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Sleep for Restoration

April 29, 2013


“Sleep is the Best Meditation”

Dalai Lama


Like breathing and eating, sleep is vital for life, and for both physical and emotional well-being.  In fact, it is one of the best things you can do for your health.  But just one week of insufficient sleep alters the activity of our genes, which in turn controls our response to stress, immunity, and overall health. From higher anxiety and depression to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, breast cancer and obesity, the effects of sleep disruption and deprivation can be broad and devastating.

Most experts agree that adults function best on 7-9 hours of sleep each night.  Yet it is reported that 60% of us suffer from a chronic sleep disorder at some point.  Some have difficulty falling asleep, some wake up throughout the night and some experience both disruptions.

Over the counter sleep aids and prescription medications used for sleep can at minimum disrupt the natural cycle of sleep, and more seriously become habit forming or addictive.

And so, our Behavioral Health Educators at SmartCare encourage our patients to incorporate sleep hygiene techniques into their daily routines.   The first step is looking at your sleep environment – your bedroom.  It is vital that it is conducive for sleep.  Feng Shui experts promote that the bedroom remains a sacred space, reserved for sleep, sex and self-care only.  Keep it clean and free of clutter, and all electronics (yes, including the T.V.!), work related materials and exercise equipment should find a home elsewhere.  You should also be able to achieve total darkness at bedtime.

Aromatherapy is also encouraged.  Essential lavender or chamomile oils are both calming: sprinkle a couple of drops on your pillow case, add to your warm bath, or rub a few drops into the soles of your feet or your temples.  Some people enjoy also drinking calming herbal teas such as chamomile or passionflower before bed.

Also very important is looking at your daily routine, such as excluding caffeine after noon, including exercise in your day, but completing 4 hours before bedtime, keeping dinner time a few hours before bedtime, limiting alcohol intake before bedtime, turning off the computer and television at least 30 minutes before bed and keeping approximately the same bedtime each night.

It’s also helpful to add some mindful, stress reducing, sleep inducing activities. Yoga poses such as “legs up the wall” or child’s pose” are proposed to help with sleep.   Karen Fabian recommends a mindful body scan at bedtime: ‘lie with your eyes closed and slowly scan the body to release tension from crown to toes…If it helps, use a mantra like, ‘Releasing tension,’ or ‘Relax and let go.’”

Valerie Reiss describes a “beditation process” , mediation purposely lying down, to induce sleep.

Journaling is another way to put aside your thoughts and worries before sleep;  you may want to keep a journal or notepad by your bedside.

If you are a parent, think about how you soothed your children to sleep with bedtime routines, or call on your favorites from your own childhood.  Sleep should be a restorative process, so that you wake up refreshed and ready to greet each new day.

Pamela Sachs Bryson, LCSW


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