Friday, January 9, 2009

Sleep Hygiene

As you may recall, I'm sort of a sleep geek.  Not, apparently, because I'm good at it, but because I love to gather information about it.  

One of the ideas tossed around in most all sleep books* is the concept of good sleep hygiene. Essentially, doing the right things to help us fall asleep easily and stay that way until our 8 hours have been fulfilled.

Unlike dental hygiene, sleep hygiene is multifaceted and can be quite complex. Good sleep requires a careful balance of the right amount of the right things at the right times.  This list includes sleep (because sleep begets sleep), food, exercise, emotional release/connection, and light.  For some of us, a carefully managed environment plays a big roll in our level sleep. Again with a long list ranging from the location of the room in the house to wall colors to the number and fill of pillows to be used.

Modern life is not particularly conducive to good sleep hygiene.  And yet, in order to survive and succeed in this modern day and age I believe we need, maybe more than at anytime before, to be well rested.  We drive huge, heavy objects at alarming speed and parent small children in relative isolation.  More than any other age, we modern folk need our wits and good judgement about us. 

Today I sabotaged my own sleep in a variety of small ways.  I skipped my scheduled morning walk -  planned to alert my body and brain to the beginning of a new day.  I drank a not-quite completely decaf coffee at 3pm.  Even at 9ish grams of caffeine, this is way to late for my stimulant-sensitive body.  I took a brisk and invigorating walk with the kids at 7pm, now causing the alerting I needed at 7am.  Finally, I watched an episode of West Wing with my hubby.  Beyond the issues of the over-stimulation of the light receptors in my brain now telling me it must be high noon, the level of emotion and conflict effectively dramatized by Aaron Sorken set my adrenaline sky-high.

It seems it shouldn't be that hard to get a good night's sleep. None of these alone were crazy choices and still combined they spelled out disaster for my rest.  My children no longer nurse every two hours at night and sleep deprivation is not currently my perpetual state, so regaining the few hours lost tonight will be relatively easy. And yet, tomorrow I will strive to be extra aware of how I drive and how I handle stress, especially in combination with my small children. 

How are you doing for sleep?  

* my favorite sleep books are
The Promise of Sleep by William Dement
Sleepless in America by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka 

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Yawn! Besides having little ones who still wake up in the night, I have trouble shutting my brain off. I also don't get enough exercise. Sleep doesn't come easily for me at the moment!