Bring Consciousness to Your Sleep

Now, I realize that this is kind of an oxymoronic title ("Bring Consciousness to Your Sleep") since you should really be bringing "unconsciousness" to your sleep, but what I mean to say by this is that you should be aware of how you sleep.

Most people don't sleep throughout the entire night and/or get enough sleep at all.
And, as you can imagine, this isn't good. Sleep is terribly, terribly important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Here are some benefits to sleep...

  1. Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
  2. Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
  3. Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
  4. Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
  5. Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
  6. Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

I'm can certainly attest to being moody when I don't get enough sleep. When I was going through all my back surgery stuff I was super moody because I 1.) wasn't getting enough sleep, but also because 2.) I was in severe pain. 
Morphine helps with sleep too...

It's important to experiment with different sleeping tactics to figure out how you sleep best. When I was learning more and more about my back I was told that sleeping on the floor would be the best option for me and so I tried that and well... it sucked. The floor was too hard and hurt too much. 
Next, I was told that I should sleep with a big pillow between my legs so that my spine would align and (OH MY GOSH!!!!) this did the trick. I always sleep with a pillow between my legs now and I don't wake up in the middle of the night in pain. It's wonderful!

I also learned that, for my back, I need to sleep with some sort of heat. For Christmas, a couple years ago, my Nana got me a heated sheet to cover my mattress with. I use this during the chilly months and it helps out so much. 

Another thing I learned about myself is that I need to sleep with socks on and with my pajama pants tucked into my socks. My feet are ALWAYS freezing and freezing feet keep me up at night. At first I didn't like to wear socks at night, but now I do. I sleep much better. 

Studies show that people sleep better when it is completely dark in the room and that definitely holds true for me. I actually use one of those eye-masks thingys to keep the light out. I seriously recommend using one of these if you want to get a good night's sleep. 

Here are some more tips for getting a better night's rest...

  • Set a regular bedtime. Go to bed at the same time every night. Choose a time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn. Try not to break this routine on weekends when it may be tempting to stay up late. If you want to change your bedtime, help your body adjust by making the change in small daily increments, such as 15 minutes earlier or later each day.
  • Wake up at the same time every day. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock to wake up on time, you may need to set an earlier bedtime. As with your bedtime, try to maintain your regular wake–time even on weekends.
  • Nap to make up for lost sleep. If you need to make up for a few lost hours, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping late. This strategy allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep–wake rhythm, which often backfires in insomnia and throws you off for days.
  • Be smart about napping. While taking a nap can be a great way to recharge, especially for older adults, it can make insomnia worse. If insomnia is a problem for you, consider eliminating napping. If you must nap, do it in the early afternoon, and limit it to thirty minutes.
  • Fight after–dinner drowsiness. If you find yourself getting sleepy way before your bedtime, get off the couch and do something mildly stimulating to avoid falling asleep, such as washing the dishes, calling a friend, or getting clothes ready for the next day. If you give in to the drowsiness, you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.
These are just some ideas, mind you, I don't actually follow all of these exactly. I, for example, like to stay up much later on the weekends than I do on the weekdays. But I do think it's important to set up a sleeping pattern and to take naps to catch up on some sleep. 

  • Turn off your television and computer. Many people use the television to fall asleep or relax at the end of the day. Not only does the light suppress melatonin production, but television can actually stimulate the mind, rather than relaxing it. Try listening to music or audio books instead, or practicing relaxation exercises. If your favorite TV show is on late at night, record it for viewing earlier in the day.
  • Don’t read from a backlit device at night (such as an iPad). If you use a portable electronic device to read, use an eReader that is not backlit, i.e. one that requires an additional light source such as a bedside lamp.
  • Change your light bulbs. Avoid bright lights before bed, use low-wattage bulbs instead.
  • When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. The darker it is, the better you’ll sleep. Cover electrical displays, use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows, or try an eye mask to cover your eyes.
  • Use a flashlight to go to the bathroom at night. As long as it’s safe to do so, keep the light to a minimum so it will be easier to go back to sleep.

I totally agree with all of these. The flashlight idea is a really good one I haven't heard of before! I'm going to have to try that.

  • Keep noise down. If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from barking dogs, loud neighbors, city traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan, recordings of soothing sounds, or white noise. You can buy a special sound machine or generate your own white noise by setting your radio between stations. Earplugs may also help.
  • Keep your room cool. The temperature of your bedroom also affects sleep. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 65° F or 18° C) with adequate ventilation. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable. You should have enough room to stretch and turn comfortably. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to invest in a new mattress or a try a different pillow. Experiment with different levels of mattress firmness, foam or egg crate toppers, and pillows that provide more support.

When I lived in Italy last fall, I had the hardest time falling asleep and staying asleep due to all the noise outside my apartment. I tried earplugs and ended just listening to my favorite audiobook on my iPod. While I couldn't control the noise, I could control the pillow between my legs, the socks on my feet, and my eye-mask thingy. Some sleep is better than no sleep at all. 

I find that I have better ideas and can write so much more effectively when I get better sleep. I also excel more at school. 

So, if you're not getting you're desired amount of sleep, start experimenting until you find out what works best for you! 


P.S: Interesting Facts

The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses.

 Anything less than five minutes to fall asleep at night means you’re sleep deprived. The ideal is between 10 and 15 minutes, meaning you’re still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy by day.


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