Monday, December 04, 2006

Plan for Better Sleep

By S. Brent Ridge, M.D.
on Sun, Dec 03, 2006, 3:32 pm PST

Did you know that insomnia (classified as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or poor quality sleep) affects around 45 percent of the adult population?

Yes, you read right. Almost one out of every two people has trouble sleeping. Until recently, doctors didn't pay much attention when people complained of the inability to sleep. However, the rash of marketing surrounding sleep medications like Ambien changed that for the better.

Insomnia is associated with a number of health conditions: impairment in attention, cognition and memory; poor performance at work and school; increased accidental injuries; higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse; higher rates of depression

While many people have problems going to sleep or staying asleep, a lot of the times, we have no one or nothing to blame but ourselves. Here are some tips that I often give patients to improve their "sleep hygiene." These may seem straightforward - but take a moment and really think about how often you follow through on these simple practices.

- Keep a schedule. I fall asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow every night at 10 p.m. and don't stir until I wake up at 4:30 a.m. I don't even need an alarm clock. I've established a clear pattern where my body gets the amount of rest it needs.

- Create an environment for sleep. I like the room to be chilly so that I can pile on the blankets. Others like the room warm so they can sleep in the buff.

- Decide what environment you sleep best in and then create your room so that there's little variation from this sleep-conducive environment. Minimize noise and light (meaning no TV) as these things stimulate the mind.

- Unwind before getting into bed. We've conditioned ourselves to think that we relax by watching TV or reading a book, but these are activities that keep the brain neurons firing. You'll sleep better if you reserve the hour or so before bed to take a bath or pamper yourself.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine and depressants like alcohol before bedtime and avoid drinking anything for at least two hours before your bedtime to prevent the nagging throb of a full bladder.

- Create the need for sleep. Reserve sleep for night and avoid daytime napping. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, and do so at least four hours before your bedtime.

Check out Dr. Brent Ridge's Blog

Read: Stress-Less Sleep: Mind-Body Medicine You Can Use Tonight

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