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Give Yourself a Sleep Check-up

It’s 2:00am, and you roll over to glance at your phone.  Your exhaustion slowed math skills tell you that if you fall asleep right now, you’ll get four hours before the alarm goes off. That’s enough right?  You’ve functioned on four hours before, you can certainly do it again. But now it’s 2:30am; will three and a half do?  Your heart starts to pound as you mentally tick off items on your to-do list, adding in a stop at Starbucks for a double-shot. Now it’s 3:00am.  You start to think that perhaps you should just get up, maybe take a crack at those bathroom tiles that need replacing?

At one time or another, all of us will experience a sleepless night or two.  Extra stress at the office, more responsibilities at home, or an ill-advised espresso at 9:00pm will all certainly contribute.  The crux of the problem is that sleep is integral to our well-being. A significant sleep disturbance can cause mood dysregulation, and universally, sleep disturbance (either too much or too little) is a symptom of all of the mood disorders. Whether you are regularly troubled by insomnia, or just want to optimize your healthy sleep, ask yourself the following questions to give yourself a sleep check-up!

  • Do you go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends?    If the answer is no, it’s something you may want to consider.  We are creatures of habit, and the more our bodies become used to going to sleep at the same time every night, the more tired and prepared for sleep they will feel once that time rolls around.
  • Do you regularly drink caffeinated beverages in the afternoon/evenings?  If healthy sleep eludes you, you may want to consider eliminating that afternoon/evening coffee, soda, iced tea, or energy drink.  Even if you don’t feel particularly awake after having one, the caffeine is still acting as a stimulant in your body, and could be getting in the way of your Zs!
  • Do you have a nightcap before bed to ease into your night?  A lot of folks think that tossing back a glass or wine or two will help them relax, and bring on quicker more restful sleep.  While that drink may certainly make you feel sleepy and more relaxed, sleep studies show that folks who drink alcohol before bed are actually getting poorer quality sleep.
  • Do you have a bedtime routine?  A lot of these suggestions are about training your body and mind to expect sleep.  If you start a bedtime routine about a half an hour before you hit the hay, over time, your body will start to recognize that it’s time to switch from wake mode to sleep mode, and sleep should come more easily.
  • Do you get regular exercise?  Regular cardiovascular exercise (about 20 minutes a day) will help you get into the sleep zone that night.  Just not too close to bed, or you might be too hyped from your work out to sleep!
  • Do you take your worries to bed? Are you lying awake at night obsessing over the events of the previous day, and worried about what tomorrow will bring?  Try writing down a list of everything you’re worried about, and then put it in a drawer.  Remind yourself that your worries will still be there tomorrow.
  • Has your bed become your office away from the office?  Especially in our increasingly mobile society, folks often find themselves conducting business, doing homework, watching television, all from bed.  These things may seem like a great idea at first, but over time, your body starts to associate your bed with all of these stimulating, and sometimes negative activities.  Best to use your bed for sleep and sex only.

Of course over time, you may find that you need the services of a professional, as many medical and psychological conditions can interfere in the ability to get a good night’s sleep.  Be sure to see your doctor if lack of sleep is interfering in your life.

Any other tips for a good night’s sleep?  Comment below!

Dr. Scrivani specializes in the treatment of anxiety and related disorders, and provides tele-mental health services to residents of New York and Florida.  Call (888) 535-5671 or email [email protected]itherapymail.com.

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