It’s often plagued me, the inability to fall asleep. It’s a curse. But, I’ve been able to – for the most part – beat my insomnia. And, if you think getting 6 hours a night is okay, studies continue to pour in suggesting that a lack of sleep will increase your chances of depression, weight gain, anxiety, and take years off your life.
“In addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, getting enough restful sleep is the most important thing you can do for your health. Proper sleep is one of the keys to looking and feeling your best, yet it’s estimated that up to 70 percent of Americans are chronically sleep deprived. Unfortunately this is consistent with what I see in my NYC practice” – Frank Lipman, MD. Quote from his interview in “Goop.”
How much is enough sleep, though? For the record, 7 – 9 hours a night are the recommended guidelines for adults, so says the Mayo Clinic. Take a moment and commit to getting a better night of zzz’s. Here’s how:
1) A really dark room: Even if it means an eye mask, ensure that you aren’t exposed to even the slightest bit of light. It makes a difference. My favorite way to ensure darkness is an eye pillow, filled with lavender. The smell of lavender lulls me to sleep and the cool eye pillow blocks all light. Not a great option if you can’t sleep on your back.
2) Cut out caffeine after 4:00 PM: For many people, you’ll need to cut it out after lunch. Experiment and see, but a late afternoon “pick-me-up” may actually be hampering your ability to fall asleep.
3) Ban TV, the computer, the blackberry, the iPad….. all of it… for the hour leading up to bedtime. I have no idea if this includes reading on the iPad, but my guess is that it does. I’m told screens keep your brain in “awake mode,” so power down the electronics and as you make that final sweep through the house, straightening as you go, grab the book you’ve been intending to start reading, or one of the magazines from your stack, and try to unwind.
4) Dim the lights: Replace your bedroom light bulbs to low voltage ones, as dimmer lights will trigger your body to relax as you get ready for bed. Consider putting a dimmer on your bathroom lights as well. It’s not as if you are putting on makeup before bed, so light a candle, dim the lights, and wash your face.
5) Exercise: Not before bed, mind you. But, regular exercise makes for better sleep.
6) Drink your wine early: If you are sipping wine at 9:00 at night, you may not get a good night’s sleep. If you drink regularly, drink at 6 or 7, not later. Drinking alcohol close to bedtime may let you fall asleep faster, but it often prevents you from getting the deep REM sleep necessary to feel well rested when morning comes.
7) Eliminate noise: I used to listen to NPR when falling asleep, but the updates would jar me awake. And don’t even get me started about the emergency broadcast system sometimes going off at 11:00 at night. I mean, REALLY???? The best thing for sleep is white noise. Buy a sound machine to help to drown out noises, both inside and out.
8) Melatonin: A natural remedy which helps many (including me). This is great aid to help you fall asleep if you “catch the window,” but not so good at maintaining sleep throughout the night. But, if falling asleep is your main issue, melatonin may help.