Unhealthy sleep patterns increase the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, and depression. They have been linked to traffic accidents, occupational hazards and reduced productivity. Factors contributing to poor sleep hygiene include 24-hour access to media and technology, unconventional work schedules, and medical issues such as chronic pain or obstructive sleep apnea.
Healthy sleep is vital to good health and emotional well-being:
- You fall asleep easily.
- You regularly sleep 7 to 9 hours in a 24 hour period (sometimes including a nap) without long periods of wakefulness.
- Upon waking, you feel refreshed and alert.
During sleep, our brains are active and our bodies replenish themselves. There are five stages of sleep: stage 1 is light sleep; in stage 2 the brain waves are slower; stages 3 and 4 are deep sleep; and stage 5 is REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, when breathing and heart rate increase, blood pressure rises, and we dream. This cycle takes 90 to 110 minutes and repeats three to five times a night for healthy sleep. Most adults experience occasional insomnia, due to stress or worry or excitement, but if you are frequently unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, or if you suspect that your sleep insufficiency is related to a medical issue (e.g., if you snore loudly or stop breathing regularly in your sleep,) your doctor may order a sleep study or other tests to determine a course of treatment. If you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious and you just can’t quiet your thinking, here are some things you can do to promote relaxation and restful sleep.
- Diet: Refrain from heavy meals, alcohol and caffeine two to three hours before bedtime.
- Environment and Light: Turn off TVs, computers and other electronic devices that give off light. An exception may be made for atmospheric sound machines or soft, soothing background music that can mask environmental noise and promote relaxation.
- Adult coloring books, journaling and creative writing provide opportunities to relax and engage in satisfying and creative activities.
- Tai chi, also called movement meditation, has been found to be effective in achieving a relaxed state prior to sleep. See http://www.examiner.com/article/what-physical-meditation-is-and-how-to-do-it and http://www.ezsleepsolutions.com/articles/tai-chi-qigong-for-insomnia-by-matthew-rochford/
- The “8 Minute Yoga Workout for Sleep” that can be done on your bed! See http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/yoga/poses/yoga-routine-before-sleep/
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation can relieve tension. See http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/progressive-muscle-relaxation-topic-overview
- “The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise” may not put you to sleep in 60 seconds, but it really does promote relaxation and a calm feeling.
- See: http://www.medicaldaily.com/life-hack-sleep-4-7-8-breathing-exercise-will-supposedly-put-you-sleep-just-60-332122
What are your favorite tips for improving the quality of your sleep? Leave us a comment or share a link to some online resources, and help everyone train healthy sleeping habits for improved wellness.