Quality sleep is vital. Five stages of sleep have been identified, ranging from light to deep to REM (the dream stage). Each one plays an important role in both health and productivity. Within a 7 to 9 hour window, deep sleep impacts memory, mood, concentration, healing, metabolism, the immune response, brain detoxification, and so much more. The following article provides excellent information about sleep.
Through research, it has been discovered that during sleep, cerebrospinal fluid washes in and out of the brain, clearing away brain waste. Some of this debris would otherwise accumulate in the brain, forming toxic protein plaques leading to memory loss and cognitive impairment. This article explains the process.
If you are not having trouble sleeping, you might skip this article. But, if you are looking for ideas, read on…
I normally sleep between six and seven hours per night. When, I sleep less than six hours, my memory and ability to think are directly impacted. I am sharpest when I am able to get seven full hours of sleep. Achieving adequate and deep sleep has been a challenge for me for many years. My goal has been to improve my sleep in both duration and quality without turning to medications.
The internet is filled with recommendations for achieving a good night’s sleep, beginning with finding a comfortable mattress and pillow. (I am still searching for an ideal pillow.) But, I am avoiding these two areas since I do not wish to endorse any products. However, I have implemented a number of interesting strategies that seem to work for me. Perhaps, a few of them might be worth trying if you are not satisfied with your sleep.
- Use ear plugs.
I use ear plugs every night. I am a light sleeper, and foam plugs prevent me from waking up when my husband lightly snores. If inserted properly, ear plugs are considered safe to use at night. This article sheds more light on the use of ear plugs for sleep.
-Maintain a dark room with no light.
An individual’s sleep-wake cycle is strongly dependent on circadian rhythms. Exposure to light at bedtime disrupts these rhythms, blocking the production of melatonin that is needed for sleep. Even when the eyes are closed, light filters through translucent eyelids, impacting circadian rhythms.
Being highly light-sensitive, I cannot sleep if there is any light within my visual field. I have found a number of strategies to effectively block out the light.
The single most important light-blocking action for me was to invest in high quality floor length 100 percent black-out draperies, curtains, or liners. I tried both blackout shades and blinds. But, they failed to stop the sunrays from seeping through the sides of the window. “Room darkening” draperies did not help me at all. Fashionable “tab top” draperies were also useless due to light beaming through the slats. I have found that to be effective, the black-out draperies should be hung close to the ceiling and the floor. They also need to extend at least one foot wider than the width of the window on each side. If I had very tall ceilings, I would build a tight cornice above the curtain panels. I have made so many mistakes in this area over the years in feeble attempts to be fashionable. Now, I just settle for something that does not look ridiculous.
I turn hallway lights off at bedtime so that light does not enter through gaps under the door.
I turn off all electronics in the room, including the television and cable box which have annoying blue and red lights. (We rarely ever watch television in our room, and never in the evening.) Thankfully, our smoke alarm is very near the tall ceiling, and it has a nearly invisible white light. (Our previous home had a smoke alarm with a neon green light that shined directly across from me, constantly waking me up through the night. We were never completely successful in blocking the bright beam emitting from it.
If I am not in my own bedroom, I can sleep successfully with a sleep mask. The following article gives suggestions for sleeping in a dark room.
-Go to bed at about the same time every night.
- Avoid caffeine after noon.
- Try to avoid snacking or drinking within three hours of bedtime.
- Limit water consumption right before bedtime, and use the bathroom just before getting into bed.
- Determine the best timing for medications and supplements that might interfere with the quantity and quality of sleep.
- Read the Bible or a devotional at bedtime.
- Count your blessings.
- Avoid stressful television programs, including the news right before bed.
- Work on a Sudoku (or other) puzzle until falling asleep each night.
- Unplug or remove most electronic digital devices from the bedroom because they are known to arouse the nervous system.
- Use a box fan.
The white noise from the fan is helpful. (I also use a fan since we conserve energy in Florida by keeping the thermostat set no lower than 70 degrees F at night. Although a setting of 65 degrees F is recommended for sleeping. The following article has more information on the importance of modifying the room temperature for sleep.
- Sleep with a large, firm king-size pillow under your knees to keep your spine in alignment.
- Wear cotton socks to bed.
- Use 100 percent cotton sheets and a light blanket.
- Try sleeping with your stocking feet exposed, outside the covers.
My husband, Joe, thinks this suggestion is ridiculous. But, a sleep specialist recommended this, and it does seem to work for me.
- Use a 33 inch long wedge pillow (shorter ones will hurt your back).
I started using a long wedge pillow a few weeks ago. I am no longer waking up in the night, gasping for breath.
Several helpful sleep strategies are explained in the following article.
Here are my thoughts on sleeping pills. I have never taken sleeping pills. From what I have read, those who use them develop a tolerance and must continue to increase the dose to maintain the same effect. Eventually, the users may be unable to sleep without them. Sleeping pills may be helpful if used for just a short time to reset one's sleep cycle. This brief article may be helpful if you are considering a short term sleep aid.
As you can see, given the outrageous number of modifications I have made in attempting to get a good night’s sleep, I consider this area of prime importance. If you are having trouble achieving quality deep sleep, I hope the information in this blog will be of some help.