A Good Night’s Sleep

What you need to know to get a good night’s sleep:

We know that 30% of the American population is sleeping less than six and one-half hours a night. We also know that 15% of Americans suffer from chronic insomnia. So what can we do to improve our sleep?

First, we need to come to the realization that we need at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night. If we don’t accept that then we are very likely to suffer the consequences of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and obesity–all of which have been linked to lack of sleep.

Once we realize how much sleep we need we can start to work on getting it. The first step is our bedroom environment. We need to get things dark. This will promote the release of our sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. That means turn off the laptop, iPad, and iPhone. No video games or television. We need a comfortable temperature. If the room is too warm, our core body temperature will not drop. The drop in body temperature is a major signal to the brain to enter sleep. Most studies have shown that a temperature between 62 and 70 degrees is best for sleep.

We also need quiet. In some circumstances, ear plugs may work. In other cases, white noise such as a fan or the sound of the ocean that can be produced by some machines may do the trick. We also need to stop looking at the alarm clock. It is there to wake you up in the morning. Focusing on it, if you are having a hard time falling asleep, can only make matters worse. It leads to anxiety and calculating–two things that are completely incompatible with sleep.

Finally, we need to check our worries at the bedroom door. Too many people take their worries into the bedroom, which makes falling asleep very difficult. A technique called constructive worrying has been found to be helpful. In the evening, you make a list of your problems and write down your solutions. You then place them in your desk drawer and leave them there.

If you still have trouble falling or staying asleep and it has been going on for more than three days a week for over a month, it is probably time that you spoke to your health care professional. Sometimes underlying medical or psychiatric disorders can be at the root of the problem.

By Robert Rosenberg