A lot of our ugly sleep is that we can't turn our brains off at night. Phyliss Zee, professor at Northwestern University's Sleep Disorders Center, has documented this by use of brain scans.
"Scans of metabolic activity in the brain show that people who suffer from
insomnia have more activity than people without sleep problems when they're
trying to get to sleep."
- If you're prone to worrying, your body produces epinephrine, which helps to keep you awake. Try to replace your worries with a pleasant thought. I have a happy place that I always go to in times of stress: With the warm sun stroking my back, I am sitting on a beach chair while the waves kiss my toes. I have had my blood pressure taken before and after my trip to the "happy place" and it truly does reduce my blood pressure numbers.
- Another trick that always helps me is a warm bath an hour before bed, indulging my skin in an after-shower cream-fest, and slipping into a pair of lightweight PJs.
- You should try to get 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each day. Studies have shown that 30 minutes of brisk walking can improve sleep about as well as the pre-Ambien sleeping pills.
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible -- turn off the television, laptop, and cover the alarm clock. Light keeps your brain chronically aroused. If you sleep with a television addict like I do, this can be difficult. Around midnight, I end up sleep-walking to the guest bedroom for the rest of my beauty sleep.
- Reduce your caffeine intake. Eliminating caffeine can really help your body and brain relax. Because caffeine stays in your body up to eight hours, try to eliminate your last dose before noon.
- Reduce your alcohol intake. The nightcap will lull you into thinking it is helping you get your beauty sleep, but about four hours after it clears your system, the brain becomes hyperaroused and wakes you up. This is your brain on ugly sleep.
- Reset your body clock. You need 20 minutes of bright light within 15 minutes of awakening in order for your melatonin levels to drop. Your melatonin will continue to be suppressed for about 12 hours and then start to rise. Approximately 16 hours later, you are ready for your beauty sleep. I use a light box which not only helps with ugly sleep but also with seasonal affective disorder.
- Sleeping pills are good for a short-term problem. Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata bind with receptors in the brain that trigger sleep. The National Institutes of Health found that sleep induced by a sleeping pill was only increased by 11.4 minutes. At $3 to $4 a pop. that is an expensive 11 minutes. I have used Ambien in the past and it helped me get through a menopausal sleeping problem.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. Participants learn that it is normal to awaken every 90 minutes or so. Knowing that you are normal, reduces the worry, hence, the production of epinephrine.
- Restricting your sleep. This is for the woman who lies in bed for eight hours and sleeps five. Calculate how much time you are actually sleeping. If you only sleep five hours, stay in bed for four hours. Gradually add an additional 15 minutes that you spend in bed each night. You will be so sleep-deprived that your need for sleep will become stronger and stronger.
For me, the combo of turning off my brain and going to my happy place after a warm bath has about a 90 percent success rate. Hopefully one of the tricks will help you get your beauty sleep.
(Sources: National Institute of Sleep Disorders , National Institutes of Health, Allure, Northwestern University Sleep Disorder Clinic)