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Dealing with sleepless nights

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Photo Credit: Tyler Ross, Staff Photographer

It’s the beginning of the semester and some students are still in that summer mode. This can affect your sleeping pattern and down the road, have bigger side effects such as depression, lack of concentration/memory, weight gain and stress. Roughly 30 percent of adults have symptoms of insomnia or sleep deprivation. This is not a good way to start off the semester. There are many ways to relieve the lack of sleep. Here are eight:

1) Read a book. Grab a book you have been meaning to get into and read the first chapter or two. After 10 or 15 minutes, you will find your eyes shutting. This is because your eyes are concentrating on the words and your body is shutting down.

2) Listen to music. Plug your iPod headphones into your ears or play a favorite CD full of slow songs. Keep the volume low so if you fall asleep, it won’t wake you up again. Stay in bed once you find yourself getting sleepy. If you get up, you won’t be able to fall back asleep. Keep only one headphone in your ears because you want to be able to hear your alarm in the morning, and keeping them in all night is not good for your ears.

3) Set a bedtime and stick to it. If you just go to sleep when you are tired, you’re sabotaging yourself and could end up oversleeping. Also, eliminate naps. If you nap because you “feel tired,” you’re only making it worse.

4) Wake up at the same time every morning. Just like going to bed at the same time, getting up at the same time is just as important. If you wake up at different times every day, your sleep schedule will be off and you will be more tired.

5) Make your bed comfy. Everyone is different, but if you make your bed relaxing, you will fall asleep faster, whether that means surrounding yourself with pillows or adding blankets,

6) Go to bed full. Nothing is worse than going to bed on an empty stomach. Then your brain is focused on the fact that you’re hungry. Don’t, however, eat right before you sleep. It takes a good two hours for food to digest through your body.

7) Exercise regularly. If you work out at least 30 minutes every day, it can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. However, don’t exercise too late at night. Then your adrenaline will be running, your heart rate will be up and you won’t be able to sleep due to a rise in body temperature.

8) Sounds of nature. Noisy sounds such as dogs barking or garbage trucks can keep you up at night, but quiet sounds such as rain or crickets chirping can help you fall asleep. CDs with these sounds can be expensive, but there are sites you can go to with the same sounds. These sites include Simply Noise and Sound Sleeping. Have an iPod or iPhone? Simply Noise has an app you can download, and there are other apps to help you fall asleep including Good Night Sleep, Sleep Sound’s and iDream-Sleep Maker.

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Now that the semester has started, get your sleep. It is recommended that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night.

2 Comments

  1. chel hamilton Oct 4, 2010

    Nice article. Thank you! And while I think Karoline’s comments are a great addition much of the latest research would show that she is opposite in her recommendations in #3. Complex carbs are not the way to go before bedtime no matter how “whole grain” they may be. Reason? While they may initially make you feel sleepy/satisfied (especially the wheat family as it hits and fills the same receptors in our brains that opium does), all carbs leave the stomach faster than proteins…which means you will feel satisfied longer on a protein snack. Also, even with the fiber from whole grains slowing down the digestion process the only part of the carb that hits your bloodstream (whole grain or refined) is the sugar, and maybe a few vitamins and minerals too. Within a few hours the blood sugar drops as rapidly as it raised…leaving many people to habitually wake up several hours after going to sleep. Drinking alcohol has the same affect as alcohol is sugar too.

    Try the protein snack instead…ESPECIALLY if you have a habit of waking in the middle of the night. You’ll be happy you did!

  2. Karoline Sep 26, 2010

    More ideas on how to get to sleep:
    1. Have some “white noise” in your room, like a fan set on low. This helps many restless sleepers who wake up at the slightest noise because the fan drowns out small noises.

    2. Drink chamomile tea. Chamomile is a plant that has been used as a calming agent for centuries. You can find chamomile tea in almost every grocery store. It’s great for taking the edge off anxiety so a person can drift off to sleep.

    3. If you eat before bedtime make sure you eat complex carbs, not protein. Carbs digest easily; proteins do not. Eating protein is often a good way to stay awake, unless you eat turkey. Turkey contains L-tryptophan and that makes people sleepy. And of course, don’t eat sugary foods before bedtime.

    4. If you really can’t sleep, try some Melatonin. It can be purchased at many drugs stores and grocery stores. It is a hormone replacement than helps people sleep. Young adults usually have plenty of it occurring in their bodies naturally, but as we age our bodies don’t produce so much of it anymore.

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