It used to be that we all thought sleep was not all that important, maybe even a waste of time… but no more. Sleep is now considered critical to your health and well-being. To improve the quality of the sleep you’re getting, you’ll want to …
- Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule that you stick to even on weekends, holidays or when you’re on vacation.
- Keep the noise, light and temperature shifts to a minimum where you sleep.
- Consume no caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bed. Limit what you use during the day.
- Avoid heavy meals or alcohol before sleep.
- Not smoke, especially near bedtime or if you wake up in the middle of the night.
- Exercise regularly.
A typical night of healthy sleep is broken into five continually shifting stages that are identified by types of brain waves, signaling either lighter or deeper stages of sleep. Toward the morning sleepers have an increase in rapid eye movement (REM sleep), the fifth stage where muscles are relaxed yet the brain and other body systems are more active and dreaming takes place. Recent memories are likely consolidated in the brain during this stage of sleep.
Hitting the “snooze” on the alarm isn’t great for your schedule and your feelings of waking up rested and ready to go. It typically interrupts the calm of the REM sleep stage and makes sleep more fragmented. The restorative value of sleep is diminished when the amount of time is short – these little snatches of shuteye leave you feeling worse, not better. It’s no surprise then that getting up and going after doing this a few times is so difficult.
What’s more, repeatedly hitting the “snooze” button is a signal that you’re not getting enough of the sleep your body needs. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should not need the “snooze” at all. Unfortunately based on surveys conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, at least 40 million Americans are managing over 70 different sleep disorders. A full 60% of adults say they have problems sleeping a few nights a week or more. Most cases of sleep disorders go undiagnosed and untreated.
A unique approach to treating sleeping problems comes from psychotherapy and is known as cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT for short.
As the name implies, CBT teaches patients how to recognize thought patterns (cognitive) and make changes to behavior that helps to solve problems, including sleep problems. In fact, this approach has been found to be quite effective in getting patients to fall asleep and conquer insomnia. Solid work in this area comes from October 2004 research appearing in The Archives of Internal Medicine that found cognitive behavior therapy works better and lasts longer than one of the most widely used sleeping medications.
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Steps To Follow To Get A Good Night Sleep. Continued…
The study included 63 subjects who had insomnia but were otherwise healthy and
assigned them to different therapies. The subjects were randomly assigned to
be given Ambien in a full dose for a month, and then weaned off; to get cognitive
behavior therapy in five 30-minute sessions over 6 weeks; to receive both the
medication and 6 week therapy; or lastly be given a placebo.
At three weeks, 44% of those getting cognitive behavior therapy and those getting the therapy and medication fell asleep sooner compared to 29% of the subjects taking medication alone. Two weeks after all the treatment was finished, the patients who had cognitive behavior therapy were falling asleep in half the time it took them before the study. Only 17% of the subjects taking the sleeping medication were falling asleep in half the time. It would appear that the therapy had some effect, especially going forward.
So if you or someone in your life is struggling with sleep issues, talk with your doctor and consider giving CBT a try. Sleep problems will not resolve themselves, and you won’t feel better until you take steps to do something.
To your good health,