2012-12-27 / Community

Just for the "Well" of it

Cathy Kaltz

Adequate, restful sleep, like diet and exercise, is critical for good health. Most American adults have issues with getting enough quality sleep at some point in their lives. Insomnia is often described as having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early. Adults need an average of 7-8 hours each night while newborn babies need 16-18 hours. Preschoolers should have 11-12 hours and school age children/teens require at least ten hours each night. In this column, I’ll give you some ideas for making your sleep issues easier to deal with which will help you obtain the good quality sleep we all need to be healthy and function properly during the day. Before we start, you should rule out any medical reasons for your sleep problem such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, arthritis, or depression. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of your medications could be keeping you up at night, including cold remedies and herbal products.

Start by keeping a “sleep record” for a week or a month. This will help you identify some of your causes. Record the time you go to bed, how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you wake up in the night and for how long, and what time you woke up in the morning. Rate your quality of sleep… are you refreshed? Groggy? etc…From this journal you may be able to pinpoint your causes or it may take more investigation, so you may want to start by making one of the following changes each week until you are finally sleeping the way you feel you should be. Continue journaling so you will know what is or is not working for you.

During the day, try to get about 30 minutes of sunlight, preferably in the morning. Schedule a “worry appointment” with yourself for about 15 minutes to get all that worry out of your system for the day. Try to modify your attitudes and beliefs that may contribute to poor sleep. Be realistic about your priorities for the day, meaning don’t try to do too much or you will stress yourself out. Stress is a huge factor in sleep problems. Exercise daily, concentrating on activities that use your leg muscles such as walking, biking, running or swimming, but try not to exercise within 3-4 hours of bedtime or you may be too energized to fall asleep. Later in the day you should avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and large, spicy meals. Don’t take a nap after 3 p.m.

At bedtime (which should be the same time every night), start by turning off all your techie gadgets by 9 p.m. A hot bath or shower will help you relax. Some people find scents such as lavender, vanilla, jasmine or rose to be calming. Keep tissues and lip balm on your nightstand so you won’t have to get up for them. Create a quiet, dark and relaxing place to sleep. The ideal sleeping environment will be between 61 and 66 degrees, completely dark and quiet. A good quality pillow is important as well as a comfortable mattress. When is the last time those items were replaced in your home? You may want to wear a sleep mask to keep light out and possibly use a sound machine to drown out the neighbor’s barking dog. Turn your alarm clock toward the wall or put it across the room so you won’t keep looking at it. Don’t forget to use the bathroom. Once in bed, try some deep breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques. Maybe sleeping in a different position will help. If you are still awake after about 30 minutes or so, get up out of bed and read, stretch or watch something boring on TV (in another room). Return to bed when you begin to feel drowsy. The key is not to lie awake in bed.

I hope you find some of this information useful in your quest for quality sleep. If you’d like to learn more, I will be conducting a Sleep presentation in the near future in our community. Watch this newspaper for more details or call (906) 286-0985. Good night!

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You can reach Cathy Kaltz, Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist, at (906) 286-0985.

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