I was awakened multiple times last night---at 2:16 a.m., 4:37 a.m., and 5:42 a.m. I'm not really sure about the exact times, to be honest with you, but I do know that the hours are those that would qualify as "ungodly." I should have been sawing some serious logs at the time. I did't have a worry on my mind, nor do I have an infant. What disturbed my sweet slumber? It was a little fur ball of a 20 month-old cat we adopted from the DC Humane Society about a month ago. In her first few weeks, Mia (which means "mine" in Spanish) was kind of standoffish. (I've been told this is typical cat behavior.) But now, she seems to like us---especially when's she hungry, and, apparently, late at night. The past few nights, she's taken to pawing at our bedroom door, crying and clawing at the door---begging to be let in.
Ah, for a decent night's sleep. It's what we all long for when we collapse into bed at the end of a long day, isn't it? For some of you, getting a good night's sleep might feel like "the impossible dream." Too often some anxiety, a child, a snoring spouse or a cat can wreak havoc on your chance to get some decent shut-eye. I have a friend who says "I can't turn my brain off." For others, you may sleep soundly once you get in bed, but it's the getting there that's the challenge. By the time you get under the covers, there's no way you're getting the recommended 7-8 hours sleep, let alone the sleep that is touted as the deepest and most restorative---where the REM - Rapid Eye Movement occurs. Whatever your sleep concern, here are three simple tips for improving your chances of meeting Mr. Sandman.
1. Have a bedtime routine. Yes, just like children, we adults can benefit from a routine that tells our bodies we're winding down. You may have some sort of accidental routine already (like watching late night t.v. or answering work emails), but maybe it's winding you up instead of down. Why not have a cup of tea, read a good book, take a bath or even fold laundry (if you have to)? Whatever you choose, look for things that relax you, before you even hop into bed.
2. Avoid liquids a few hours before bed. I know many people think it's inevitable that they will have to rise in the middle of the night to answer "Mother Nature's call," but I don't buy it. Experiment with this and see if it works for you. It's so simple, and effective!
3. Turn off electronics. Though the case can be made for rising with the sun and going to bed when the sun goes down, you may not be ready to "go Amish" (unless you're camping). Trust me, I'm not ready to go there, either. By all means, use your cell phone, watch t.v. and get on the computer, but be prudent and make an effort to turn your devices off 30 minutes to an hour before hitting the hay. A recent article from the Washington Post--"Blue light from electronics disturbs sleep"--highlights how t.v.s, computers, and cell phones affect the quality of our sleep. Studies indicate a relationship between the blue light that our screens emit to illnesses (like macular degeneration) and insomnia.
Personally, I've installed some free software---f.lux---that is helpful. It changes the light setting on my computer, so that it varies, according to the time of day. It is supposed to be less harsh on the eyes and it reduces some of the blue light exposure.
There will always be things that will interfere with our sleep that are beyond our control---like my little Mia. (I invite your comments on how to properly train a cat!) Though we may not be able to address every circumstance, if we do even one of the things listed above, I'm convinced we'll reap many of the benefits that restorative sleep offers---brain cell restoration, energy for next day, and a side benefit--beauty! (Less need for a concealer for dark under-eye circles and you feel so much better, too!) See this Health magazine site to learn more about sleep benefits! And sweet dreams, all!