How to Sleep Better
'Sleep Hygiene' Solutions for Better Sleep
Psychological Stressors continued...
One must develop some kind of pre-sleep ritual to break the
connection between all the stress and bedtime. This is perhaps even more
important for children. These rituals can be as short as 10 minutes or as long
as an hour. Some find relief in making a list of all the stressors of the day,
along with a plan to deal with them, as it serves to end the day. Combining
this with a period of relaxation, perhaps by reading something light,
meditating, or taking a hot bath can also help you get better sleep. And don't
look at that clock! That tick-tock will tick you off.
Social or Recreational Drugs
Social or recreational drugs like caffeine, nicotine, and
alcohol may have a larger impact on your sleep than you realize. Caffeine,
which can stay in your system as long as 14 hours, increases the number of
times you awaken at night and decreases the total amount of sleep time. This
may subsequently affect daytime anxiety and performance. The effects of
nicotine are similar to those of caffeine, with a difference being that at low
doses, nicotine tends to act as a sedative, while at high doses it causes
arousals during sleep.
Alcohol may initially sedate you, making it easier to fall
asleep; however, as it is metabolized and cleared from your system during
sleep, it causes arousals that can last as long as two to three hours after it
has been eliminated. These arousals disturb sleep, often causing intense
dreaming, sweating, and headache. Smoking while drinking caffeine and alcohol
can interact to affect your sleep dramatically. These sleep disturbances may be
most apparent upon awakening, feeling unrefreshed, groggy, or hungover.
It is important to realize that not getting the proper amount
of and the best quality sleep may have serious short-term and long-term
consequences. Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation adversely affects
performance and alertness.
Reducing sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just
one night reduces daytime alertness by about one-third. Excessive daytime
sleepiness impairs memory and the ability to think and process information, and
carries a substantially increased risk of sustaining an occupational injury.
Long-term sleep deprivation from sleep disorders like apnea have recently been
implicated in high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.