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Newsletter #112 -  Sleeping, or not Sleeping with the enemy (FM)
As summer slips away in the northern hemisphere we prepare for longer nights, when we often find ourselves pacing the floor unable to sleep. This issue of the news letter will attempt to scratch the surface of sleep related issues.
Happy dreams!

Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Stick to your sleep schedule even on the weekends and during times your life is filled with upset and stress. Failing to maintain your schedule will reset your sleep schedule, causing you to start from scratch.

Avoid alcohol at bedtime. While you will find yourself sedated initially, your brain will remain in "light sleep" mode, cheating you out of the much needed REM sleep. It can also cause sweating, nightmares and intense dreaming.

Avoid caffeine after lunch, including that found in soft drinks, green tea drinks, chocolate and some over the counter pain relievers. Caffeine remains in your system for up to twelve or more hours and can affect your sleep pattern even if used in the late afternoon. The same goes for nicotine, not only is it a stimulant, your body make wake during the night craving nicotine.

If possible open your drapes so you waken to bright sunlight each morning, or set a lamp or other bright light to work with a timer. Waking to light helps to reset your body's internal sleep clock, each day.

Enforce the "Bedroom is for sleeping or sex" only rule. Keep it dark and keep it technology free. No tv's, no laptops, no digital clock with big green numbers that taunt you as you toss and turn. If you are used to falling asleep with the TV on turn it off and get out of bed if you are unable to sleep. Return to the room only when you are finally ready to sleep. In doing so you may miss out on a few nights of sleep but you will train your mind to recognize that room as a sanctuary where you can turn off the world and rest.

Exercise is important, but not close to bed time if you have trouble sleeping. Play it safe by taking that walk, playing basketball or riding that bike at least three hours before bed time.

Figure out what makes you feel better, what helps you relax and utilize it. If laughing makes you feel good make sure you only watch comedy shows before bed, avoid the news like a plague. If someone disrupts your life with their own problems every evening use caller ID or screen your calls with an answering machine, "guilt free!" Treat yourself like you would treat a treasured friend having a sleep over. Go out of your way to make you feel just as good as you would a guest. Eat a favorite food, snuggle under the covers and read for fun, take a bath, pull out music that brings back fond memories, call someone you miss. Just remember to be as good to yourself as you would be to a guest.

Don’t go to bed hungry! The world has changed since the days before electricity, TV and computers. In the "good old days" people didn't go to bed hungry, but they also didn't stay up all night. Back then they worked hard all day, ate a big supper and gathered in front of the fire or radio for some family time before going to bed with the sun. Now, we eat a good dinner between five and ten o'clock, but then we sit up watching TV or surfing the internet. When it is time for bed we think it is bad if we eat again, but hunger can keep you from a good nights sleep. We no longer eat and go to bed with the sun, so we need to change our habits and go to bed with a light snack in our tummies. I'm not talking chocolate cookies and pie here, or a 16 ounce steak and potato. Eat a sensible snack before bed that adheres to your health issues such as diabetes, blood pressure etc. A few almonds and a glass of milk, or some warm toast and decaf tea, pretzels and an ounce or two of cheese. Comfort foods, in moderation before bed can help your body sleep through the night.

Make a to do list before bed containing things you need to do or problems that need your attention and promise to get to them the next day. Try not to use your sleep time to mull over problems. You will be more effective in the long run if you get a good nights sleep before making major decisions.

Some people can nap and others can not. Pay attention to your body. If you can nap for 15 mins a day and still sleep at night then nap away. For others taking a nap confuses their body, resetting their sleep clock and often leaves them feeling groggy and cranky the rest of the day. Keep a jounal of your sleep habits, listing the days you nap and how you slept that night. Change your routine accordingly.

Watch your fluid intake! Nothing can wake you up faster than a full bladder crying to be taking to the bathroom. If you do not have medical conditions responsible for frequent night trips to the bathroom you may need to cut back on liquids at least two hours before bedtime.

Light is your enemy! Man lived thousands of years waking up with the sun and going to bed as it set. We are not cut out to stay awake with light assaulting our eyes. Use very low wattage night lights if you need help navigating to the restroom at night. Do not flip on overhead lights or lamps. These can send a trigger to your brain, urging it to wake up.

Kick your dog or cat to the floor! No, don't really kick them, but their night movements often disrupt your sleep. I have always let my dogs and cats sleep on my bed, it is very comforting, and warm on the feet in the winter. But, one of my dogs licks her foot in her sleep, endlessly! I put up with it for months until I realized that I was seeing way to much of the wee hours of the morning. I took one of her favorite blankets and placed it on the floor next to my side of the bed. I make her sleep there and pet her when awake. She has adapted and I get MUCH more sleep. She still loves me and I am more lovable.

Keep tabs on your medications. Your doctor and pharmacist are qualified professionals, but they are not you. Research all your meds to make sure none of them are interacting in a negative way, causing sleeplessness.

If none of this works, talk to your doctor to see if she/he can prescribe something to help restore your sleep pattern. Also make sure that they have ruled out other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea that will need specialized medical treatment.

Jane Kohler-Lutz

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