Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sleep Environment

Can you fall asleep easy anywhere? We all know people who can fall asleep on the beach, while riding in a car or watching TV. I even know someone who will probably fall asleep watching the Jets/Colts football game. When your sleep/wake cycle is under control you can relax enough to sleep anywhere. However, if you sleep cycle is disrupted you must make sure that your sleep environment is just as important as establishing a sleep routine.

[caption id="attachment_811" align="alignright" width="237" caption="Sleep Environment - Eating in Bed"][/caption]

Our mind is sensitive to associations, for instance, do you get excited when you go to the airport even if you are just there to pick someone up? The airport is associated with travelling as your bed is associated with sleep. Do you have a favorite chair or sofa where you sit at the end of a long day to relax? Sometimes I find it easier to fall asleep there instead of my bed! This is the power of association and by creating positive sleep associations that will influence when you go to bed this will encourage sleep. It is very important to change negative sleep habits and create new positive ones. For one, there are a lot of things people do in bed that disrupt sleep. Reading, eating and watching television in bed are all habits that keep us from falling asleep. These people got into the habit of being insomniacs. There are only three things you should do in bed and they are; sleep, make love and listen to a sleep mp3.

This means no computer, no video games, no reading and no eating in your bedroom. Remove all electronics from your room and even turn the alarm clock away from you so you are not distracted by its light or constantly checking the time. Constantly checking the time will only cause you to become more frustrated with your inability to fall asleep, as a result this will keep you awake longer because your heart rate has increased due to being anxious or stressed. If you lie in bed for more than 20 minutes get up and do something boring like writing in your sleep journal or making your to-do-list. Sometimes getting the thoughts that are keeping you awake down on paper will help your brain release these frustrations and enable you to relax. Go back to bed when you feel sleepy.

One way to control your sleep environment is by the amount of light and dark will affect your sleep. Light and dark releases hormones in our brain called cortisol, which wakes us up in the daylight and melatonin, which induces sleep at night. So in order to fall asleep easy and stay asleep all night you should keep your bedroom really dark all night. Sometimes it is hard to control the amount of light that comes into your room. Summer sun, outside street lights or oncoming traffic can be eliminated by blinds or black curtains. If you are travelling you can wear an eye mask, like the ones you get on the airplane.

Another important change to your sleep environment is controlling noise. If you live in a high traffic area or live next to noisy neighbors I bet after awhile you aren’t even aware of these sounds because the mind learns to ignore unimportant stimulus. Your mind gets used to hearing repeated sounds and after awhile you can ignore them and sleep peacefully. It’s the sounds we aren’t used to that wake us up during the night. So if you fall asleep to your television and we unconsciously hear something we think is important (like that new gadget they are trying to sell), dogs barking or a siren we will wake up. To eliminate outside noises that we have no control of we can listen to a sleep mp3, white noise or simply turn on a fan or wear ear plugs.

[caption id="attachment_813" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Sleep Environment - Bed and Bedroom Not Too Hot or Too Cold"][/caption]

Lastly research has shown that we sleep best when we are comfortably warm and snug in our bed when the temperature is cool. I wake up a lot during the night if the room is too warm. Covers on, covers off, feet out or feet in these sleep stealers can be diverted if only the room temperature is around 69 degrees. A too cold room can also wake you during the night because your body temperature gradually falls and is at its lowest around four in the morning. You need to make sure your bedding will keep you warm enough to keep you cozy all night long. Make sure you are not allergic to your bedding as this will cause you to become congested or even break out in a rash. Try 100% cotton or organic sheets, pillowcase and blankets. Your allergy can also be caused by your laundry detergent.

The content in Sleep Environment is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for your sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.
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