Sleep Talking

“Everybody sleeps, everybody sleeps ….” Classic lines from my favorite song from waaay back on Sesame Street! (ok, I realize I’m dating myself now). But it is true isn’t it? Everybody sleeps. I mean, how much self efficacy do you require to perform one of the most basic of human behaviors? Sleeping is easy right? Like taking candy from a narcoleptic baby. How hard could it be to tuck in under a warm blanket, lay your head onto a soft pillow, snuggle up with another one and drift off into oblivion? It requires no thinking or effort, that’s why we say stuff like, “….it’s so easy I could do it in my sleep.” But is it really? The fact is, one in seven Americans have been diagnosed with a chronic sleep disorder and approximately one third of the people in the developing world have some difficulty going to sleep at night.


Sleep is a basic necessity for good health and proper functioning of all the body’s systems. It’s the time your body shuts down to repair itself. The immune system is replenished, human growth hormone is released and the neuronal synapses for long-term memory are laid down in the brain. Chronic sleep deprivation is a risk factor for some of the biggest killers out there; obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and yes road traffic accidents. Besides, it’s hard to concentrate in class if you’re not getting enough sleep, not to mention the embarrassment of sleeping through a lecture. Personally coffee doesn’t do much for me anymore, if I’m not sleeping at home I’m sleeping in class, it’s that simple. Considering the cost of tuition, those brief in-class naps cost plenty!

So what can you do to get better sleep? Well it’s simple; “prepare for it.” Sleep is easy but you can’t take it for granted. The first thing is to “plan” your schedule so that you can go to bed at night and get up in the morning around the same times everyday. Work out your schedule to give you as much freedom as possible to do this. Your body has an internal clock which regulates your activities throughout the day creating a “circadian rhythm”. Irregular bedtimes can mess up this rhythm leaving your body confused about when to sleep and when to wake.

Secondly, you might want to consider developing a “bedtime routine.” It could be anything as simple as brushing your teeth at night, reading a boring book, listening to soft music, prayer and meditation. These are just basically cues telling you it’s time for bed and nothing else. After sometime, your mind adjusts to doing these things and going to bed immediately afterwards. Whatever you choose to do, it should involve as little light and as little noise as possible. It absolutely should NOT involve the TV or your computer; this brings me to the last point.

 

 

“Power down.” About thirty minutes before you hit the sack, turn off your TV and shut down your computer. You get considerable eye strain from staring at the screen all day and you should rest your eyes before going to bed. Your eyes need to go to sleep before the rest of your body catches up, so give them a thirty minute head start. Also, the light from the TV and computer screen can mess up your circadian rhythm.

 

 

What I’m simply saying is this; always prepare for sleep, plan for it and do not assume that it’s just going to come. Taking steps to improve the quality of your sleep will save you all that time you spend tossing and turning in bed wishing for daylight. And even if you’re one of those people who sleep like a log and can fall asleep standing in an upright position, the quality of your sleep can still improve dramatically if you take the necessary steps. Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself and see. Well, it’s getting really late and I have to go start my bedtime routine, but first I need to tear myself away from this laptop. Excuse me while I power down. Goodnight, sweet dreams.

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~ by sleepsmarter on April 2, 2008.

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