Good sleep no simple matter

March 14, 2006 — Leave a comment

Salt Lake Tribune

“Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite!” Little did I know that those words would create sheer terror in the mind of my then 4-year-old niece, Maggy. “Bugs? Aunt Lizzie, what bugs?”

Explaining this “common saying” offered no comfort. (I wasn’t about to come clean that they actually exist!) That particular night, the sheer mention of “bugs” kept both of us awake! I never mentioned them again.

If only the sleep problems plaguing more than 50 million Americans could be put to rest so easily.

There are more than 80 sleep disorders classified by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Specialists link our sleepless nights to stress, anxiety, weight, caffeine or alcohol consumption, and even depression. Sleeping is not simple.

Alpha Theta Delta. No, it’s not a sorority, but the stages of brain wave patterns that occur during sleep. The “Alpha” stage is actually a meditative state where the brain waves begin to slow down. In this stage, you’re not quite asleep nor are you fully awake. The brain begins to slow down even more in the “Theta” stage, and then there is the “Delta” stage. Ah! Finally, we get our beauty rest. “Delta’s” deep sleep allows the body to rejuvenate itself. After the “Delta” stage we zip back to the “Alpha” stage, again, and even begin to dream. The brain cycles through these sleep stages every 90 minutes when sleeping is successful!

In dream sleep the brain is very active – most of us dream anywhere from four to 20 times per night! A bonus to getting a good night’s rest is to dream a little dream just for you. Keep a dream journal by your bed. Before you retire, jot down a few lines describing your day and the worries on your mind. Next, choose a topic you want your dreams to brainstorm during the night. You might ask, ”How can I improve my relationship with?” Silently repeat the question to yourself as you fall asleep. As soon as you wake in the morning, write whatever’s on your mind and the underlying feeling.

Sweet dreams are only possible with sleep. The setting is the key. Keep your bedroom dark, cool and comfortable, reserved only for sleep and intimacy.

Prior to sleep avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and heavy meals.

Establish and follow a nightly routine, preparing your body and mind to gear-down for the night, and keep a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends. Deep sleep improves muscle tone and skin appearance, lowers blood pressure and heat rate, and increases the growth hormone responsible for decreased fat tissue and abdominal obesity. Now are you motivated to improve your sleep routine?

What do you think? How can you make sure you get a good night’s rest?

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Dr. Liz Hale

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