I was fascinated by the NY Times' two recent articles on sleep. One is about how to get more of it so you'll be more beautiful, featuring spas, sleep products and a barely perceptible nod to useful skills like meditation and relaxation. The companion piece is about makeup to hide the ravages of sleeplessness. Really?
Sleep deprivation causes irritability, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, weight gain, medical problems, cognitive deficits, impaired work performance, car crashes and a host of other ills beyond the toll it takes on physical beauty. Makeup is not going to solve these problems.
Clouding the issue by suggesting a cosmetic fix, spa products or pills ignores the fact that sleep problems are often easily remedied without medication or costly solutions.
Since it's summer, why not send yourself to sleep camp? In sleep camp you have daily activities, just like volleyball and swimming in summer camp. If you despised summer camp, you can think of it more like soccer or tennis camp where you're trying to improve a skill set and you know it's going to take dedication, practice, tweaking and repetition. Here's how sleep camp works:
1. Start a sleep journal. In it, keep track of the time you go to bed and wake up, daily. Identify nights that you awaken often during the night or can't get back to sleep. Identify your patterns. Is it every day that you don't get enough sleep? Only some days? Which days?
2. Identify relevant behaviors and situations. Record all of your habits, good and bad, that relate to sleep. In your journal include:
- Daytime habits. Record what and when you eat and drink (especially caffeine and alcohol). Note your use of nicotine, the amount of exercise you get and naps you take, including the time of day.
- Sleep rituals. This is what you do before bed. Most people have a routine they follow that includes things like washing up, flossing and brushing teeth, reading, television, social media check, prayer, phone calls to loved ones and the like.
- Sleep environment. The noise level, amount of light, temperature and disruptions in the bedroom like pets, kids and partner.
- Stress. Any stress that you carry can adversely affect sleep.
- Other difficulties (medical issues, taking a new medication).
- Daytime feeling. How you feel when you wake and your energy level, irritability and mood during the day.
3. Identify problems after you've journaled for a week, including:
- Too much caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol.
- Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, spicy food, liquids or large meals too close to bedtime.
- Not enough exercise or exercise too close to bedtime.
- Watching or reading something highly activating before bed.
- Not getting to bed on time or not having a set time for bed.
- Naps interfering with sleep.
- Absence of a helpful bedtime ritual.
- Too much noise or light (including those LEDs).
- The ping of your smartphone, tablet or computer summoning you.
- Bedroom too hot.
- Clock watching and worry about getting to sleep or getting back to sleep.
- Stomach problems, headaches or other physical problems.
- Taking stressful calls, or responding to stressful texts or emails close to bedtime.
- Life stress. Three steps to go! Keep reading...
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