Give Me Some ZZZ’s Please

-Beth Dugger Brown-person-1052695_1920

You have your favorite pajamas on. You have clean sheets. Your room is the perfect temperature and your pillows are arranged just how you like them. It is a struggle to keep your eyes open. With a satisfied sigh you turn off the bedside lamp and close your eyes, sinking into slumber-land.
Suddenly, your brain reminds you that you forgot to sign that paper, call the dentist, take out the trash, and make that call back to the client at your office. So, for the next eight hours you obsess over your day and how the next day will be better—if you could just get to sleep so you don’t slog through like a zombie! Unfortunately, your brain is not having it and the “off'” switch seems to be broken. So, again, you are awake before the alarm and get up at 6 a.m. to make the strongest coffee of your life. And the question of the day is “Why can’t I SLEEP?”
Sleep is an essential part of our day. It is also essential to life. Scientists say that a human can go without sleep for 11 to 32 days. Sometime in that time frame people will die if they do not sleep. Lack of sleep causes hallucinations, depression, impaired judgment, and cognitive skills. It affects your ability to remember things and even affects your skin. Not sleeping enough causes accidents (like Chernobyl). Driving drowsy has proved to be as dangerous as driving drunk. Also, chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for stroke, diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure and a few other equally terrible things. There must be a way to find that elusive good night sleep.
I am interested in this topic because I am a chronic not-sleeper. I find it very frustrating. I have researched a little to see what will help all of us no sleepers get the elusive ZZZs. One helpful tip from is to limit your bedtime activities to things that are supposed to happen in bed. That means turn off the TV in your room. Do not balance your checkbook, work from your laptop, or see what amazing things are happening on social media. Read a book. Talk to your significant other.
Blue light, such as the light that is emitted from the screens of phones, tablets, and laptops can be detrimental to your sleep. This light can suppress the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that prepares your body for sleep. It is secreted when things start to get dark. Blue light is very beneficial during the day because it can help boost reaction times, attention span and mood. But you can see why it would not be helpful when you are trying to go to sleep. If your screened device has a nighttime setting, use it. This usually reduces the blue light that is emitted.
Caffeine is a big problem for me. If I have any caffeine after lunch, it will keep my brain going into overdrive until the wee hours. I limit myself to one travel mug of coffee that is long gone by 11 a.m. Alcohol, nicotine, and some decongestants and inhalers can also act as stimulants. They should all be avoided if possible. In my own experience taking a daytime sinus medication will keep me going long into the night.
Not napping during the day and maintaining a regular exercise schedule help you get a good night’s sleep. Sometimes, especially if you are very tired, a nap seems like the perfect way to catch up on your sleep. That is not always the case. Setting yourself a regular sleep schedule is more beneficial than a random nap thrown in your day. Also, a long nap during the day will cause you to not be sleepy at bedtime. Thus, the cycle continues. Instead of curling up for that nap, take a brisk walk to reenergize yourself. Exercise helps to improve sleep quality and duration. Exercise is also good for you in other ways.
Worry and stress can be big contributors to a person’s sleep deficit. Get all your worrying done before bed. Keep a journal where you can right down your concerns and get them out of your system before you try to sleep. Remember, worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere. Stress is like that, too. If you think back to last month, you probably can’t pinpoint one worry or stress that kept you up. Things that were important and consuming at one point in time usually turn out to be insignificant. Find ways to manage your stress and worry. Your brain will thank you.
I plan to follow my own research here, and I’m looking forward to many nights of fulfilling rest. Our bodies and minds crave it. Our families and co-workers would rather have us rested and happy as opposed to tired and cranky. Do yourself a favor and take the steps to find a good night’s sleep.