Monday, March 7, 2016

My Favorite Activity

     I always joke that there are two things I am good at ... and you know, a little truth lies behind every joke.

     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, whileowls” 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 cyclenot 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.


DJan said...

I m an excellent sleeper, too. I go to bed early and get up early, with no alarm clocks or other annoying sounds to listen to. I sleep for eight or nine hours and wake twice during the night. Sometimes I am awake for a short while in the middle of the night, but I always drift off again. Maybe not immediately like you do. I love the feeling of being rested. And I exercise a LOT. :-)

Anonymous said...

If I get 6 hours of sleep, I feel very rested and happy. Less than that, I feel sick.

Anonymous said...

I hate sleep. It takes away from my living of life. I love to stay up late and watch all the TV shows I've missed during the day. It's when the house is most quiet and peaceful.I also do my best writing then. I've been known to spend many many nights with absolutely no sleep, yet I've been in bed since 11PM. I get out of bed at 5AM and enjoy a full day.
The best part is sitting on my comfy couch around 3:30pm and without any effort falling into a peaceful sleep till 6pm, just in time for dinner and the news.
Works for me.

Celia said...

Great list, sleep and I are pretty good friends. I have stopped reading or watching very intense-type entertainment in the later evening for the most part. Gives me some very unrestful dreams. :-)

Olga Hebert said...

I do need my sleep. I did develop insomnia as a teenager and then again in that delightful stage of life known as peri-menopause. I had to go to sleep therapy at the University of VT Medical Center. I basically learned all the things you have mentioned here--good "sleep hygiene."

rosaria williams said...

Ah, some people have all the luck. I could sleep nine hours easily; my husband, five at best. Even with sleeping pills. And yes, he has tried all of the recommendations...

Arkansas Patti said...

I envy you your ease of getting a great night's sleep. I go to sleep easily but wake up 4 hours later and then it is off and on all night. Grrr. I would be upset but I do have amazing dreams during the sleep periods so it isn't all bad.

Stephen Hayes said...

Our son has problems sleeping and I look forward to sharing these ideas with him. Thanks.

joared said...

My sleep pattern has varied throughout my life. I really like cold milk but just can drink it warmed, so have never used it to stimulate sleep. I usually just lay in bed if I don't go to sleep and don't fret over it -- usually the next thing I know it's either time to go to the BR or later, time to get up in the morning, and I've apparently nodded off somewhere along the way.

Rian said...

I find the need for sleep odd... don't know why... just the necessity of recharging ourselves makes us seem so.. (not sure what word to use here - maybe stepfordy?). Even the thought of all of humanity shutting down and going to bed for a specific number of hours to recharge seems strange to me. But that's probably just me...
However, when it comes to sleep, I love it! And have no problems going to be by 10 pm and sleeping until 7 or 8 am (with several pitstops during the night since I'm 70, but I go right back to sleep). And I love to nap during the day also... when there's time. It doesn't affect my night sleep.

Anonymous said...

You can now add female hormone replacement therapy to your list.

Dick Klade said...

Good advice here. Using a bedroom humidifier has an added benefit, especially during heating seasons when low interior humidity can contribute to dry mouth or nose bleeds from dry nostril tissue. I had occasional problems with both until starting to use a humidifier last year. Problems disappeared, and I am sleeping better.