This first week of March is National Sleep Awareness Week. The purpose of it is to bring attention to the importance of adequate sleep and good health. A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that good sleep is associated with better health. Recent studies have shown a strong relationship between depression and insomnia.
It makes sense when you think about it-if you sleep well you are rested and feel better than you would had you not slept enough. Illness and pain can be very disruptive to sleep as can be some medications.
Although they are widely prescribed, I am not overly fond of sleep medications. I see them as a last resort after all other non-pharmaceutical interventions have been exhausted. I see so many people who routinely take sleep medications without considering other effective strategies. Self-medicating with alcohol before bed is something else people often do, but it is one of the worse things you can do. Alcohol does not promote good rest. Not to mention the other issues that may arise from having a nightly drink.
Aside from maintaining a regular sleep routine and avoiding electronic devices before bed, I recommend trying sleep hypnosis. There are many sleep hypnosis apps in the App Stores that are well done, helpful, and inexpensive. The best thing to do is to make use of the sleep hypnosis app part of your bedtime routine.
The great Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes has an audiobook entitled “Bedtime Stories: A Unique Guided Relaxation Program for Falling Asleep and Entering the World of Dreams.” I confess that I fall right to sleep within minutes of starting to listen. In addition to that recording, she has a great audio library of healing stories to listen to during difficult times of life.
“Bedtime Stories” and her other recording are available in the Itunes store, on Amazon, and from www.SoundsTrue.com.
Other helpful options to consider trying are a quiet period of meditation before going to bed or a yoga routine specifically designed for use before bedtime. Something else to think about is your bed and your bedroom. Is your mattress old and need to be replaced? Are the sheets and comforters clean and comfortable? Are your pillows comfortable? Is your bedroom a sanctuary offering rest and comfort or is it a mess that causes you stress? Is it too bright at night or too dark for you (Some people have strong preferences).
In the event that you continue to suffer from issues with sleep, it may be time for a Sleep Study. Sleep studies can be very helpful in identifying the cause of your sleep problems. After your sleep evaluation, the team will recommend a course of treatment for chronic disruptive issues with sleep.
Have you ever noticed how well your cat or dog sleeps? Ever wonder why? They don’t try to shorten their sleep time. They seem to enjoy sleeping, they don’t fight it like we humans do, and also unlike humans, they do not stay up all hours worrying about what will happen tomorrow, etc. Although there are obvious differences between the ways humans and cats and dogs live their lives, I think there are things we can learn from them. Mainly, I think we need to value sleep as they seem to.
Good sleep is associated with good health and better moods. If you or a loved one are suffering from insomnia or are having issues with sleep, it is time to do something about it. Taking sleep medication is not necessarily the best long term option, and alcohol is no solution at all. Have a talk with your physician about having a Sleep Study and consult a psychologist to help you identify ways you can help yourself enjoy a restful sleep.
The Sleep Foundation’s Poll findings can be found on their website at: http://sleepfoundation.org/