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Making Room for Sleep

Published on December 26, 2013 by Virginia Women's Center

While most of us know that it’s important to exercise regularly and eat a nutritious diet, as a society, we are quick to “burn the candle on both ends” and give up sleep in order to complete our to-do lists.  This strategy will come at a cost if we routinely deprive ourselves of sleep, as it plays a very important role in maintaining healthy, productive and safe lives.

In order to maximize the likelihood of getting a good night’s sleep, it is important to establish good sleep hygiene. Here are some tips:

  1. Have a set time when you go to bed and a set time when you wake up (yes, even on weekends and holidays!).
  2. Establish a “winding down” period in the evening about an hour before bedtime. Try soaking in a hot bath, listening to soothing music or meditating.
  3. Create a sleep-conducive environment. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow. Keep the room dark, quiet and cool. Get rid of or hide electronic lights from cell phones, computers, TVs and clocks. Keep your pets out of your bed.
  4. Use your bedroom for sleep and intimacy only. Watch TV, read or work in other rooms of the house.
  5. Avoid eating heavy meals within two hours of going to bed. Limit caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime and stop smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant and can impede sleep.
  6. Exercise daily (30-60 minutes), but not too close to bedtime. Regular exercise in the late afternoon has been shown to deepen sleep.
  7. Try not to nap, but if you must, keep naps short (20 minutes or less) and not too close to bedtime.
  8. Manage your stress. Before bed, write down your list of worries and set them aside for tomorrow.
  9. Make sure that you never spend more than 15 minutes tossing and turning. If you do, get up and go through your night time routine again. When your eyes get heavy, go back to bed and try to fall asleep. If you are still having trouble after 15 minutes, get up and do you routine again. Do not do an activity that will activate your brain. For example, avoid turning on the computer/TV or cleaning your house.
  10. Limit your use of sleeping pills. Some sleep medicines can be habit forming and may have side effects. Sleeping pills should only be used as a very short-term solution while other lifestyle and behavior changes are put into place.
  11. Know when to contact your doctor. Most people experience an occasional sleepless night, but if you often have trouble sleeping, contact your doctor as there could be an underlying cause. For the times when practicing good sleep hygiene isn’t enough, check out this article on overcoming insomnia.

 

Remember: sleep is not an expendable part of our lives that we can cut out in order to accomplish more tasks or have more fun. Similar to regular exercise and good nutrition, qualitative sleep is an important component of good stress management and is an essential component in our lives. By establishing good sleep hygiene and incorporating these tips, you can maximize your ability to live well and get the most out of each day.

 

About Virginia Women’s Center

At Virginia Women’s Center, we value the complete health of women. As researchers continue to identify the significant relationship between physical and mental health, Virginia Women’s Center has emerged as a leader in innovative health care for women by providing psychological counseling services to our patients since 2005. For more information, visit www.VirginiaWomensCenter.com, or find us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.