SOUCHERAY: 'Better Sleep Month?" Well, we can tryDid you know that May is “Better Sleep Month?”
By: Kate Soucheray, Woodbury Bulletin
Did you know that May is “Better Sleep Month?” Can you imagine that? May has become the new December, with all the schedules families juggle and coordinate. From soccer to softball, track to spring plays, and banquets for everything. There is more light every day, warmer weather and we just want to be out in it. There is yard work to do, trips to the compost site, neighbors to catch up with. And someone named this the month to get better sleep?
Seriously, there must be some mistake because this could probably be called the month to Survive All There is to Do. Or the month to Use As A Segue Into Summer. It seems like a joke, and a bad one at that, to call May the month for better sleep.
But what if, just what if, this was the month to get better sleep? Do you think you’d feel better with a little more shut-eye each night? The kids would probably feel more relaxed, be more resilient at school, have fewer fights with siblings at home, and overall your life would likely have a greater sense of well-being.
You may not have to live on caffeine everyday, all day, either. We know that when one caffeine-bump subsides, we must feed the demanding monster within us or our heads will be hitting the desk by mid-day. And how about our productivity, whether at home or work? We might think we’re giving our best and nothing less, but are we only fooling ourselves, when we know we’re running on a half-empty tank all day.
According to Mayo Clinic, the seven suggestions they provide at mayoclinic.com/health/sleep will help us all get more sleep and feel better during our waking hours. To begin, the amount of sleep we require varies by age, as well as whether we are pregnant, have experienced previous sleep problems or if the quality of sleep we enjoy each night is less than ideal.
The first suggestion from Mayo is to stick to a regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Try to go to bed and get up about the same time every day, as this will help reinforce our body’s sleep-wake cycle and provide for more predictable sleep patterns.
Secondly, we should pay attention to what we eat and drink later in the day, particularly nicotine, caffeine and alcohol, as all three can either keep us awake or disrupt our sleep patterns throughout the night.
Thirdly, create a bedtime ritual by avoiding electronic devices, tackling an important work problem, looking at our finances or arguing with some Fourth, get comfortable in a darkened, cool room, where the primary purpose is sleep. We may need to consider earplugs, room-darkening shades or a fan to help with noise and light, but by ensuring the use of the room is primarily for sleep, we designate it as different from study, work or play.
Fifth, if we like to nap during the day, remember that taking a long daytime nap can interfere with nighttime sleep. The website suggests limiting our naps to 10 to 30 minutes a day and preferably taking it in the midafternoon.
Sixth, getting regular exercise assists in better sleep; just be sure the workout is not too close to bedtime, or it may energize us, perk us up and impede our ability to fall asleep.
And finally, manage stress so we don’t go to bed and have all our daytime problems swirling around in our head. Try to get organized, set priorities and delegate tasks, call a friend and have a good laugh, and remember to write down what is bothering us before we go to bed, allowing the paper to hold our thoughts until we awaken in the morning.
A good night’s sleep is essential for a well-balanced life. Taking these few steps to ensure better rest will likely provide for more relaxed, confident and meaningful encounters throughout the day, which in turn will allow us to sleep better each night. Sweet dreams.
Soucheray is a Woodbury resident and a licensed family therapist.