders have varying diagnoses
and not all sedative herbs are appropriate for
everyone, cautioned McCrea.
persistent sleep troubles, see a qualified practitioner
since it may indicate a serious medical problem
and warrant diagnosis from a doctor. But don't
lose sleep over it: most sleeping problems can
be relatively easily remedied.
is not a waste of time," reinforced Moorcroft.
"And if you aren't sleeping, there are
things that can be done to sleep better."
more information, visit www.aasmnet.org,
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