At one time or another, most of us have experienced what it’s like to have trouble falling asleep, to lie awake in the middle of the night, or feel sleepy and fatigued during the day. However, when sleep problems are a regular occurrence—when they get in the way of your daily routine and hamper your ability to function, the issue of sleeplessness should be seriously considered.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, you’re in good company. According to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders, at least 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders and another 60 million experience occasional sleep problems.
Unfortunately, even minimal sleep loss takes a toll on your mood, energy, efficiency, and ability to handle stress. Ignoring sleep problems and disorders can lead to poor health, accidents, impaired job performance, and relationship stress. If you want to feel your best, stay healthy, and perform to your potential, sleep is a necessity, not a luxury.
The first step toward discovering what’s keeping you up at night is to rule out more serious causes of insomnia, including anxiety, depression, medications, smoking, sleep apnea, hormonal imbalances or pain. It’s important to work with your health care provider to rule out these possibilities.
Most often, though, a combination of factors is triggering your inability to rest. Somewhere, somehow, some aspect of your life doesn’t fit with who you are or what you want. Whether physical or psychological, fortunately there are simple ways to improve the likelihood that you’ll get a good night’s sleep. These techniques are known as “sleep hygiene”.
While good sleep hygiene is important for everyone, it’s especially important for those who have trouble sleeping. So, let’s review some important sleep-promoting behaviors.
Improve Your Sleep Environment
Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. Room temperature can also affect your sleep. You’ll fall asleep easier and be more likely to stay asleep when your room is comfortably cool. Likewise, it’s important to sleep on a mattress that’s comfortable for you.
Don’t Do It in Bed
Many people watch television or read in bed each night before going to sleep. Unfortunately, if you have problems sleeping, these activities are likely to make your insomnia worse. This is true for other activities too, such as eating, writing, talking on the phone, or using your laptop in bed. As with getting into bed too early, engaging in stimulating activities in bed trains your body to think it’s okay to feel wide awake when you’re in bed.
Eat, drink and be… awake
One cup of coffee in the morning is unlikely to have much effect on your nighttime sleep. But, since caffeine can take from three to ten hours to be metabolized, another cup in the afternoon, and/or chocolate after dinner can certainly interfere with a restful night’s sleep. Alcohol can affect sleep, too. Many people ask if having a glass of wine or a beer will help them fall asleep. However, in spite of how common this practice is, drinking alcohol definitely isn’t the answer to your sleep problem. Although you may find that you fall asleep more easily after having a couple of drinks in the evening, alcohol tends to disrupt sleep.
Food can affect your slumber as well, so don’t eat a heavy meal too close to bedtime. If you’re sensitive to tomato products or spicy food, lying down can aggravate heartburn, which can make falling asleep more difficult or wake you up in the middle of the night.
Regular exercise is helpful against insomnia, but not within three hours of bedtime. Exercise is energizing and raises your body temperature. Try to arrange your workout either in the morning or late afternoon.
Make a routine
Go to bed at the same time every night. Practice nighttime relaxation routines, such as muscle relaxation, meditation or listening to guided imagery. Guided imagery can be very helpful in dealing with sleeplessness; it can offer acceptable suggestions about relaxation so that sleep can come. Most helpful is guided imagery that fosters control over the stressors that seem to get in the way of falling asleep and staying asleep.
J. Criscuoli, PhD & M. Gulino, FNP, RN
We continually hear this word during the news, in conversations, at work or read it in newspapers, magazines and the like. Surprisingly, there’s no definition of wellness that seems to be universally accepted.
Truth be told, wellness is a very tough difficult word to define. Personally I like what Charles B. Corbin from Arizona State University has to say. He defines wellness as a “multidimensional state of being
Wellness emphasizes the whole individual. It’s the integration of the spirit, body and the mind; and the understanding that everything we do, feel, think and believe has a direct impact on your state of health.
So, wellness exists on a continuum and is unique to each individual person.
And wellness in this view is also seen as a holistic concept. It’s looking at the whole person and not just at your blood pressure level or how much you weigh, or how well you manage your stress.
It’s not one thing; it’s all of these things connected. Wellness involves the spiritual, the body, the mind, and the concept dimensions.
Wellness is a state of mind as well as a physical state.
Checking in on your progress – here are a few more tips you’ll find helpful:
Get Dense Instead of reaching for salty granola bars or fatty chips as an afternoon snack, try eating more water-dense foods like apples or cucumbers. These natural snacks are loaded with nutrients and filling fiber. They also increase your water quotient and can satisfy a crunchy craving without adding a lot of calories.
Salt When you struggle to squeeze into a pair of pants that fit perfectly the day before, bloat might be to blame. Packaged foods such as pretzels, peanuts and frozen veggie burgers can easily push you over the edge of the recommended daily amount of sodium, so cut your salt intake to diminish puffiness and fit more comfortably into your skinny jeans.
Up the Water Drinking water may be the cheapest diet trick there is. Not only will loading up on the wet stuff help you feel fuller so you’ll eat less, replacing sugary drinks with water can save you hundreds of calories a day. Downing water is also your best defense against bloating and will help keep you regular.
Weight Lift Weightlifting may be associated with bulking up, but that’s not the reality. In fact, doing some simple exercises with dumbbells a few times a week will make you look sleek because muscle is more compact than fat. You’ll also incinerate calories because muscle burns more calories than fat.
Be sure to send a picture of how great you look at the wedding!
For people with mild forms of depression, procrastination is one of the biggest hurdles. Spring is around the corner and it’s time to take action!
Every day, make yourself do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment. You might make a commitment to work in the yard or fix a garden fence. You might decide to write a few lines of a poem.
It doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as you do something. When you set goals and deadlines (I’m going to write for 10 minutes tomorrow at 10 am) and follow through you almost always notice an improvement in mood. Once you experience that uplift, you are more likely to keep trying new things.
Hi Prof G.
My son’s wedding is in five weeks, wonder if you can suggest some quick tips to jumpstart my weight loss?…Joann V.
Congratulations! You are going to look and feel terrific… to help there are a number of quick tips we’ll share in the next two blogs… not to overwhelm, here’s three to get started.
More next time…
Cut down your size
Downsize your food, and you’ll downsize your dress size. Portion control is one of the oldest weight-loss tricks in the book, but it gets a bad rap as being difficult. It’s not. Pile your plate with your normal portion sizes, then take a quarter away and save it for later. The next day, take half away. In a few days you won’t notice you’re eating less. Practice this simple trick and you’ll slim your waistline in no time.
Burning the midnight oil can sabotage your weight loss efforts. Research has found that lack of sleep affects the hormones that increase appetite. Another reason to hit the snooze button? Getting an extra hour of sleep every night may also help you avoid your late-night snacking habit, plus, you’ll have more energy to work out.
Cut the Carbs
There’s a reason celebrities don’t eat bread and pasta in the days leading up to an awards show. Those carb-laden foods may be tasty and filling, but they also add bulk in the way of water retention. By dramatically cutting back on carbs you’ll reduce the water your body is holding and beat bloat.
A recent e-mail…
Dr. C, a quick question. More and more I’m hearing the term, “Presenteeism” at work and I’m not really sure I know what it means. Can you explain?
I’ll begin by asking that you picture the following conversation between a floor supervisor (Linda) and her manager (Estelle)
“Linda, can I see you for a moment.”
As Linda steps into Estelle’s office,
“Lin, I noticed Tom has been unusually down the last couple of days, what’s going on?”
“I know… it’s been since Monday… his dog died.”
“Yeah…had it for 10 years… he’ll snap out of it.”
It took Tom almost four full days to adjust to his loss and Estelle was keenly aware of the amount of money in productivity that had been lost.
Josh… in a nutshell, Tom’s job performance or more succinctly “lack” of performance is what is meant by “presenteeism”. A spin-off from the word absenteeism, it simply means “being at work” but unable to “work” while there. It’s becoming a problem for companies because, using our example, what really could Tom’s boss do?
Could she suggest that Tom see a psychiatrist or psychologist? After all, it was his dog! Whether a dog, sick child, argument at home, rising expenses, all of us face daily situations that are in constant need of attention. Very few full blown psychological issues begin with any one of these problems; instead it’s their unattended accumulation which creates a feeling of being overwhelmed by life. Considering, “life” for many is more than one-third consumed by a job, this “feeling” often manifests at work in negative emotional responses, such as sadness, anger, and tension.
The problem is that while people care about Tom, or Mary, or Sal, or Sue… the company cannot afford the time or money lost while employees deal with “life issues”. Yet, it is still something which should be talked out, not because there is something “unbalanced” with the employee but because their state of mind can escalate to a major psychological or physiological concern. Fortunately, Changing Lifestyle and its team of mental wellness professionals can help.
Changing Lifestyle, a not-for-profit organization, is a group of mental health professionals who promote wellness rather than “illness”. The fundamental flaw of most mental health providers is the emphasis on the diagnosis and treatment of the “ill” in significant life issues. The goal of Changing Lifestyle is to present a more reasonable, less threatening model, for people who wish to better deal with and master life and job issues as well as the anxiety and loss of productivity associated with them.
The mental health professionals of Changing Lifestyle are committed to teach and counsel people in strategies to promote problem solving, behavioral change and personal growth.