Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Sleep: Ten tips on getting your Zzzs

Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Helen Claire Ferguson, LMHC, LCAC
Outpatient Therapist, the Bowen Center, Huntington

Getting a sufficient amount of your “Zzzs” is not a luxury but a necessity. Most of us have experienced a sleepless night when attending to a fretful baby, studying for final exams, or just staying up too late and we usually feel it the next day. Others can feel the effect too, since without sleep we tend to be tired, slow, and maybe grumpy. What you may not know is that sleep deprivation can also lead to hallucinations, paranoia, poor memory, difficulty concentrating, and impaired decision-making.

In a recent book authored by neuroscientist, Penelope A. Lewis, entitled The Secret World of Sleep, she states that, “...a sleep deprived brain acts like a brain under the influence of alcohol. A recent research study by lead scientist Dr. Rebecca Gelber, from the Pacific Health Research and Education Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii, notes that lack of sleep and low blood oxygen levels as found in those with sleep apnea may cause an increased risk for dementia. If you suspect that you or a loved one has untreated sleep apnea, which can be seriously life-threatening, please follow up with a certified sleep specialist as soon as possible.

So here’s the good news. Sleep is really, really good for you, and you feel better for it. Here are 10 tips offered by Dr. Lewis on how to get the sleep you need. Keep your bedroom not too brightly lit. When sleeping, keep the room as dark as possible. If you need a nightlight, use red or orange light, not white or blue. Go out and catch the bright blue light of the sun, at least 30 minutes in the morning is best, which will promote the circadian sleep/wake cycle. Keep your bedroom comfortable, neat, orderly, for the sole purpose of sleeping. Too many distractions can be very problematic when you’re trying to relax. Avoid TV watching, working on your laptop, and/or checking your cell phone. The screens for electronic devices emit blue light waves like the sun and will interrupt your circadian clock. If you must use electronics, use a red cover filter. Keep the room cool as your temperature falls slightly when you go to sleep. Consider taking a hot bath/shower 90 minutes before bedtime and as your body cools, it will induce sleep. A hot footbath just before bed may also do the trick.

You can also use a low-intensity masking sound machine or a fan to muffle outside noises. Make sure to keep your bedroom smelling fresh with plenty of clean air. Avoid overuse of perfumes or air fresheners. The scent of roses has been linked to pleasant dreams. A medium sized meal of sleep-inducing foods eaten four to five hours before bedtime followed by a light snack about an hour before lights out is recommended. Sleep promoting foods include: chamomile tea, warm milk, cottage cheese, soy milk, plain yogurt, honey, turkey, tuna fish, bananas, potatoes, oatmeal, almonds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, whole wheat bread, peanut butter, low-fat cheese, and tofu. Definitely avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate), and foods containing the amino acid tyramine such as peppers, smoked meats, and fish. Also avoid fatty or spicy foods and very heavy meals less than three hours prior to sleep. Avoid daytime napping. If worry thoughts persist more than 30 minutes, consider getting up and, while keeping warm, do a relaxing activity such as reading until sleepy.

And so in the spirit of the season, I wish Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.