Sleep. Perchance to Dream.
I don’t remember my dreams. That’s okay…they’re probably weird ones. But not as weird as my sister’s dreams. But that’s another blog post…
Sleep. We don’t get enough of it, do we? I’ve always been a heavy sleeper, to the point that I was worried I wouldn’t hear my infant daughter when she cried in her room down the hall. (I shouldn’t have worried…)
But clearly, I don’t get enough sleep. I doubt any of us REALLY get enough sleep. But we certainly need it, for so many reasons (including, of course, beauty sleep).
Interestingly, the reasons we sleep aren’t set in stone. Scientists haven’t been able to really put their finger on why it is humans sleep. Theories include:
- Restorative function—anecdotal evidence points to the possibility that we sleep so other things can happen: muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis
- Energy conservation—obviously, energy is conserved while we lie in our comfy beds
- Brain plasticity—it’s possible sleep is correlated to changes in the structure and organization of the brain; you might have noticed that sleep deprivation has an effect on your ability to perform a variety of tasks (ya think?)
(from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/why-do-we-sleep )
So, how do we get more sleep? Or better sleep? Here are some strategies that work for me:
- Eat foods in the evening that provide our bodies with nutrients which promote sleep: walnuts, almonds, tuna, salad for dinner, dairy products.
- Refrain from eating too late in the evening. If that restorative function and or energy conservation theories are correct, our bodies need to focus on sleeping. If we eat late, our bodies focus on digestion, and there goes that good night’s sleep.
- Darken the room. Reduce the number of electronic and outdoor lights. Our brains certainly don’t need the stimulation. I’m trying to figure out how to cover up the blinking smoke detector light…
- Prepare the bed—make sure there’s a comfortable, supportive mattress and an appropriate pillow for your typical sleep position. Splurging on good 100% cotton, high-thread-count sheets is worth it! And don’t forget about supportive pillows. Use a body pillow if you’re a side sleeper. Alternatively, side sleepers can use smaller pillows (found in craft stores) to tuck between your knees, and to support your upper arm.
- Silence the room—running fans, meowing cats, howling wind, snoring husbands (not mine, of course). All of these can prevent or interrupt sleep. Use earplugs. They’re not sexy, but they really do the job!
- Cool the air—typically, we sleep better when it’s a bit cooler in the room. Have an extra blanket at the foot of the bed, if necessary.
- Clear the brain—easier said than done. I keep a notepad on my dresser. If I think of something that I need to do the next day, I get up and write it down. Just the act of writing it down eases any worry that I’ll forget about it, and—it’s out of my brain.
- Clear the brain—I have a “monkey mind”—it tends to “go” all the time. Bedtime is no exception. It sounds simplistic, but it works: count silently “1, 2”. Repeat. If my mind wanders and I start thinking about that 8 am meeting, go back to “1, 2”. It works because I can focus on “1, 2” without too much brain power, and it’s relaxing.
- Breathe deeply—long slow breaths. Or try this: breathe in to a count of 4, hold it for a count of 7, blow out to a count of 8. Repeat 3-4 times.
- Relax—we’re tense…too tense, even at bedtime. Lie on your back, with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at an angle by your side, hands palms up, eyes shut. This is the “corpse” pose in yoga, by the way! Now, just breathe deeply. Focus on relaxing each part of your body, starting with your feet and moving up to your face, because you know you’re clenching your jaw!
- Figure out how much sleep you need. One article I recently read suggested moving bedtime back 15 minutes each night, until you wake up without the alarm. This is based on the fact that we go through cycles of sleep—light & deep. If we don’t fall asleep at the right time, we may be awakened (by the evil alarm) out of a deep sleep cycle, which doesn’t help us feel like hopping out of bed!
Do you get enough sleep? What are some ways you ensure good sleep?
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jbird/45641857/”>thejbird</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>