Friday is World Sleep Day. Celebrate with some tips on how to practice good sleep hygiene – that is, to arrange your life so that sleep comes naturally.
• The National Sleep Foundation emphasizes what a good idea it is to keep a regular bedtime and wake-up time.
• In the hours before bed, stay away from computer screens, emails, video games and other electronics. Your body interprets light with wakefulness.
• Physical and mental exercise can help make you tired at night.
• Keep your bedroom dark and cool. Don’t use it for work.
• When it comes to alcohol and caffeine, moderation is key – and don’t drink either in the several hours before bed.
• If your neighborhood is noisy, take steps to blot out the noise. An Oregon company makes window inserts that shield you from the sounds of the street. Thick carpets and upholstered furniture can also absorb unwanted sound.
• Herbal tea and warm milk can help make you sleepy. Dr. Daniel Rifkin, of Sleep Medicine Centers of Western New York, points out that the heat has something to do with it. “When you warm up the body, cooling off is when sleep onset occurs,” Rifkin said. “When you’re done with your tea and go to bed, the body cools off.”
• Melatonin supplements can help regulate your circadian rhythm, Rifkin said, particularly if you travel frequently and deal with jet lag.
• Turn the clock away so if you awaken in the middle of the night you don’t see what time it is. Resist the urge to calculate how much you need to sleep to feel rested the next day. Why worry? As Rifkin said, “That perpetuates wakefulness.”
• Don’t try too hard to sleep. Instead, concentrate on the pleasant feeling of relaxation.
• If you wake up in the middle of the night, count backward from 100. Do this as soon as you realize you are awake. If you make it all the way down to 1, just start all over from 100. You can also go backward by threes and fours.
• If you can’t sleep, get up. Tip from someone who has been there: Don’t read something boring, as is often suggested. That will only depress you. Read something light and funny, something that cheers you up.
• If worry is keeping you awake, take a piece of paper and list problems and one-sentence next-step solutions for the following day. Then put the paper in a drawer, and close the drawer. This helps take the problem off your mind. “Set aside worry time,” Rifkin recommends. “Forgive yourself and others.”
• If you’re still not sleepy, it lessens your stress if you’re not wasting the time. Knit, draw, do needlepoint, do stretching exercises, color a picture. Read the Bible or pray the rosary. Unclutter the dining room. Clean the fridge.
• Coloring can be particularly relaxing. You are dealing with color, which is pleasant, and creating art. Kenmore Mercy Hospital’s spiritual care team offers coloring materials to patients and especially suggests colored pencils, because they are capable of more detail than crayons.
• Reassure yourself that even if you don’t sleep, the next day will not be as bad as you think. Promise yourself a treat: a good breakfast, a Zumba class, a beef on weck, a hot bath. And you will sleep better the next night. Rest assured.
– Mary Kunz Goldman