Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sleep


Great remedy for memory loss, short temper, boredom.

When you don't get enough sleep, your brain just doesn't work as well as it does after sufficient rest. Insufficient sleep is one of the reasons older folks suffer memory loss. And sufficient REM sleep is essential for good mental health. Go without for long enough, and age doesn't matter, it shows! For babies and toddlers, who need more sleep, one late or missed nap time is apparent to everyone in hearing distance!

So what can you do to ensure better sleep? Start with good pre-sleep habits. No caffeine before bedtime - have a glass of warm milk instead. Or a warm bath for about 20 minutes. Adding a cup or so of epsom salts helps relax your muscles even more. Refrain from exercise a couple of hours before bedtime. Even yoga can be stimulating.

Many people will wake up at the same time every day regardless of going to sleep late the night before. So it's important to start winding down in time to actually go to sleep at the desired hour.

If you don't like warm milk, or perhaps don't drink milk at all, take calcium tablets at bedtime or shortly before. Half the RDI - or about 400 mg of quality calcium such as calcium citrate which is readily absorbable.

Exercising earlier in the day can also help. A good workout - a walk, bicycling, swimming, aerobics, or whatever you enjoy - followed by at least two hours before you go to sleep, can really help you wind down when it's time.

Entrain yourself to go to sleep to a particular music CD - mix your own if you like. Perhaps start with something a little livelier, and song by song, slow down the pace of the music till it's lulling you to sleep. Repeating the same music, entrainment, sets up an association between the music and sleepiness.

To start with, only play the CD when you feel very sleepy at bedtime. It doesn't matter if you fall asleep while listening. Actually, that's the point! Then, when you've got the music and sleep well associated, you'll start feeling sleepy when you hear the music!

Some other sleep remedies: melatonin, hops (herb tea or herbs in pillow), lavender (aromatherapy, herbs in pillow, herb spray on pillow or bedding), chamomile and other soothing herbs, homeopathic remedies, and abdominal breathing (chest breathing is stimulating.)

Light and sound can affect your ability to sleep well, too. Try a sleep mask to block out light, ear plugs and/or a white noise machine to block out distracting sounds.

If worries keep you awake, or from going back to sleep, try this acupressure tip: put your hands on your knees, thumbs on the inner side of your leg, an inch or so above the knee. With moderate pressure, explore until you find a rather sensitive or sore spot. Once you find the spots (one on each leg) rub them with moderate pressure for two or three minutes. This helps break the worry cycle.

A skipped night every now and then isn't so noticeable, but make a habit of not getting enough sleep, and you build up sleep debt that, contrary to popular belief, isn't fixed with a single night's good sleep.

And boredom. Well, the reason I mentioned that is sometimes I feel really bored, but at the same time, I really don't feel like doing anything. I finally realized that combo indicates I'm actually tired. I may want or be able to sleep right away, but at least I understand why I'm having these feelings simultaneously. If it isn't a good time for sleep, I'll try some fairly brainless activity like watching TV.

I'll nap if I just can't stay awake. But napping can come back to bite you when you try to go to sleep that night. So I don't unless I really have to. Your sleep and napping habits may differ. Some people swear by naps. Perhaps they're able to take shorter ones. Mine tend to be a couple hours, and that usually interferes with normal sleep later.

One final tip, eating carbs before bed helps you sleep by boosting serotonin. Bake a potato, quarter it, and eat a piece before bedtime. (Put the rest away for other nights.) Even an eighth of a potato may be enough to help you get drowsy. Now brush your teeth and hop in bed! Good night and sweet dreams!

Articles about sleep and memory:

Sleep Boosts Memory - article on Psychology Today's website.

Just Sleep on It! - Neuroscience for Kids' article on sleep and memory.

Memory Consolidation and REM Sleep - article discussing sleep studies and theories about REM sleep.

Order items to help you sleep:

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