Saturday, January 11, 2014

Essential rest. Suggestions for better and more restorative sleep

Sleep is essential for life, yet life for so many does not include adequate amounts of sleep. So many of us her in the U.S. are too busy living life that we forget this simple thing that is key to that life we are trying to live.  In an article from the Huffington post it was suggested that Sleep is "a third pillar" of life right along with diet and exercise.  My Mother had some real health issues last year. The first recommendation was sleep. Without real restorative sleep our bodies and brains can't function nor repair themselves. YES, SLEEP IS VITAL TO HEALTH.
                                                                                                   Photo courtesy of Bing images

How do you know if you are getting enough sleep?
Here is a link to an article that does a great job explaining it. It includes a handy chart that shows sleep recommendations for all ages.
how much sleep do I need?
Each person is different; for example, my husband needs more sleep than I do. This article gives you a place to start. So, you already know that you need more sleep, where do you go? Here are some ideas to help improve the quantity and quality of your sleep.

What can you do to improve your sleep habits?

1. Regular bedtime is a must.  It used to be that everyone had a regular bedtime especially children. I was recently reading an article about  the parenting skills we have lost in recent years. One of those is a regular bedtime. We are living in a world  much like New York, the city that never sleeps;  our families are falling asleep late into the night, usually to the light and sounds of the television or movies. It is not healthy. Sleep is essential for our growing children.  We often try to give them so much in life and yet skimp on such simple essentials as this.
2. A bedtime routine is very helpful. A bedtime routine tells your body that it is time to start winding down and preparing for sleep. If you just decide, "Ok time for bed." and then jump right into bed your brain and body have a hard time keeping up. It sets your body up for confusion.  A bedtime routine does not have to be long and complicated.  It really only  should take a few minutes. It can be as easy and shutting down everything electronic, brushing your teeth, and having a little drink. Reading a bedtime story used to be common place and has been replaced with TV and internet among other things, yet it works. All that is needed is something to signal your brain that it is time to sleep. This sounds to simple to be effective, but it is amazing how it works

3. Check out your sleeping environment.   A key to a good night sleep may be hidden in your sleeping environment. Some things to consider:
a . Temperature.  Temperature can really affect a persons ability to sleep. For most people, an ideal temperature is between 68 and 72 Fahrenheit.  Hot or cold, either one can have an effect on sleeping. Try an experiment; change the normal temperature for a few nights and see what happens. Some people swear that this little tip alone has changed their lives. As an added note, many of the newer mattresses and pillows that are made of memory foam can hold body heat thus disrupting some peoples sleep.

b.  Lighting. For some people even the littlest bit of light can be disruptive to sleep. The red or green glow from electronic devices or even an alarm clock can be enough to disturb some people. There are many that are unaware of this fact. Once discovered, the problem can be resolved.  In these cases a darkening shade or a sleep mask may be in order.

c. Sound. Whether it be the constant hum of the fridge, the furnace kicking on, or the neighbor who slams his car door as he leaves for work in the early morning hours. These sounds can have an effect on certain people. Some people sleep well to the constant background sounds. These people do well with a fan running, or a noise box that creates sounds. Babies are notorious for falling asleep to "white noise" Or going asleep in the car with the constant hum of the engine.  Some people are disturbed when the sounds around them change. For example when the furnace kicks on or the neighbor slams a car door. Having a constant sound can drown out those noises. Some people just do well to wear ear plugs. Whatever the case, being aware of these things allows us to make some changes and avoid expensive drugs or therapy that come along with the conventional treatments for  insomnia.

d. Mood. The mood of your bedroom can affect the way you sleep. If you bedroom is used for many other things than sleep there can be an energy that resides there displacing the relaxing sleep energy that should prevail.  Notice how the energy in your home differs from room to room. The main gathering place and the kitchen seem to have different energy than other rooms in the house. The color choices on your wall, and even some of the décor in your bedroom may affect your sleeping patterns. Check it out, become aware and see what happens. Simple things can make a huge difference.

4. Find your sleeping position. This was key for me. Once I discovered my sleeping position it put me in a much better place. I used to toss and turn, sometimes for hours trying to get comfortable and get my brain to relax.  Now this, along with some Yoga during my bedtime routine I am able to get to sleep fast. I don't waste hours trying to get some sleep.  I get into bed and do some Yoga stretches to relax. Then when I am relaxed, I turn over  and assume my sleeping position. This signals my brain that it is sleeping time. I am grateful for the advice  given to me to find a sleeping position. 

5. Eating and drinking before bedtime.  Throw out the old notion that eating and drinking before bedtime is bad for you. For some, drinking before bedtime can change their body temperature and help them get to sleep. Some people need that drink to keep from waking up thirsty. I have a daughter that wakes up thirsty if she doesn't get enough water before sleep. The simple act of drinking before bedtime has saved her from nighttime waking.  Eating sugary sodas, juices, or cookies and ice cream before bedtime might be a bad idea, and caffeine is a stimulant and therefore should be avoided at bedtime.

I got sucked into the notion that eating at night was bad. When I threw that to the wind  and began eating at night, I noticed that I slept better. I observed that when I would eat about 45 minutes to an hour before bedtime that I was able to relax and sleep much better. I noticed that I was sleeping longer and deeper.  I  was reminded of a book I read many years ago. The book was entitled "Potatoes not Prozac" by  Kathleen DesMaisons.  The book is about controlling blood sugar and how diet effects your mood. It was brought up in the book that a potato with the skin eaten before bedtime was helpful in maintaining good mental health.  From what I remembered, it had to do with the starch in the potato getting into your body quickly being a "fast carb" and raising your glucose levels and the amount of serotonin in your brain. The Skin of the potato digested more slowly and therefore is considered a "slow carb" digesting slower and thus stabilizing your blood sugar through the night.

When I started studying about sleep habits and sleep cycles. One thing that caught my attention was the fact that our bodies go through a repair cycle early on in the night. Later on, in the early morning hours the brain goes through a restoration/ repair cycle. If the brain does not have fuel enough to go through the repair cycle it can wake us up often asking for food.  In the past I would wake up early in the morning hours and could not get back to sleep. I would sometimes eat and that would help, yet I would feel guilty for eating in the night, or I would just be angry that I was awake so early and could not sleep. It was a bad cycle and one that I see so many facing.

I was able to put it all together and realized that If I ate a "slow carb" and a "fast carb" together  before bedtime I was able to sleep more soundly and in the early morning hours my brain had the nutrition it needed from the "slow carb" to repair itself. I was finally able to get to sleep and stay asleep.  It can be as simple as that baked potato. I often enjoy a slice of whole grain bread with a bit of jam. Grandma may have been right when she suggested a glass of milk before bedtime.  The sugars in the milk digest quickly raising your serotonin levels which turn to melatonin and help you to sleep.  The proteins in the milk digest slower and act as a slow carb thus providing your brain with the nutrition needed during the repair stage especially if it is whole milk providing the brain with the essential fat it needs.   

I would suggest that if you are having troubles sleeping that you become aware and  take inventory of what is going on in your life and take a look at some of the habits you have and  see if there are some little changes that could make a big difference in your sleep cycles.

For more info check out some of these resources.

UCLA sleep center


National sleep foundation

Here is to better sleeping for you and your family


  1. Informative post. I may have heard all this before but I don't remember EAT before going to bed. I try not to, now I may have to check this out. I have been trying to go to bed at the same time, with my own little set of rituals. When I get it right I usually go for 7 hours. My husband needs at least 8. Thanks for the tips.

  2. Thanks for sharing all this information at the Healthy Tuesday hop! And for sharing the link to "how much sleep do I need?" Gonna check it out. :)

  3. I know I am sleeping. I maybe border line But I do know many people suffer from poor or little sleep.

    Thanks for sharing with us at The HomeAcre Hop!

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