Monday, March 3, 2008

Need More Sleep? Join the Club

March 3-9 is National Sleep Awareness Week, and I'd like to celebrate by getting the recommended nine hours of sleep per night, but I'll probably mark the event by staying up late writing and drinking too much coffee instead. According to a recent study, plenty of adults are in the same boat as I am:

My kids are tucked in bed, snoring softly. My husband went to bed a couple hours ago. Even the dog is asleep. And here I am, typing...

Last week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that adults in the United States aren't getting enough sleep. And that not getting enough sleep can lead to a host of medical issues, including depression, cardiovascular problems, and high blood pressure. In fact, the percentage of adults reporting that they get six hours of sleep or less per night has grown over the last 20 years. (The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night.)

Now, the fact that we're not getting enough sleep is certainly not news to anyone juggling work and parenthood. This week (March 3-9) is National Sleep Awareness Week but, while I do feel obligated to do my part and go to bed, I feel more obligated to get my work done and pay my bills.

The National Sleep Foundation is relentless, though, appealing to our competitive nature with their Great American Sleep Challenge. I'm not kidding -- and neither are they. While they don't provide any specific advice on how to get those nine hours of shut-eye when your toddler keeps waking up in the middle of the night (thanks, first molars!), they do offer an informative graphic showcasing the "sleep stealers" that may be in your bedroom.


I'd post a photo of our bedroom, so you could see the similarities, but I think my spouse would flip. Besides, I'm not sure the internet needs evidence of my Mad Laundry Accumulation Skillz. Suffice it to say that, though we don't have a cat and there is no TV in the bedroom, we've got pretty much all of the other sleep-stealing bases covered. Including the amp.

There are about as many different suggestions for getting a better night's sleep as there are people struggling to do so. Some of the advice is confusing and even contradictory (have a bedtime snack, or avoid eating before going to bed?), and some of it is just plain impossible if you have young children or work from home (go to sleep when you are sleepy? Oh, OK! Zzzzz). But some of the tips make a lot of sense. Here are the ones I'll be trying:

Keep your feet warm. Because they generally don't have great blood circulation, your feet get cold, waking you in the middle of the night. Socks may not be sexy, but warm feet may help you get better sleep.

Get your work out of the bedroom. "It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment," The National Sleep Foundation recommends. If you associate your bed (and your bedroom) with sleep, you're more likely to actually get some rest.

Make your bedroom cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable. Adjusting the lighting and temperature in your room can do wonders for your sleep cycle, according to the experts at the Mayo Clinic.

Breathe deeply. Countless doctors and yoga practitioners have suggested this for relaxation, and I'm finally going to take it to heart. An interesting technique is here.

Relax before bedtime. It might be tough, sometimes, but letting go of the day's stress can lead to a better night's sleep. A warm bath, a massage (though this has never led directly to sleep in our household, per se), or even 10 minutes of journaling can help you wind your mind down.

And, if all else fails, I guess I'll rejuvenate myself with a caffeine-fueled mid-day nap.

How much sleep do you get per night, on average? How do you maximize your sleeping time (or keep insomnia at bay)?

1 comment:

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