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Bedtime routines can be a great way to wind down from an eventful day and can set the tone for a good night’s rest. Bedtime activities seem to be pretty universal across the U.S., but this study explores an interesting connection between racial/ethnic backgrounds and bedtime rituals and sleep quality.

Click here to read the article.

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Do you consider yourself a night owl?   This video provides some insight into why some are “night owls” while others are “early risers”.  It also describes how our sleep rhythms can be problematic and what to do to get things back on track.

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Most of us have read the various news reports about simple things you can do to improve your sleep – go to bed at the same time, eat lightly before bedtime, remove alcohol and caffeine from your diet from mid-afternoon on.  We may have even tried to implement these suggestions with sometimes mixed results.  Or you may have tried successfully to get to bed on time, only to find that once there, other problems develop.  A similar thing happens with our eating and weight efforts.  We know what we should do to improve our diet, but we can’t seem to do it and obesity remains a problem.

For many, the general suggestions to change sleep habits are just not enough.  We need a targeted map of what will help with our particular sleep issues.  This is the roadmap that can only come from a visit to our doctor to rule out medical causes of our sleep problems and the help of a sleep coach who points the direction of which aspects of our sleep problems need focus and how best to go about that.  A sleep coach is educated in selecting from an array of treatments which ones will help the troubled sleeper.  Is your sleep cycle off track and what can be done about that?  Do all your day’s worries surge up in front of you as you go to put your head on the pillow, and what can be done about that? Do you awaken at 3 am every night and wonder if you were meant to have only half a night’s sleep?

The roadmap involves a defined set of goals to help correct our individual sleep problems and the steps that will get us there. But we all know that just identifying the problem and setting out the goals is not enough.  We have to take action. And it might seem that just identifying the cause of the problem would be enough to get us to take action, but in many cases, action involves the change of treasured habits.  We may like eating our largest meal just an hour or two before bedtime since we get home so late.  We may enjoy surfing the web right up to lights out time.  And the change of a sleep cycle from later to earlier – what’s the best way to do that?  These and other challenging questions are the daily fare of a sleep coach’s repertoire.

In addition to pointing the way, the sleep coach holds us accountable for the goals we set for ourselves and helps us iron out problems that arise from our efforts to try out new behavior. Along the way of changing habits and adding new behaviors, we can encounter a lot of inner resistance to change that will stall our efforts to succeed.  Where is Yoda when we need him, or that sage grandmother whose advice we scoffed at then, but remember now?  The sleep coach, like any coach, has that optimal balance of push and pull that should help get us to our goal of a great night’s sleep most every night.

Dr. Marcia Lindsey – sleep coach, psychologist, Texas sleeper – coaches by phone those with chronic sleep problems to better, more peaceful sleep. You can follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/sleepdiva or at her website www.thesleepdiva.com.

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Nowadays, it’s typical to have a coach for just about anything. We all know football, soccer and tennis coaches, but there’s been a blossoming of executive coaches, life coaches, exercise and wellness coaches, even ADD coaches. Why would we need a coach for sleeping? Isn’t it something we just do? After all, 99.99% of human beings do it every night or every day. And the body’s designed to do it naturally without help. It’s almost like having a breathing coach when that’s something that just comes naturally.

It seems that modern life has caused a lot of interference with sleeping. 70% of us report having trouble sleeping of one kind or another at least 2-3 nights a week. That’s most of us having trouble with something that should be normal and natural, but apparently isn’t these days. That large percentage may be a temporary situation, but now think about this.

20-30% of Americans have chronic, ongoing sleep problems – the type that cause traffic accidents, poor work performance, and contribute directly to nuclear disasters and large oil spills. Did you know that the captain of the Exxon Valdez and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster were later found to be seriously sleep-deprived? Though most of us will not have such an impact on the world because of our sleepiness, the personal consequences are bad enough. Why not have some help overcoming such an important problem?

Sleep coaching is a relatively new field in sleep medicine, along with testing and training for sleep apnea and sleep-related breathing disorders. Many of us have gotten to the chronic level of sleep problems by trying to create our own solutions to the sleep problems we have. We think of a “nightcap” as a help to our sleep, or the ever-popular “sleeping pill” as another quick fix. We beg our doctors to give us something that will help, if even temporarily, our anguish in going to sleep or staying asleep. Then when that is removed, because we can’t take sleeping pills to get good sleep forever, we’re right back where we started or even in a worse place than when we started.

A good sleep coach helps us assess and treat the variety of sleep issues and sleep-related issues that underlie a problem that has become chronic. By the time our problem is chronic, we’ve probably tried all the simple remedies recommended on the internet or by our friends. As with anything, it’s important to discuss sleep problems with your doctor to rule out underlying medical issues that may contribute to poor sleep – medications and chronic medical conditions that affect sleep, habits that foster sleep disruption and early morning awakening. Then we need the help of someone trained to make the call of what’s ailing our sleep – a sleep coach.

Dr. Marcia Lindsey – sleep coach, psychologist, Texas sleeper – coaches by phone those with chronic sleep problems to better, more peaceful sleep. You can follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/sleepdiva or at her website www.thesleepdiva.com.

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Gratitude and Sleep

by admin on January 20, 2010 · 0 comments

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Sometimes it’s hard to get to sleep because all the remains of the day are swirling around in our minds.  We try to solve problems but often it’s the hard things that happen that stay on our minds unresolved.  Why did I do that… How much work have I left undone…What do I tell my child about what’s happening in the family…What can I do about those health problems.  The thoughts can be endless and circular, robbing us of descending into a peaceful night’s sleep.

One way to prepare for letting go of life’s worries at night is to head them off at the pass.  We can actually re-focus on what’s been right about our day and train the brain to slip quietly into peaceful slumber. One way to do this is through a gratitude journal.  Just as we prepare to go to bed, we can focus on the three things that went right in our day.  As those three things come to mind, take a deep breath and savor those.  Expand on the joy of them as you breathe them into your being.

Sometimes that main thing that was good about our day can be something as simple as a great sunset, or a peaceful morning or a good night’s sleep the night before. Maybe we have accomplished something, large or small, that was an obstacle in our path.  Or perhaps a feeling of satisfaction is there from a sweet moment in a personal relationship. No matter what else has happened today, we can go to these moments, be present in them and take them in again, this time with greater appreciation. We can sense their presence in a new way that calms the body and relaxes the mind. We can cultivate a sense of gratitude.

The ideal time to do this is the moments we are getting into bed and getting the mind ready for sleep.  Here lies a state of consciousness not quite awake and yet not quite asleep, that allows us to drift effortlessly into a positive mind state that will further enhance the quality of our sleep.


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We’ve all had the experience of going to sleep in a strange bed when on vacation, visiting family or attending a meeting. Is it the strange bed, the noise outside the room, the light coming through the window or the difference in temperature from our own room? Or all of the above? While at home, we have considerable control over how our sleep environment is arranged. Here are four things to consider:

  • Get the most comfortable bed you can afford. This is not the same thing for all of us. Some like a very firm mattress; others prefer one much softer. Although research touts the benefits of a firmer mattress in supporting the back and body stress points, mattresses are a matter of personal preference and if you have what you’re comfortable with, you’re more likely to go to sleep easily;
  • Make sure your pillow supports the curve of your neck so that your spine is in a straight and aligned position. Many pillows do little to support the spine. Invest in one that keeps your body in great alignment and reap the benefits of great posture while you sleep. Consider the position you’re sleeping in. This can also affect how restful your sleep becomes;
  • In general, complete darkness is best for the brain to shut completely down, the ideal sleep environment. Like our computer, the brain shuts down gradually over the nighttime hours with increasing darkness. Many people, for a variety of good reasons, like to sleep with a light on, which does limit the complete relaxation of the brain as long as light is coming into the pineal gland. If you need to keep a light on, or even if a small amount of light comes into your room, using a sleep mask might be a good alternative to more restful, deeper sleep.
  • The best environment for sleep is a room that’s cool, but not cold. Depending on your climate and the season of the year, this can be achieved by a variety of temperature adjustments in the room, clothing you wear to bed and sheets, quilts and blankets on the bed. Many times, a small fan can help keep air circulation in the room from becoming stagnant and stale. Notice how you’ve slept in the morning, and try making adjustments in each of these things to see if your sleep improves.

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Going to sleep at night would seem as natural as rolling off a log, right? Well on any given night 30-70% of us don’t find it easy to do what’s so natural. Here are some of the most common mistakes we make:

1. Changing our bedtime from night to night

When we don’t have a consistent bedtime, the body never gets into a pattern of knowing when it’s time to go to sleep. We have to train the brain and the body that it’s time to get ready for bed, and then time to go to sleep. As much as possible, get to bed at the same time every night.

2. Eating too large or too rich a meal too close to bedtime

If you’re a working person, with the demands of today’s work world, it’s tempting to work late, come home late and shove down a fairly sizeable meal. The food barely has time to digest, and often doesn’t, interfering with the body’s need for a relaxed and clear digestive track. This in turn interferes with going to sleep. Consider how to fix that problem earlier in the day.

3. Going to bed hungry

In seeming contrast to 2. above is many people’s need for a bedtime snack. Because low blood sugar can often be the cause of waking up during the night, a bedtime snack IS a good idea, provided it’s the right kind. Since the goal is to even out the blood sugar, rather than kick it into high gear, the snack should contain a little bit of protein (that’s important) and some easily digestible carbohydrates. A bowl of ice cream does not really fill the bill, sorry to say.

4. Watching tv, surfing the web or text messaging right up to the moment of trying to go to sleep
Why not, you say? These things relax me! Well, actually, each of these is stimulating in itself, though it may focus your energy into one place. But the real reason is that each of these contains blue light, which interferes with the gradual production of melatonin, the chemical that gets us down into sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try turning off these devices about an hour before bedtime and reading or relaxing in another way leading up to bedtime.

5. Going to bed in a less than comfortable sleep environment

Whether it’s a lumpy mattress, a stuffy room or a noisy bed partner that interferes with getting to sleep, each of these has an important role in our readiness to get a great night’s sleep. Most of these things are fairly easy to correct, unless you sleep with a snorer, but consider your sleep environment as you would the site of a great vacation. Choose it with care and thought, invest some money in it and reap the benefits.

6. Letting worries take over your attempts to go to sleep
All of us have things on our mind that could be the cause of a less than great night’s sleep. Try to keep a pencil and paper by your bed to write some of these things down and get them off your mind and onto the paper for the morning so you can relax into sleep. If worries persist over time, seek some help for them so you can sleep.

7. And perhaps most serious, is to let sleep problems persist, whatever their cause, without investigating what can be done about them. Most sleep problems can be helped. The longer you wait to find out what you can do about them, the more likely you are to develop secondary worries about going to sleep that are on top of the actual sleep problem.

Take Action Now!

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Have trouble relaxing as it’s time to go to sleep? It may not just be the worries on your mind or the remains of the day knocking at your mind’s door. Studies show that many of us are deficient in the mineral magnesium, which is a big factor in going to sleep in a relaxed mode. Magnesium can be one of the body’s natural calming agents for nervousness, both at night and throughout the day. Magnesium is also a natural sedative.

Some of the major symptoms of chronic magnesium deficiency are agitated sleep with multiple awakenings, night terrors and restless leg syndrome. On the other side of the equation, a high magnesium, low aluminum diet has been associated with good quality sleep and not awakening during the night. Magnesium supplementation has been associated with reduced time to fall asleep and uninterrupted sleep, so consider magnesium as one of the essential ingredients of good sleep.

An ideal daily dose of magnesium is 1000 mg. taken across the day in divided doses to maintain muscle relaxation and the body’s sense of serenity, and 250 mg has been reported to be sleep-inducing.

Foods that are rich in magnesium include almonds, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, cashews, kelp and wheat bran. Because these are foods that we seldom consume in large daily quantities, most of us need a boost from a quality nutritional supplement.

In addition, another easy, relatively inexpensive way to get your magnesium is through a simple recipe from multiple preventive health experts: a baking soda/Epsom salts bath. Just add 2 cups of Epsom salts and a cup of baking soda + ten drops of your favorite relaxing essential oil (lavender is great for this, but there’s also tea tree or geranium) to the hottest water you can tolerate, and soak for 20 minutes. This relaxing bath not only lowers your stress level and enhances your sleep with magnesium, but it lowers your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It’s an all around boon to great sleep.

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Are you informed about the basics of getting yourself to sleep by what you eat?  It’s hard to believe but what you eat all day has an important influence on how you sleep.   This is especially true for the hours in the late afternoon and early evening.  Here are the main everyday factors that have an effect on a peaceful night’s sleep

  • Eat a light to moderate dinner meal at least three hours before your bedtime so your food can digest completely.  Because your digestive system slows at night, heavier meals closer to bedtime are difficult to digest and can remain in the stomach,  interfering with going to sleep.
  • Better still, eat your largest meal of the day at lunchtime, leaving nighttime for warm, light, easily-digestible meals.
  • A light snack containing mostly carbohydrates and a little protein (such as an apple and cheese or yogurt) shortly before bedtime is an ideal way to avoid going to bed hungry or out of balance with blood sugar.
  • Certain foods are sleep promoting or have a calming, sedative effect.  Among these are green, leafy vegetables, especially lettuce, whole grains (wheat, brown rice, oats), mushrooms, fruit and the spices dill and basil.
  • Certain foods increase serotonin, the neurotransmitter that promotes sleep (more about this later).  These include breads and other complex carbohydrates, legumes, peanuts, fish and poultry.
  • Remember tryptophan.  We’ve all heard how turkey makes us sleepy after the Thanksgiving meal, but there are other foods containing tryptophan that do the same.  Among these are yogurt, milk, bananas, figs, dates, milk, tuna, nut butters, grapefruit and whole grain crackers.
  • And last, but not least, your grandmother was right!  Warm milk with a little honey is an ideal pre-bedtime, sleep-inducing snack.
  • Think about being good to your body by considering what you eat at night as one way to get a restful night’s slumber.

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    If you’ve opened a magazine or newspaper in the last five years, you’ve probably heard or read about sleep apnea. Most of us think of it as the snoring problem which drives our bed partner to toss and turn, and even wake us up during the night so they can get some rest. Until our partner becomes more insistent about our snoring, we don’t even realize that we do snore, and that our snoring could rock a freight train off it’s tracks. Most people who snore are not aware of it until someone else points it out, and are often in denial about the potential seriousness of this sleep disorder that affects 5 – 8% of the population. So what if it bothers them, it doesn’t bother me, one of my clients told me.

    Well, actually it does bother you. True sleep apnea, which is not necessarily all of those who snore, has significant health risks attached, and possible life-threatening consequences over time. Snoring is the body’s sign of not getting enough oxygen and gasping for breath in an attempt to take in more oxygen. At a lesser level, before snoring ensues, there may be several minor awakenings that rouse the body from deeper sleep into a state of lightened sleep which is not as restorative to the inner organs, blood pressure, blood sugar or the heart.

    This often results in waking up tired in the morning even when you’ve had a normal number of sleep hours. This chronic state of fatigue can become so pronounced that you find yourself falling asleep in the daytime, even in situations where it could be dangerous, like when driving. Over time, when the body’s not taking in sufficient oxygen, the heart and brain are also deprived of oxygen and the low oxygen saturation level in the blood can result in heart attacks or even seizures.

    Have you been told by your bed partner that you stop breathing briefly during your sleep? That’s another key sign that you may have a medical problem that needs investigating. Those with sleep apnea can rouse from sleep hundreds of times in an hour, and can completely stop breathing for more than a minute, both inducing oxygen-deprivation and fractured, disrupted sleep.

    The message here is to take snoring seriously, both if you’re the one who snores or the one who is awakened by the snoring. Does snoring mean you have sleep apnea? NO. What it does mean is that some action needs to be taken to consult a doctor about your symptoms and how they can best be treated. There are many options for treating snoring that is not sleep apnea, and only a medical professional can suggest what’s best for you.

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