Limit Alcohol Before Bed
The Cleveland Clinics neurologist and sleep expert Jessica Vensel-Rundo, MD (Found Here) states that “even though alcohol is a sedative, its effects wear off during the night.” She adds, “There’s more disruption. Deep sleep decreases during the second half, and REM, or dreaming, sleep increases.” When you are sleeping alcohol in your system can cause vivid dreams and nightmares as well as breathing problems. If you drink alcohol or take a drug before bedtime, you can expect to wake up with some degree of grogginess, Dr. Vensel-Rundo says.
Researchers at Michigan’s Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders & Research Center and Wayne State College of Medicine analyzed the sleep disruptive effects of caffeine consumption at different lengths of time before bedtime. They found that caffeine consumed even 6 hours before bedtime resulted in significantly diminished sleep quality and sleep quantity. This is believed to be the first study to investigate directly the effects of caffeine at specific times before nightly sleep. Psychology Today’s article New Details on Caffeine’s Sleep Disrupting Effects (Found Here) advises to stick to a 2:00 pm cut off for caffeinated drinks, to tapper caffeine as the day progresses and to avoid jumbo drinks of coffee or other caffeinated beverages.
Hydration and Sleep
The excellent article Hydration and Sleep Connection (Found Here) summarizes: Many people do not realize that their health habits greatly influence or adversely affect their sleep quality. Drinking water is not only important for human survival, but also essential to maintain healthy sleep patterns. Every cell, tissue and organ requires water to function properly. Therefore, proper sleep and adequate hydration work cell-and molecule with each other to maintain proper sleep.
According to the National Institute of Health, one method of preventing worries from keeping you awake is to keep a journal before going to bed. List all issues that worry you. By this method you transfer your worries from your thoughts to paper, leaving your mind quieter and more ready to fall asleep.
In her article Journaling Before Bed Can Help Ward Off Sleeplessness, (Found Here) Linda Wasmer Andrews notes that in one study 41 college students plagued by bedtime worries were randomly assigned to self-help strategies. One group was asked to journal every night for a week. The study found journaling reduced bedtime worry and stress, increased sleep time, and improved sleep quality.
To try the technique used in the study, set aside 15 minutes each night for writing about a recent positive experience. Write about not only what happened, but also how you felt at the time. Forget what your high school English teacher would say about the grammar, punctuation and spelling; the journal is for your eyes only.
By the time you put away the journal, climb under the covers, and switch off the light, you’ll be in a better frame of mind for drifting off into dreamland.
Meditation is a practice with a many thousand year history. It is often associated with spirituality and the seeking of a higher consciousness. However, there are many different types of meditation, some are designed to help us relax.
According to an article in Psychology Today (Found Here) Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are. Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.
You may wonder what good that is. After all, don't we want to suffer less? Aren't we interested in tuning in to this natural wisdom, this brilliant sanity, that we've heard about? Aren't those changes from how we already are?
Well, yes and no. On the one hand, suffering less and being more aware of our inherent wakefulness would be changes from how we experience ourselves right now, or at least most of the time. On the other hand, though, the way to uncover brilliant sanity and to alleviate suffering is by going more deeply into the present moment and into ourselves as we already are, not by trying to change what is already going on.
The sitting practice of mindfulness meditation gives us exactly this opportunity to become more present with ourselves just as we are. This, in turn, shows us glimpses of our inherent wisdom and teaches us how to stop perpetuating the unnecessary suffering that results from trying to escape the discomfort, and even pain, we inevitably experience as a consequence of simply being alive.
The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Sleep Disturbance published in the Journal of Science and Healing (Found Here) concludes, there is some evidence to suggest that increased practice of mindfulness techniques is associated with improved sleep and that mindfulness-based stress reduction participants experience a decrease in sleep-interfering cognitive processes (eg, worry).
There are many great resources online to help one develop a mindfulness practice. Headspace is an app we use and is designed to help make meditation simple. Another app that is getting rave reviews is Calm.
For a great 10 minute primer on Meditation check out Andy Puddicombe’s TED Talk (Found Here)