Monday Organizer: Tips for a good night's rest
BY BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Monday, May 07, 2012
5/07/12 at 3:47 AM
We live in an increasingly go-go-go society.
Where information once went to sleep before midnight, it is now live and available 24/7.
Whether there are more people complaining of sleeplessness due to better access to health information or because it is actually a growing problem is debatable. But one thing that isn't, sleep medicine specialist Dr. Kevin Lewis says, is that there are few opportunities to settle down before bedtime.
The latest television show can be watched in the comfort of your bed via a tablet computer. Cell phones are kept on night stands. Social media platforms on any number of devices allow us to connect, watch, share and game from early in the morning to whenever we decide to click the power button or change the channel.
But "you have to have a wind down period or a buffer," says Lewis, director of Sleep Care Services for Oklahoma Heart Institute. It's something that people in a fast-paced society don't have, he says.
May is Better Sleep Month. While a recent National Sleep Foundation poll shows more Americans making sleep a priority, about 41 percent report tossing and turning in bed at least a few nights each week.
Lewis says there are a number of behaviors sleep doctors coach people on trying to improve their sleep.
This includes the activities that you do throughout the day to improve your opportunity to get better sleep at night.
Avoid ingesting caffeinated beverages or other stimulating substances late in the day.
Get regular exercise, but avoid exercising too close to bedtime, which may be too stimulating.
Try to keep a regular sleep schedule. Even on your days off, do this, Lewis says, because even brief changes can have an impact.
Leave the heavy meals for earlier in the day and not close to bedtime. Monitor your alcohol use near that time, as well.
"You may fall asleep faster," Lewis says, "but (alcohol) is more disruptive to the quality of sleep."
Check your environment
Get cool, but be comfortable.
"The body temperature has to drop at sleep onset," Lewis says. "If the external temperature is too warm, your core body temperature can't help the brain initiate sleep the way that it should."
Don't forget to cut off the lights. Your room should be as dark as possible. Lewis says the darker it is, the better your own melatonin, which helps you sleep, can be made.
Of course, when talking about children especially, this recommendation is a lot more flexible, Lewis says. Science says less light is better; but if a night light is going to be a comfort to a child, so long as it isn't too bright, it is fine.
Control the stimuli
In this department, you're trying to control various stimuli that occur in the bed and at bedtime, Lewis said.
"You want to reserve the bed and bedroom for sleep, intimacy and illness," Lewis says. Otherwise, you are teaching your brain that watching TV, reading or playing games are necessary for you to get to sleep.
Avoid clock watching. This just breeds anxiety over how bad you're going to feel the next day, Lewis says.
A good night's sleep is about eight hours. But on an individual basis, the magic number varies. If you are constantly hitting your snooze button or using the weekend to catch up on missed sleep, you haven't been getting enough of it along the way.
It's time to see a professional about your sleep concerns if you're suffering breathing abnormalities, experiencing severe headaches, significant snoring or significant restlessness of limbs, Lewis says.
Or if you exhibit abnormal or dangerous behaviors during sleep, such as sleep walking or acting violent dreams, see a doctor.
Dreaming of A Good Mattress
Sleep medicine specialist Dr. Kevin Lewis says everyone underestimates their mattress and pillow. There is no one best for everyone, but find the best for you to try and improve your sleep, he says.
An old or poor-quality mattress can lead to unnecessary back and neck pain, and Tulsa chiropractor Dr. Justin Snyder makes a couple suggestions for those considering this investment and wanting a good night's sleep.
A good mattress is one where there are no gaps between it and your body. Your body's weight should be distributed evenly so that your spine stays aligned while you're sleeping, Snyder says.
Try out the bed, seriously, lie on it and don't get up out of embarrassment.
"One of the general rules for testing is to lie on the mattress in the store for three to five minutes," Snyder says.
See how it feels by yourself.
And if you sleep with a partner, have him or her come with you and lie on the bed as well.
The bed may act differently with both of you on it versus when you are lying alone.
Find a mattress that is not too firm and not too soft. Mattresses that are too soft provide little support and those that are too firm can be detrimental in the opposite way, Snyder says.
"At the end of the day," he says, "if you wake up in the morning and it feels worse with the new mattress, you probably got the wrong one for your situation and you should take it back."
All awake and don't know what to do?
If you feel like you've got to go to the bathroom, go to the bathroom. If not, stay calm, and try to fall back asleep.
But if you've gone about 30 minutes and are still lying in bed awake, get up and leave the bedroom, says sleep medicine specialist Dr. Kevin Lewis.
Continuing to lie there staring at the ceiling is only training your brain that staying up in bed is OK.
Instead, get a light snack if you are hungry and that will help you get back to sleep. Do something monotonous or distracting until your eyes get really heavy and all you want to do is climb back in bed and go to sleep.
Or read or journal, Lewis says. These make excellent bedtime activities - so long as they aren't done in bed. They allow you to wind down. During times such as these, Lewis also recommends not exposing yourself to too much light.
Original Print Headline: Sleep's precious these days
Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316
TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World