Where Do We Stand on Sleep (Part 3 of 3)

There are all sorts of factors that affect sleep according to Helena Riess, Ph. D. Everything from high levels of tension and stress, increased dependence on technology,  and an inability to prepare our bodies for a restful night’s sleep, can definitely challenge our ability to fall asleep and have a restful night.

Stress may be the number one factor preventing us from sleep and while it may not be impossible to eliminate all the causes of stress, there are strategies for dealing with it that can increase the likelihood that we will get to sleep faster and sleep more soundly.

For example, according to Dr. Riess, it is more challenging to work on your computer or even watch television, until right before your head hits the pillow, and expect that you will have a restful nights’ sleep. Both the brain activity created by working at the computer and the actual light emitted from the LCD screen, combine to activate your brain and make sleep more difficult.

Dr. Riess recommends at least an hour of minimal brain activity (no computers or other technology) before climbing into bed.

Meditation, yoga, or contemplative reading will also help to prepare your brain to shift from an active to a more passive state.

As noted in previous posts, EMF radiation from iPads and cellphones have also been shown to inhibit sleep patterns.  Removing your cellphone from next to the bed as an alarm clock, especially for younger people, might be the single easiest technique for improving overall sleep.

Given the importance of sleep, many people have rationalized the use of pharmaceuticals to make sleep easier, but Dr. Riess notes that a number of more natural methods can accomplish the same goal.

For example , aroma therapy, such as scented  lavender on pillows or from an emulsifier can help you relax.

In humans and other mammals, melatonin has been found to regulate our circadian cycles – increasing throughout the day and as daylight decreases. In the evening, the increased melatonin levels lead to sleep. Research has shown that the production of melatonin deceases as we age.

“We produce melatonin naturally as light deceases,” Dr. Riess notes, “so anything that increases the melatonin naturally will help us get to sleep faster.

Melatonin levels can be increased with supplements or by some foods including cherries or cherry juice or even turkey. Consuming these foods before bedtime can promote better sleep.

To stay asleep Dr. Riess recommends, we pay attention to the conditions in your  bedroom. “The amount of external light and noise will conspire to disrupt even the best night’s sleep if we don’t take steps to prevent them from intruding on our sleep time,” Dr. Riess notes.

Using blackout shades to reduce light, or even earplugs to eliminate extraneous noise can help you move through the normal sleep cycles and feel rested when you do wake up.


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