HOW TO GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Myth #1-It’s best to sleep in a room that is warm and quiet
The truth-While the ideal image of sleeps tends to be that of a cozy cocoon, experts say creating such a vacuum-sealed feeling “gets kind of eerie,” as Dr. David Neubauer, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center in Baltimore, puts it. And who can sleep when they’re feeling creeped out? A lack of circulating air may also make it difficult to breathe, forcing you awake. No wonder then that research shows “a cool room usually helps sleep more than a warm one,” say Dr. Neubauer, so lower the thermostat and try sheets that wick away moisture, keeping you from overheating. Even better: Invest in a small bedside fan; not only will it keep the room from getting stuffy, but its low, constant hum will help lull you to sleep.
Myth #2-If I can’t fall asleep right away, I’m not tired
The truth-Your body needs time to transition from wakefulness to rest, so don’t expect that after watching your favorite shows you’re simply going to crawl into bed and pass out. “Clicking off the TV doesn’t turn off your brain,” says Dr. Neubauer. “You have to make time to go to sleep.” Try unwinding by “reading something boring” when you get into bed, says Dr. Reena Mehra, Medical Director of Adult Sleep Services at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. What if you’ve been in bed for more than half an hour and are still wide awake? “Don’t stay in bed, because you’ll stress about not falling asleep,” Dr. Mehra explains. Instead, leave the room and walk around or listen to quiet music until you feel drowsy, then try again.
Myth#3-Napping helps me sleep better
The truth-According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), two-thirds of the world takes a daily nap. But while a short power nap can provide a late-afternoon energy boost, a nap of 45 minutes or longer will likely interfere with your nighttime sleep pattern. “And the later you take the nap,” says the Foundation’s chairman Thomas J. Balkin, Ph.D., “the later you will have to go to sleep.” Thus, if you’re going to nap, do it early in the day and keep it to only 30 minutes or less.
Myth#4-I can make up for lost sleep on the weekend
The truth-“People get more and more run down as the week goes on,” Dr. Neubauer says, and think they can “regain their sleep” by staying in bed until noon on a Saturday. “But one good night’s sleep is not enough to erase sleep loss.” In fact research shows that making up for weeks of restlessness is near impossible. “It’s easier to recover from 72 hours of sleep deprivation than it is to recover from 2 weeks of 4 hours of sleep a night,” says Balkin. It is also possible “to partially make up for a sleep debt,” Balkin says. Here’s how: If you know you’re entering a short phase where you won’t be getting much sleep, you can “bank” it, Balkin says, by getting some extra sleep the week before.
Myth#5-My body doesn’t really need that much sleep
The truth-“A lot of people think they can get away with not havingt 7 to 9 hours of sleep,” Dr. Mehra says. “But there are immediate and long-term negative effects” to falling short of this mark, ranging from feeling less alert to weight gain to cardiovascular disease. Yet Americans are constangly skimping on sleep: Although an NSF survey found that 40 percent agree sleep is as important to health as eating right and exercising, 20 percent are getting less that 6 hours of sleep a night. “You can’t live off that,” Balkin says. To up your sleep time, stick to a consistent schedule: Try to get in and out of bed at close to the same time every day.
Myth#6-I SLEEP BETTER ON A FULL STOMACH
The truth-So called food comas are pure fiction, according to Elizabeth Somer, registered dietician and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. In fact, she adds, eating too much too late in the evening can interfere with your sleep patterns. If you’re hungry before bedtime, try a light snack that’s rich in carbohydrates; the carbs boost the levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which aids in sleep. Some suggestions, from Somers, best consumed at least an hour before bed: a slice of whole wheat toast drizzled with honey, half a cup of pasta topped with marinara sauce or two cups of air-popped popcorn.