A sleepy morningThis article was contributed by Amber Merton as a gift from the good folks at Plush Beds. I love the practical and truly helpful information she includes here. As Spring and Summer push our nighttime temperatures up, I especially appreciate the part about keeping the bedroom cool for the best sleep…

 

The Influence of Pre-Sleep Stimulus on Sleep

The kinds of activities and stimulation you expose yourself to before falling asleep can have a big impact on the overall quality of your sleep. While some people are affected more than others by what they engage in leading up to their sleeping hours, there is evidence that suggests that your bedtime rituals can have an influence on what you dream, how restorative your sleep is, and just how much sleep you get.

Television and Other Media

Watching television before bedtime (as long as you’re within the one hour electronic curfew) isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself; however, if you watch or listen to something that is disturbing (to you), or causes you to worry and have anxiety, you lessen your chances of having a successful night of sleep.

Allison G. Harvey, a sleep specialist and professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley says, “Falling asleep isn’t like flicking a switch. We don’t put our heads on the pillow and fall off to sleep. We take time to wind down at night. If we’ve got bright light conditions, we’re not giving ourselves a chance to get off to sleep and stay asleep.” Harvey recommends an “electronic curfew”, and other experts agree that you should allow your body and mind to be free of the stimulation of electronics — and the lighting they give off — for at least one hour before you hit the hay.

Guided Imagery for Sleep

Various relaxation methods have become well known for helping people who have trouble falling asleep at night to “turn off” the static in their minds and mentally prepare their bodies for sleep. In fact, the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) teaches several relaxation techniques, including guided imagery to help their patients fall asleep at night. The Sleep Disorder Center at UMMC has an accompanying CD, but it’s easy to find other recorded tracks online that are equally effective.

To add guided imagery for sleep to your pre-sleep routine, lie on your back and close your eyes. Then imagine yourself in a place that symbolizes peacefulness in your mind. Picture yourself in this place. Imagine the smells, sights, sounds, and the feeling of utter, relaxed contentment. Revisit this place nightly as you prepare for sleep.

Best Temperature for Sleep

A 2008 Sleep Study indicated that people who have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep actually have higher core body temperatures than those who sleep normally. This research has been incredibly beneficial by providing concrete support for something that has been speculated on for years. At least, this is the case as far as the New York Times is concerned: “A slightly cooler room and a lower core temperature are optimal for sleep.” A bedroom temperature that ranges between 60 to 68 degrees can help you get better shut-eye.

Another factor to consider is lowering your internal temperature by taking a hot bath two hours before bedtime. A 20 or 30 minute soak in the tub, according to Joyce Walsleben, PhD and associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine, is highly effective. “If you raise your temperature a degree or two with a bath, the steeper drop at bedtime is more likely to put you in a deep sleep.” She also says showers can work, although they are less effective.

Sounds to Sleep To

Sound is another important factor for many people who have trouble sleeping. For some people, every little bump in the night sends them into a state of full wakefulness making them start the entire process of falling asleep over again.

White noise machines — or simply a fan — do the trick for some individuals. It covers up the other sounds of night sufficiently that sleep is easier to find. However, there are some people who still struggle to fall asleep even with white noise devices or soothing music on the radio. These people may find success with a special type of audio track that has an excellent record of helping people sleep called binaural beats. Binaural beats work because they influence specific brain waves in order to influence the function of the brain according to the tones it processes.

Bedding Matters

Last, but not least, physical discomfort is one of the biggest barriers there is between you and a good night’s sleep. Mattresses that are outdated, lumpy, or even hot can make a huge difference in your ability to sleep at night. If you’re having consistent trouble falling or remaining asleep after trying the advice above, the next logical place to look is your mattress.

Consistent and soothing bedtime rituals can make the difference between falling asleep easily and sleeping soundly through the night or tossing and turning waiting for the sand man to hurry up and get there.

~~ Amber Merton loves organic gardening and outdoor activities. She is a sleep expert, and writes for Plushbeds.com, a premier online resource for the all-natural latex foam mattress.

Best Wishes for Peaceful Sleep!

Patty

the Apnea Dude

Rick Noble, the Apnea Dude

It’s always nice to meet up with real people whose real lives have been touched by sleep problems and turned in a positive way by good information and proper treatment. In practice I see it all the time, but rarely do I hear it expressed in such a thoughtful way. This guest blog is from Rick Noble the “Apnea Dude”. Here, Rick shares his experience and his wish for you:

It started inconspicuously enough. I would wake up from a deep sleep out of breath. I would get up, finish a glass of water, and then get back to sleep. Many nights were interrupted by this phenomenon, which did not make my life any easier. I thought it was something that I would just have to live with. After all, my dad also had sleeping problems, mainly snoring so loud you would think he was using a chainsaw in his bedroom. I figured if he could live his whole life with it, so could I.

.
I’ll never forget the day I found out that I had a problem. One of my college buddies was staying the weekend with me, and the first morning he expressed surprise that I was still alive. He said that it sounded like I was fighting for breath, assuming that I had a nightmare that I was being drowned. At this point he urged me to see a doctor; he thought I may have sleep apnea. I immediately disregarded the concern because I assumed that sleep apnea was for overweight people. Unfortunately, this assumption is still the dominant opinion, as most sleep apnea cases remain undiagnosed.

.
I was soon diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when soft tissue of the throat relaxes and temporarily blocks your air passage during sleep. My doctor gave me a number of different options for treatment, including special mouthpieces, CPAP machines, and surgery. Not wanting to jump immediately to surgery, I gave the alternatives a try, and eventually landed happily on the CPAP machine.

.
I hope my personal journey into the depths of sleeplessness and back encourages you to act. I urge anyone out there who is losing sleep to see your physician. Sometimes a good night’s rest is not the only thing at stake, as sleep apnea may be signs to even greater health problems or worse sleeping disorders. So let’s take the night back, and begin sleeping like champions!

Bio: Hi, I’m Rick, and I have been struggling with obstructive sleep apnea for the past decade.  It started with (I’m told) unbearable snoring and loss of breath during sleeping.  After getting my CPAP mask, I have been blissfully sleeping like I never have before.  I recently started my sleep apnea advocacy by starting a blog, Sleep Apnea Dude, and Google community, Living with Sleep Apnea.  Please feel free to join the cause, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter:  @SleepApneaDude.
.
Best Wishes for Peaceful Sleep,
Patty
Time Change

Try changing this time!

Daylight Savings Time is nearly here again. Almost all of North America (with the notably sane exceptions of Arizona and Hawaii) will synchronistically change the time on their clocks in the wee hours of next Sunday morning.

Spring Forward!  It has such a perky, positive, up-beat sound to it, doesn’t it? Let’s just leap together into the future, bright eyed and bushy tailed! But wait… in order to “spring forward” we must lose an hour of sleep. How can that be? How will that work? Who thought THAT one up???

Sleep is one-third of our lives. When it doesn’t work well the other 2/3rds are likely to suffer. Poor sleep has been tied to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, cancer, depression, car crashes and industrial accidents. Healthy sleep is dependent on a healthy circadian rhythm system and suddenly, arbitrarily changing the clock overnight is definitely a shock to that system.

As a seasoned Sleep Specialist I cringe at the idea of an artificially induced jet lag syndrome being forced upon an entire national population. The symptoms of jet lag include headache, digestive upset, fatigue, fuzzy thinking, muscle aches and insomnia. If the majority of the citizens of a country came down with these symptoms all at once, a major epidemic would be declared and most everything would grind to a halt in the crisis. But we are expected to get up and go to work on Monday as if nothing has happened.

Statistics show there are 8% more car accidents on the Monday following the time change than on the Mondays immediately before or after. Suicides and heart attacks are more frequent in the few days after the Spring change as well. And while the original purpose of Daylight Savings Time was to increase productivity in the workplace, business reports indicate there is less getting done on the Monday after the change, pointing to the increase in personal web surfing and “cyber-loafing” on that day.

So what can we as individuals do (aside from moving to Arizona or Hawaii) to survive the Spring Forward with a minimal amount flack and fatigue? Here are some tips I’ve shared with my sleep coaching clients:

1.)    Beat the Rush

Start adjusting your own internal body clock bit by bit in the few days before the time change. Eat your dinner and go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual on Wednesday night. Then 15 minutes earlier than that on Thursday night, and so on. By Sunday your body has started to shift its rhythms enough that when the time actually changes (and you go back to eating and sleeping at the same “clock time” as you used to) you’ll hardly skip a beat.

2.)    See the Light

Light, especially sunlight, exerts the biggest influence on our circadian rhythms. So spend a lot of time outdoors on Sunday after the time change to help reinforce the rhythms of day and night on your body. Likewise, when the sun goes down, let that dimness be reflected in your indoor environment too. Keep the lights low, the electronic screens off and think about spending some time actually in the dark! Your sleep patterns will thank you.

3.)    Drink the Water

Keep hydrated. Good advice at any time, but dehydration will only enhance any time warp symptoms you may experience and make you ever more miserable. Avoid excess caffeine and alcohol, though as these can further confuse your body clock and exacerbate any sleep disturbances.

4.)    Take the Day Off

So, if there are more sleepy, sick and suicidal people on the freeway and there’s not much getting done at the office anyway, why risk the commute? Might as well take the “Monday After” off from work and get some more outdoor exercise with proper hydration topped off with a quiet evening of star-gazing on the dark back porch! By Tuesday you should be well on your way to newly minted circadian rhythms and able cope with the change.

I hope these tips serve you well.

I’d love to hear your ideas, too! Please post them in the comment section and share this article with your friends to hear about their ways of coping.

Best Wishes for Peaceful Sleep!

Patty



Using an alarm to wake you may be a sign of sleep deprivation.

We all know how important it is to get enough sleep. Without it we yawn and drag through the day and maybe even need a long or involuntary nap to get through it. But you don’t have these obvious signs of sleep deprivation so you must be getting enough sleep, right? Maybe not. Check these 6 signs that you may not be getting all the sleep you need after all.

1. You use an alarm clock.

When we are free of sleep debt we will wake naturally at about the same time each day after our body has completed its restorative tasks. If you keep a regular schedule and avoid substances that alter the natural cycling of sleep and waking, you should not need to be yanked forcefully from your slumber in the morning. Waking to a jangling alarm clock is a nasty, stress inducing way to start the day. A natural, quiet and fresh awakening is a much more pleasant way to greet the new dawn.

2. You lose your keys.

Memory consolidation is thought to be one of the functions of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. We generally get the bulk of our REM sleep in the last ½ of our sleep session. Therefore if our night is cut short we miss out mostly on REM sleep and may be more prone to memory glitches. Long term sleep problems have even been shown to have an association with Alzheimer’s Disease.

3. You yell at your kids.

Irritability, lack of tolerance and impulse control problems have all been linked to sleep deprivation. This is true for both kids and adults. It is important for everyone in the family to make a sleep a nightly priority. Then the kids will be more likely to behave and you will be less likely to fly off the handle if they don’t!

4. You would rather eat doughnuts than broccoli.

Sleep balances our appetite hormones. With enough sleep under our belt we will have fewer cravings for carbohydrates and the artificial energy found in sugary snacks. We can then make those healthy food choices more easily.

5. You can’t seem to lose weight.

Along the same lines as #4, sleep is also the time we are most efficient at producing human growth hormone and testosterone. Theses hormones help us achieve and maintain a strong, lean body. Without adequate sleep, all our good intentions, diet plans and workout routines will be far less effective than they would be if supported by just a bit more shut-eye.

6. You’ve had a fender bender.

Just a second of inattention is all it takes. A car travelling 37 miles per hour will cover 54 yard in 3 seconds. That’s more than ½ the length of a football field! If the car in front of you brakes suddenly or someone turns in front of you, your safety, maybe even your life, hangs on whether you can react fast enough to avoid impact. Studies have shown that both chronic and short term sleep deprivation leads to slower reactions times. One study at Stanford even proved that sleep deprived people performed more poorly on reaction time tests than did people who were legally drunk.

So don’t wait until you can’t get through the day without propping your eyelids open with toothpicks. Watch for the subtle signs you need more sleep and make it a point to adjust your schedule to get it. When you get the sleep you need you can live the life of your dreams!

Best Wishes for Peaceful Sleep!

Patty

Love is in the air! Fsleep well sweetheart.ebruary is the month for Cupid’s arrow to fly and Valentine’s Day is the culmination if it all. As shy lovers seek their first kiss and time-tested twosomes renew their promises, gifts are often exchanged to seal the deal.

Traditional gifts of chocolate, wine and roses have been the go-to standards for years. Sought after and savored, they have lingered in lovers’ dreams throughout the ages. But did you know these sweet gifts may actually be stealing your sweetheart’s slumber? Chocolate, wine and roses may just be the perfect recipe for insomnia.

Chocolate – sweet, silky, melty bliss! (Can you tell I’m a fan?) I cling to the research that points up the high antioxidant qualities of the stuff. Its benefits include lower blood pressure and cholesterol and higher serotonin levels. Chocolate has been shown to increase blood flow to the heart and brain and even has cancer fighting credits. But chocolate also contains theobromine and caffeine, known stimulants and sleep stealers. For those who are sensitive or tend to overindulge, it may be best to skip the chocolate dessert at Valentine’s dinner.

Wine – heady, complex, mysterious, marvelous nectar! (Yep… a fan.) What romantic movie scene does not begin with the pop of a cork or the end with the last savory swallow of a beautiful Bordeaux? Though wine and its alcoholic cousins may lead us to feel heavy lidded and seem to whisk us more easily to sleep, the initial daze gives way to broken sleep later in the night. Deep slow wave sleep is replaced by lighter sleep stages. As the liver breaks down the ETOH (alcohol) to other chemicals that can be safely eliminated from the body, one of the resulting metabolites has stimulating properties almost as strong as espresso! Waking between 1 and 3 a.m. with difficulty getting back to sleep is often associated with drinking alcohol in the evening.

Ah, Roses! The sweet and pungent fragrance of deep, red velvet fills the heads of lovers with visions of eternal ecstasy – oh yeah, and pollen…  A big bouquet of you darling’s favorite posies may pose another sleeping challenge. If your honey is allergic one of the main physiologic reactions is the release of histamine. This gives us the runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing. In the brain, histamine gives a strong signal for wakefulness. Allergies and peaceful sleep are not compatible bed partners.

It seems our favorite perennial presents may not be the stuff of dreams after all. They may, in fact, be keeping our sweetie-pies from the sound sleep they so desperately desire. So next year when Cupid draws back his bow and you are struck with the desire to shower your beloved with tokens of your affection, you may want to skip the chocolate, wine and roses. Perhaps a nice card will do. Oh! And diamonds! No one I know has ever lost any sleep over diamonds!

Best Wishes for Peaceful Sleep!

Patty

It has been a very long time since I last posted here. I am going to claim a good excuse and tell you all about it today.

I am very excited to announce that I have just been licensed as a Brain Music Therapy Provider — there are only 20 others in the U.S.! This amazing technology lets me offer a drug free insomnia solution as well as a way to tame and harness runaway minds that lead us to feelings of anxiety, depression and foggy thinking.

The concept behind Brain Music Therapy is that the frequency, amplitude and dynamic patterns of the electrical activity of our brains is very much like the frequency, amplitude and harmonics that are the underlying science of music. Some very (very!) smart brain scientists in Russia figured out a way to translate brainwaves into music. It sounds like classical piano music, and because everyone has unique brain wave patterns, just like fingerprints, each person has his or her own unique brain music!

Here’s how it works. I have been trained to record the brain waves of my clients in such a way that they can be sent out for musical translation. Two musical tracks are created; one is quick and lively and the other is more sedate and soothing. These two files, the activating and relaxing files, are recorded onto a CD and returned to the client.

By listening to the relaxing music just before bed you remind your brain of the slow, calm, quiet activity that is compatible with sleep. Because it is your own brain wave pattern being played back, your brain can readily “recognize” the music and easily syncs up with it. This can also be useful for times during the day when you need to calm down, say after a confrontation or before a big performance.

The activating music can be used to bring the brain quickly into a more focused, alert and ready state. A good idea when first waking in the morning or before tackling a big project or competition.

First developed by Iakov Levine, MD at the Moscow Medical Academy, this technology has been used in Eastern Europe, Germany, Italy and France for nearly 20 years. It has only been available in the U.S. and Canada since it was introduced here in 2004 by Galina Mindlin, MD, PhD of Columbia University. Dr. Mindlin continues to build on the scientific studies that show how effective Brain Music Therapy can be for insomnia, anxiety and, it seems many other dysfunctions. Her latest work has shown that the activating music can help keep federal law enforcement alert on their surveillance duties. The applications may be far wider than we can now imagine.

For now, I am concentrating on introducing my clients to the wonders of natural relaxation and improved sleep quality. Here is a video of Dr. Mindlin as she records the Brain Wave Music of Matt Lauer on the Today Show.


When you come to see me in the California Wine Country, we can do the same for you — just no studio cameras! I look forward to seeing your comments below, meeting you at my office in Santa Rosa soon and hearing the melodies of YOUR Brain Music!

Best Wishes for Peaceful Sleep!

Patty

I know manNight Sweatsy clients who feel they would enjoy fabulous sleep again if they could just avoid the sweaty episodes in the middle of the night. Most middle aged women assume the cause of the night sweats is menopause, but that’s not always the case. Also, it’s not just middle aged women who suffer this discomfort.

I found this article from WebMD to be fascinating. However, after reading it I’ve decided that menopause might just be the most appealing cause after all!

Let me know what you think in the comment section below…

Eight Causes of Night Sweats: Is it Menopause — Or Something Else?

Doctors in primary care fields often hear their patients complain of night sweats. Night sweats refer to any excess sweating occurring during the night. However, if your bedroom is unusually hot or you are using too many bedclothes, you may begin to sweat during sleep — and this is normal. In order to distinguish night sweats that arise from medical causes from those that occur because one’s surroundings are too warm, doctors generally refer to true night sweats as severe hot flashes occurring at night that can drench sleepwear and sheets, which are not related to an overheated environment.

In one study of 2,267 patients visiting a primary care physician, 41% reported experiencing night sweats during the previous month, so the perception of excessive sweating at night is fairly common. It is important to note that flushing (a warmth and redness of the face or trunk) may also be hard to distinguish from true night sweats.

There are many different causes of night sweats. To determine what is causing night sweats in a particular individual, a doctor must obtain a detailed medical history and order tests to decide if an underlying medical condition is responsible for the night sweats. Some of the known conditions that can cause night sweats are:

  1. Menopause — The hot flashes that accompany the menopausal transition can occur at night and cause sweating. This is a very common cause of night sweats in women around the time of menopause.
  2. Idiopathic hyperhidrosis — Idiopathic hyperhidrosis is a condition in which the body chronically produces too much sweat without any identifiable medical cause.
  3. Infections — Classically, tuberculosis is the infection most commonly associated with night sweats. However, bacterial infections, such as endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves), osteomyelitis (inflammation within the bones), and abscesses all may result in night sweats. Night sweats are also a symptom of AIDS virus (HIV) infection.
  4. Cancers — Night sweats are an early symptom of some cancers. The most common type of cancer associated with night sweats is lymphoma. However, people who have an undiagnosed cancer frequently have other symptoms as well, such as unexplained weight loss and fevers.
  5. Medications — Taking certain medications can lead to night sweats. In cases without other physical symptoms or signs of tumor or infection, drug side effects are often determined to be the cause of night sweats. Antidepressant medications are a common type of drug that can lead to night sweats. All types of antidepressants can cause night sweats as a side effect, with a range in incidence from 8% to 22% of persons taking antidepressant drugs. Other psychiatric drugs have also been associated with night sweats. Medicines taken to lower fever such as aspirin and acetaminophen can sometimes lead to sweating. Other types of drugs can cause flushing, which, as mentioned above, may be confused with night sweats. Some of the many drugs that can cause flushing include:
  • niacin (taken in the higher doses used for lipid disorders),
  • tamoxifen,
  • hydalazine
  • nitroglycerine, and
  • Viagra.

Many other drugs not mentioned above, including cortisone medications such as prednisone and prednisolone, may also be associated with flushing or night sweats.

  1. Hypoglycemia— Low blood sugar can cause sweating. People who are taking insulin or oral anti-diabetic medications may experience hypoglycemia at night that is accompanied by sweating.
  2. Hormone disorders — Sweating or flushing can be seen with several hormone disorders, including pheochromocytoma, carcinoid syndrome, and hyperthyroidism.
  3. Neurologic conditions — Uncommonly, neurologic conditions including autonomic dysreflexia, post-traumatic syringomelia, stroke, and autonomic neuropathy may cause increased sweating and possibly lead to night sweats.
Best Wishes for (Cool, Dry) Peaceful Sleep,
Patty

rhytms of nature effect us too

All life on Earth is determined, directed or defined by rhythms. Many are obvious, such as day and night, the flow of seasons and birth, growth, aging on to death. We see these play out over and over all around us, but we often forget that we, too, are a part of it all.

Caught up as we are in our electronically choreographed schedules in artificially lit rooms and thermostatically controlled airflow, it is easy to lose track of the subtle, yet relentless rhythm that tries to keep us in balance with the rest of the universal life force.

Our bodies, just like those of the birds and the bees, the bass, bison and birch are designed to function in rhythms.  As far as sleep is concerned, the most important rhythms are the circadian rhythms. Circ-dia means “about a day”. These rhythms repeat every 24 hours and are generally driven by or in line with the tides of light. We are programmed to sleep when it becomes dark and cool. For nocturnal animals these same changes signal waking and activity.

Our body chemistry changes with the setting of the sun and many important physiologic functions are dependent upon or at least most efficient in darkness and in sleep. Among these functions are tissue repair, hormonal rebalancing, immune modulation and memory fixing. When we try to force our bodies to work against these pre-programmed rhythms we are fighting against nothing less formidable than Mother Nature herself. When we recognize, respect and align ourselves with the rhythms of nature we recruit this same powerful source as an ally.

If you are having trouble sleeping at night or maintaining your energy through the day you may have lost touch with your internal rhythms. Instead of reaching for counterfeit energy in a can of cola or sugary snack try tuning into what’s going on outside. Get out into the yard, a park or a meadow. Smell real air, feel breezes, even rain. At dusk when the natural light dims, dim your lights too. As the activity outdoors slows, so should you.  Open your windows to remember how much it cools down at night. To sleep well you need to cool down as well.

Try spending some time in the dark awake, just being still. When was the last time you turned out all the lights when you weren’t going to sleep? If you can sit outside in the dark you may be able to enjoy the stars and let your imagination open up as your active day drops away. Why should dreaming have to wait for sleep?

These simple steps to bring some awareness back to the natural flow of you within the you-niverse can be giant strides toward deep, peaceful sleep and positive productive days.

Best Wishes for Peaceful Sleep,

Patty

“Sleep is a waste of time.” “Sleep is for the weak.” “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”

These are the rallying cries of driven start up executives and creative entrepreneurs. Burning the midnight oil to create product, craft marketing campaigns and stitch together strategic alliances, they cast aside their need for sleep in favor of being first, being best, being most innovative.

While sleep may often be sacrificed in the name of success, this may actually be a false economy.  I wrote a short chapter on this subject for a book that is being put together online.  If you read it, like it and vote for it I may make the final version!  Please let me know what you think.
Click here for book chapter.

Burning the midnight oil may not be as good for business as getting a full night's sleep.

Best Wishes for Peaceful Sleep,

 

Patty

Cats rarely suffer from insomnia1) Put Sleep on Your To-Do List

These days life comes at us fast.  Our daily tasks are listed and leering at us from our computers and date books. Even our phones chirp and chime at us throughout the day to let us know when it’s time to do this or that.  Many of us are so busy we rarely accomplish everything on the list; we just keep moving from one meeting or project or chore to the next until we can’t go on any further and then we collapse.  The surprising thing is, that as exhausted as we may be, sleep is not necessarily waiting right there to catch us when we fall!  In fact, overfull days can easily become overalert nights.

For sleep to be as consistent and reliable as we would like it to be we need to give it as much respect as all our other appointments and obligations. Sleep needs to be scheduled into the day from the start so that the rest of the day can be built to accommodate it.  If we leave sleep as an afterthought, treat it like leftovers or make it a last choice, sleep may become as elusive as a scorned lover.  Declare your feelings; let sleep know it is important to you by giving it a priority place on your schedule and keeping your promise to show up on time.  Then you will find sleep becomes more available for you.

2) Exercise

While we have that BerryPhone out, let’s pencil in some exercise.  The ideal time would be mid to late afternoon, but any time is better than no time, as long as you finish at least 2 hours before bedtime. A brisk walk in the sunlight is excellent.  A spin class after work, awesome.  Let your body move in space as it was designed to do. Get your heart rate up a bit. Sound sleep depends on changes in our core temperature.  We sleep better when our inner temperature is falling.  If we never do anything to raise our temp in the first place it’s like working in a room with no windows.  The natural rhythms of the day and night are lost.

3) Eat Regular Balanced Meals

Speaking of natural rhythms, our bodies take their cues about when it is time to sleep and when to be awake from several different things.  Light is really important, as is exercise and temperature changes as we just discussed.  Another strong cue can come from regular mealtimes.  It is important to eat, i.e. fuel the machine, several times during the day.  Good, unprocessed, organic food is always preferable.  If you go to bed hungry you are likely to find yourself awake, standing in front of the fridge at 3 a.m.  Likewise, if you eat a big heavy meal 30 minutes before lying down for the night, your bodily functions will be busy with digestion.  Sleep is likely to be delayed or at least restless for a couple hours.  Regular nutritious meals at thoughtful intervals through the day can help you sleep more soundly at night.  There are certain foods that can assist or hinder your ability to fall asleep easily or stay awake when required, but that is for another post.

4) Make a Worry List

Here we are back at lists again!  This one however is one you should do nearer the end of the day, but not too close to bedtime.  Right after dinner would be a reasonable time for this exercise.  The idea here is to sit down with a blank piece of paper (several if needed) and let all those nagging little thoughts that are likely to start circling in your brain after lights out and spill them out in ink.  You don’t have to be neat — just get it out on paper for safekeeping overnight.  You may write out tomorrow’s to-do list, or a reminder to get the tires rotated.  You may jot down an idea for next week’s presentation or just a gripe about an inconsiderate neighbor. What ever comes up, put it down. Once this “brain dump” is complete you’re free to slip away to slumber without concern you’re missing something.  If, out of habit, one of those petty thoughts tries to rise up after you’re down for the night you can let it go quickly, knowing you’ve covered that ground already and have it well secured on your “worry list”.

5) Invite Sleep In

After our busy day is done, after the workout is over, after the worry list is written and the dinner dishes done, there needs to be one more task to really get the most out of our coming night’s sleep.  We need to wind down.  There needs to be a very clear separation between our waking day and our sleeping night to reinforce the change in states we are seeking.

Remember the bedtime routine your mom set up for you when you were little, or the ones you have for your kids?  Well, bedtime routines aren’t just for children.  In addition to brushing our teeth, changing into our jammies and checking the closet and under the bed to be sure there are no monsters lurking, there are some grown-up things we can do.

First, an hour before “official” bedtime, turn off all your screened devices.  That includes computers, video games and phones.  Dim the lights and engage in a relaxing stress free activity.  This may be a warm bath, a soothing cup of caffeine free tea, a good lighthearted book or soft music.  Relaxing yoga poses, a foot massage or lovemaking can also ease the body toward slumber.  With this obvious change in lighting, mood, thought and activity you signal your mind and body to prepare for sleep.  In essence, you invite sleep in.

When it’s time, lay your head on your pillow, give thanks for your blessings, turn out the light and

Best Wishes for Peaceful Sleep,

Patty