First is my blood type. I have A+ blood. It's the only A+ I've ever received in my life (except for 7th grade Social Studies where the teacher gave everybody an A, and the better students an A+, and the best students an A++).
The second thing I have going for me is that I'm an excellent sleeper. My sleeping partner B stays up late. She gets up early. She tosses and turns and has anxious dreams that disturb her sleep. Why, just last night, she told me, she dreamed she was lost in space.
But I sack out between 11 and 11:15 every night, and I'm dead to the world until 7 a.m. the next day. Okay ... I get up once to make a trip to the bathroom; but I'm back asleep almost before my head returns to the pillow.
This week, March 6 - 13, is National Sleep Awareness Week. With that in mind, and recognizing my expertise in the area, I offer a few suggestions. Ten of them, actually. Seriously. I once wrote an article about it -- it's not in my blog archive, but it is featured in my book You Only Retire Once.
So take a look, and sweet dreams!
Count the Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
No one knows precisely why we sleep. But we do need sleep. Without it we will die. Yet many aspects of American life get in the way of a nice, restful sleep. Modern electronics seduce us into staying up late. The stress of daily life can cause us to toss and turn as we try to go to sleep, or after we wake up in the night. The expanding obesity rate means more Americans suffer from sleep apnea and other night-time disturbances.
In a 2011 survey more than half of Americans complained that they experience sleep problems on a regular basis. The results can be dangerous. One out of 20 adults admitted they had dozed off while driving a car during the previous month.
Professor Till Roenneberg in his book Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag and Why You’re So Tired blames the workplace for many of our sleep problems. Some people, called “larks,” naturally go to bed early and get up early, while “owls” go to bed late and like to sleep in. But whether we’re larks or owls, most of us are forced to sleep around a normal daily schedule, whether we want to or not.
Teenagers are notorious owls, but most high schools begin classes early in the day which contributes to poor school performance.
With all these impediments, how is a person supposed to get enough sleep? Here are a few tips from the experts.
1) Get some exercise. If you feel tired during the day, do not sit around and do nothing. Go work up a sweat. It will wake you up for a few hours, then make you sleepy later on when it’s time for bed.
2) Do not nap. True, some lucky people can catnap during the day without affecting their sleep schedule. But if you are having trouble getting to sleep at night, stay awake during the day. Don’t close your eyes while watching TV or reading the newspaper.
3) Make dinner your main meal. Eating a light breakfast and lunch will help you stay alert during the day. A big meal at night will help you get to sleep. But don’t eat right before bedtime. Give yourself a couple of hours so your digestive system is ready for sleep as well.
4) Don’t do anything too stimulating. Wind down and relax for at least an hour before bed. Taking a warm bath can help ease tension and soothe muscles. A shower tends to wake you up.
5) Set the environment. Most people sleep best in a cool room where the air is not too dry. Opening a window at night can help on both counts. You may want to use a humidifier, which also produces a white noise that some people find helpful.
6) Go to bed at the same time every night. You want to develop a routine. Walk the dog; brush your teeth; read a chapter of a book; turn out the light. You have a ritual for dinnertime that helps trigger your appetite. You should develop a ritual for bedtime to help you feel sleepy.
7) Make a list. If you’re fretting over some issue, or constantly reviewing things you have to do the next day, write down your concerns on a piece of paper or computer file. Once you’ve recorded your to-do list, give yourself permission to stop worrying about it.
8) Warm milk. Milk has an essential amino acid, tryptophan, which stimulates the brain chemical serotonin, believed to play a key role in inducing sleep. But avoid alcohol. It might help you get to sleep, but will likely result in a shallow and disturbed sleep cycle – not to mention a headache in the morning.
9) Do not oversleep. Try to get up at the same time every morning, even if you couldn’t get to sleep the night before. Sleeping late resets your body clock and makes it more difficult to get to sleep the next night. So don’t try to catch up on sleep over the weekend. And if you wake up early, consider . . . maybe you’ve slept enough. Get up and start your day. Do not take a nap. Then that evening start your regular bedtime ritual. Chances are, you’ll sleep just fine.
10) Still can’t sleep? Don’t lie in bed and get mad. Haul yourself out of bed, go into another room and engage in some quiet activity. No, not the TV, which is more likely to wake you up than put you to sleep. Take up your knitting, start drawing or playing your guitar. Or try that old faithful: read a book.