Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sleeping Like a Baby

No surprise that getting quality sleep is important for healthy life balance.  In addition to a direct link between sleep and quality of life, studies show that people who get seven or eight hours of shuteye per night actually live longer than those who get more or less.

So let's talk about sleep baby.

I’m not a doctor of course. Thanks to a series of events in the 80’s, I don’t even play one on TV.

Still, I have an insomniac husband plus my own experiences and theories.

There's nothing worse than being tired all the time. In some cases, depression may be the cause. Difficulty sleeping and/or general fatigue can also be related to a number of other health problems.  As some of you know, I'm in the midst of trying to figure out why my own little body thinks it has chronic mono.   Those areas are slightly beyond the scope of this post so I'll move on.  (No open can; no worms everywhere.)

From what I've observed, there are two primary problems in the world of slumber:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep

The frequency of these issues may be why I get so much whining from people who say they don't have time to exercise when I suggest that they simply wake up earlier.

But I get it.  If you're not falling asleep until 2:30am, the idea of getting up at 5:30am to do Yoga Booty Ballet is about as appealing as a Brazilian bikini wax.  (Though I have done it.  Yes, that.)

And then there's that joke, "I slept like a baby. Woke up crying every two hours!" *bahdoom-pha*

Personally, I struggle with occasional but severe "midnight anxiety." Usually it's when there's a lot of external craziness in combination with not taking care of myself.  That practice what you preach thing can be a real biotch.  If I go a couple of stressful weeks in a row without watching what I eat and drink plus not meditating or working out, sleep drama is almost guaranteed.

I guess it's common sense that if you're not taking care of yourself during the day, you're going to have some repercussions at night.

That said, I definitely notice that I sleep better when I exercise regularly.  However, sometimes if I work out too late at night, I'm "revved" and can't sleep.   So it's a bit of a catch 22 but that's why working out in the morning is the best solution for me, even if it means waking at 5:30am.  And, as long as I get to sleep by 10:30pm, I'm still getting the requisite seven hours.

Also, instead of having the TV on or trying to fall asleep in complete silence, I recommend listening to a sleep CD or downloading some meditations onto your MP3 player.    (Once when I did fall asleep watching TV, I had dreams all night about making money by putting little tiny ads in magazines.  ACKK!)

My favorite meditations are by Shakti Gawain.  She also has a great book, Creative Visualization which I've mentioned before and have read about 100 times in the past 20 years.  The meditations (which can be purchased alone) aren't specified for sleeping but they still do the trick for me.

I also love the Meditation Station podcasts which I download free from iTunes.  They are short though, so really best when I'm seriously tired and just need my brain to shut off long enough for sleep to set in.

My husband is not much of a "meditator" but he likes the music which is designed to get the brain into sleep mode. Even on a good night, he keeps his iPod next to the bed in case he wakes up in the middle of the night and can't fall back asleep.

If you have additional suggestions, do share!

The other tip I'll leave you with regarding falling asleep and staying asleep is to buy ear plugs and keep them next to the bed. 

Sometimes noise (like somebody snoring) keeps me awake.  Sometimes normal nighttime and/or household sounds wake me up.  Ear plugs provide perfect quiet comfort. 

I prefer the squishy kind as seen in the picture.  Roll them lengthwise into a short skinny tube; don't try to "squish" them.  Then, pull the top of your ear up and back and insert the plug.  You'll know you did it right if it goes in easily and then expands to create total silence.

If you know someone in construction, they can probably get you a huge pack for free. 

Sometimes at home I only wear one.  I know it sounds weird but this way I can still hear if one of the kids wakes up barfing or something. 

When traveling, I consider my ear plugs a sacred accessory.  If I ever was a contestant on the show Survivor, ear plugs would be my "luxury item."   

So... I might get eaten by a lion someday, but at least I'll be well rested.

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Soy Nail Cider Says, said...

Over the years of sharing a room with a snorer & a house with a cat who like to race through the house at night, ear plugs work the best!
I really can wait until 5am to see what the cat has broke for the week.

La Jenno said...

One of the things I do to make sure I get enough sleep is to shower in the morning when I get up rather than before bedtime -- a shower is more than enough to keep me awake for a few hours longer than I originally planned. (small side note: the table our computers are on here just collapsed in mid-type -- and my comment was totally still here when Firefox opened back up! <3!!) Another thing that helps me to get good-n-proper pooped out by the end of the day is to keep super-busy with chores and running around doing errands. It helps to keep my mind off things and have plenty of other, happier, more productive things to think about when trying to nod off.

lifechick said...

I don't normally have sleep problems, but occasionally wake a few times during the night. I'm lucky in that I can fall right back asleep.

I would be scared to sleep with ear plugs. The night I did that would be the night I'd get a break-in lol.

YogaforCynics said...

Depression can be both a cause and/or result of insomnia...and, then, depression causes some people to sleep abnormal amounts...

Overall, the worst thing to do about insomnia is let it bother you. When I was younger, I'd get really upset if I couldn't get to sleep, and really anxious about how miserable I'd be the next day due to the sleepless night...needless to say, that killed any chance of getting to sleep. Thus, I find the best thing is not to let it bother me, turn on the light, and read until my eyelids get heavy, then try again, repeating if necessary...

Lorenza said...

I have started yoga, meditation and, for all the stuff not properly working in my body at the time, I found very powerful a breathing technique called SUDARSHAN KRIA taught by the experienced tachers of the Art Of living Foudation ( It is a healing technique that can help in bad diseases like cancer, but also for depression, anxiety, sleeping desorders and so forth. It is 14 months now I have done the course but I don't skip a day: it is part of my life.

Love & rainbow

Charlene said...

Soy - we only have fish but they are noisy too!

Jenno - so true! Plus wet pillow... not so nice! hehe

lifechick - yeah, that's another reason I usually only sleep with one earplug at home.

Yoga - some do say the best thing if you really can't get back to sleep, it's best not to fight it. Unfortunately in my house, the little ones would be right up as well!

Lorenza - yoga is really wonderful. I'm going to check out that technique. Thanks for sharing!

Sarah said...

i sleep more if i'm depressed, so i guess there's no problem there! but one suggestion i heard is to add constant low humming noise in the bedroom. i know i for one will stay awake if there's 'jungle noise' or a 'babbling brook' sound in my bedroom. i don't mind snoring though - to me that's a sleeping pill! :)

Gabrielle said...

Great article great site and so glad to find you. My husband struggles with this and he has stated exercising to help, but if he misses even one day of running, it starts all over again. Strange issue, I can't relate because I sleep like the dead. :) Hello, from SITS!

Remya Raman said...


It would be of great help if you could include those people who work in night shifts. I know many who struggle to get sleep in the morning. Your article is good and informative.

Charlene said...

Good point - thank you Remya.

squirrelygirl said...

Great article! Very informative.

Kara@ Creations by Kara said...

I am totally with you on the ear plug thing. I take them every time I have to sleep anywhere that isn't my own bed!

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