http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2009/01/30/catching-some-zzzzs


Danville Express

- January 30, 2009

Catching some zzzz's

Ten tips for periodic insomniacs on how to create a haven for sleep

You know the feeling. You're in bed, but you can't fall asleep. Your mind is racing and you're tossing and turning so you read a book or watch television until the wee hours of the morning. Getting good quality sleep is vital to our health, so it pays to create a sleep haven and improve your rest.

A recent sleep survey conducted for AmericInn Hotels found that six in 10 U.S. adults (62 percent) had trouble falling asleep at least one night per week and nearly 10 percent had a tough time sleeping every single night. That's a total of 3.1 billion hours of sleep lost in America each week or 161 billion hours per year.

So what are the leading causes of all this lost sleep in our country? The survey found economic fears (36 percent) lead the reasons for American sleeplessness followed by high energy prices (29 percent), health and medical concerns (28 percent), stress over politics (22 percent) and concerns about war and global terrorism (12 percent). No wonder America is having a hard time sleeping.

"With all the worries and concerns of modern life, sleeplessness is happening whether we like it or not," said Dr. Christopher Drake, bioscientific investigator at Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders and Research Center. "But continued bouts of insomnia can wear down the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to illness. The key is to get a handle on the source of the stress causing sleeplessness before it becomes a full-blown medical issue."

Stressed out Americans need to create their own bastion of peace so they can rest and renew their mind and bodies to handle the demands of modern life. Drake recommends turning your bedroom, or hotel room when traveling, into a sleep haven, a place of peace and serenity that gives your body every possible advantage of achieving a restful night's sleep.

Here are 10 easy tips periodic insomnia sufferers can use to create their own sleep haven, whether at home or on the road:

1. Cut out all caffeine. If you're caffeine-sensitive, it's not just coffee that is your biggest sleep culprit. Avoid tea, sodas and anything with chocolate.

2. Make your bed. Ever noticed how much more comfortable a freshly made bed is? The uniform snugness of the sheets can create a cradle effect around the body and the fresh smell of clean sheets can mimic the feel of a luxurious hotel bed.

3. Leave work out of the bedroom. Keeping your bedroom free of anything work-related is key in creating a true sleep haven. That means leaving files, laptop computers or PDAs on the kitchen table, not the nightstand. This may be difficult when traveling, but try to keep the bed and side tables free of work-related clutter.

4. Eliminate outside noise. If you live in a noisy neighborhood, shut your windows and use air conditioning during the summer months. If you reside in an apartment or are staying in a hotel that doesn't use soundproofing construction, invest in noise-canceling headphones, white noise or sound effect machine.

5. Block out all light. When at home, use double thick curtains like the ones you find in hotels. Make sure you turn off all electronics in your room that emit light, including DVD players. A piece of masking tape over the display works great.

6. Avoid using alcohol and nicotine before bedtime. Even though alcohol may initially help you fall asleep due to its sedating effects, it causes severe sleep disruption during the second half of the night with frequent and long duration awakenings. Also, studies have shown that smoking before bed delays the time to fall asleep and is associated with a worsening insomnia in some individuals.

7. Banish the TV. Watching TV while in bed stimulates the mind, encouraging restlessness. Consider listening to classical music, but stay away from news or talk radio.

8. Distract your mind. Break away from daily stresses by reading a book before going to sleep at night. Counting sheep isn't just a silly remedy. The combination of the counting and the visualization distracts your mind and lulls or bores you to sleep.

9. Workout in the morning. If traveling, take advantage of your hotel's exercise room. By adding an extra hour in your morning for some cardiovascular exercise you will stay energized throughout the day and sleep better at night. Beware of working out too close to bedtime, as it can leave you over stimulated.

10. Pay attention to your eating habits. Try picking healthier food options and you don't have to clean your plate even if your mother used to make you. Finally, make sure you don't eat more than two hours before bedtime, so your food has time to digest.

--ARAcontent

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