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Thursday, September 12, 2024

Counting Sheep: Techniques for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

“I had to count sheep to fall asleep last night.”
“I stare at the alarm clock for hours trying to fall asleep.”
“I can’t stop thinking of all the things I have to do.”
“I’m so worried about the situation; it’s keeping me up at night.”
“I have too much to do. I can sleep when I’m dead.”
“I’m burning the midnight oil again.”

Comments we’ve all heard or made ourselves. We sometimes skimp on sleep to meet deadlines or watch TV. Then there are times we just can’t seem to go to sleep regardless of how many sheep we count. Not a big deal every once in a while, but the real problem is when lack of sleep becomes a habit. Chronic sleep loss can have serious consequences on our health.

  1. Weight Gain – Sleep deprivation affects the way our bodies process carbs and alters our hormone levels. This changes our metabolism and appetite, causing weight gain.
  2. Disease – Lack of sleep transforms our immune systems including the body’s killer cells. This puts us at more risk for disease and cancers.
  3. Heart Health – Hypertension, irregular heartbeat, and increased stress hormone levels are just three heart issues linked to sleep deprivation.
  4. Memory – New information is better retained in the brain after a full night of sleep versus only a few hours.
  5. Safety – Loss of sleep can lead to mistakes while driving your car, diagnosing a patient, or controlling an airplane.
  6. Mood – Impatience, irritability, and an inability to concentrate are often the moods that accompany sleep deprivation.

Clearly, we should think twice about our health before we decide to catch that late night show. We need to keep in mind that work will be there tomorrow or maybe we should try to manage our time better during the day to avoid late nights of work. Let’s record that TV show and get some sleep!

Here are some tips to help you get quality sleep:

  1. Routine – Just as you have a routine for eating lunch and dinner the same time every day, you should have a routine for sleep. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning. It’s ok to nap to make up for lost sleep or if you feel tired, but limit it to 30 minutes and early in the afternoon so an insomnia situation isn’t created.
  2. Bedroom – Make the bedroom a sleep sanctuary to ensure quality sleep. Make sure your bed is comfortable and the room is dark and cool. Eliminate noise with a fan/white noise machine to avoid being disturbed by trains or barking dogs. Sleeping with the TV on for noise doesn’t work because the flickering light disturbs sleep and the content stimulates the mind rather than relaxing it. Reserve the bedroom for sleep only so the body has an important cue to nod off when you retreat to the bedroom.
  3. Relax – If worrying about things is keeping you up, try relaxation techniques prior to bed. Sometimes writing down stressors or those ‘to do’ items can help release them from your mind allowing you to focus on sleep. Establishing a ritual 30 minutes before bed can help relax the mind. Simple things like: read a book, listen to soft music, do easy stretches, make simple preparations for the next day, write in a journal or take a warm bath/shower.
  4. Diet and Exercise – Large meals, smoking, exercise, alcohol, caffeine and other fluids before bed can keep you and your body up at night. Exercise helps your sleep quality; just schedule it a few hours before bedtime to allow the body time to wind down.

Stop counting sheep and start counting on years of healthy living by getting quality sleep!

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education

Chicago Senior Living
Assisted Living in Chicago

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