Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Catching Some ZZZZs

From the time they were born, it has been clear that I crave more sleep than my kids do.  Part of this is inherited from DH, who often struggles to sleep (while I struggle to stay awake).   I remember lamenting to his pediatrician that my older son, as a toddler, was sleeping only about 10 hours a day (including naps) while a neighbor's child of the same age slept about 20.  I was told that both were normal - albeit at opposite ends of the spectrum - and I'd just have to deal with it.

Both my sons slept while they were nursing (and my younger son could even eat finger food while nodding off) and in the stroller and car.  So they'd get some rest when I couldn't.  As a result I was constantly exhausted (and cranky) when they were young and I had to be awake when they were.  Now, on weekends at least, I usually go to bed early than they do and often get up later -- and we are all the happier for it.

Sadly though, this inability to sleep is catching up with them.  They both recognize the need to get a decent amount of sleep for health reasons (the list of problems resulting from sleep deprivation is long and legendary: everything from slower responses to weight gain), and so we've been working together to find ways to help them get the shut-eye that they need.

Here are some ideas I’ve read that might help:

1. Find the right pillow. Think about what kind of pillow really works for you.  Stomach sleepers need a soft pillow; side sleepers, a medium pillow; and back sleepers, a firm pillow. This is important so let me know if you need something new.

2. Exercise. Moderate exercise promotes good sleep at night.  Do you find you sleep better on the days you’ve had a workout?  If so, maybe we can find a form of exercise that will fit in with your lifting/conditioning schedule. 

3. What do you think about trying aromatherapy?  I’ve read that scents such as lavender and orange help relax people for bedtime. Origins has a candle that might work; Molton Brown claims their Cedrus sleep room aroma rocks promote relaxation; and Sephora offers a Sleep Essential Oil Rollarball.

4. Keep cool. A too-warm bedroom can cause restless sleep.  (That’s why my sister's family keeps their house so cold.)

5. Reflect. Take a few minutes before you drift off to reflect on your day. What were your successes? Your difficulties? What are you grateful for today? This helps to calm your mind.

6. Turn off the TV (and the computer, and the video games) about 30 minutes before bed.

7. Block all the light. Even the tiniest bit of light can make falling asleep difficult. Use an eye mask to block out any brightness.  Let’s also work on finding better window treatments for you.

8. Try a tense-and-relax exercise. As you lie in bed, tense and then relax each part of your body, beginning at your toes. Work your way up your entire body until you get to your eyelids. By the time you're done, your whole body will be relaxed.

9. Do yoga or stretching exercises. Routines specifically created to calm and center you before bedtime can work wonders in helping you clear your mind of the day's clutter.  Here's a sample 8-minute yoga routine designed to help you relax and here are some good stretches that promote better sleep.

10. Try a bath. A warm bath before bed helps make you sleepy. Add some soothing lavender bath beads for maximum effect.  Or try REN's Morroccan Rose products, which are said to soothe and relieve stress.

11. Don’t radically change your sleep habits during the weekend and vacations – it can make it harder to return to normal sleep patterns.
12. Don't eat or drink too much after dinner.  This is sometimes a problem when afternoon sports kick up a huge appetite or when dinner doesn't appeal -- leading to late night snacking.  But making your digestive system work too hard or having a full bladder can interfere with a good rest.  If you need a light snack, choose something with milk (like a bowl of cereal), peanut butter, sunflower seeds, a banana or an apple, or tart cherry juice - since all have properties that bring on the zzz's.  Here's a list of the best and worst foods for getting a good night's sleep.

13.  Enjoy the sunshine.  At least 30 minutes of sunlight exposure each day is said to help regulate daily sleep patterns.  Because of it's role in the regulating the circadian cycle, taking melatonin (.3 milligrams an hour before bed) can also help you sleep.

14. Imagine warm hands and feet.   Concentrating on sending blood to your extremities can help reduce your core temperature and thereby help you fall asleep.

15.  Keep a cool head.  Similarly, wearing a cold compress over your eyes or positioning your head near the air conditioning is said to help you reduce your core and fall asleep.

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