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  • Catching those Zzz’s: Sleep Awareness Month
    Added by My Identity Doctor
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    Guide Dog Murray sleeping on my hotel bed tucked in under a towel.It’s Sleep Awareness Month! Of course, you’re probably plenty aware of sleep, given that you spend about a third of your life curled up in bed under the blankets—or at least you should, and you probably know that, too. Sleep is important to help our bodies repair from the wear-and-tear of the day, give our brains some rest to think clearly when we’re awake, and for babies and kids especially, to help them grow.
    At different times in our lives we need different amounts of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation has a great chart that helps you determine if the amount of sleep you and your kids get is within the recommended amount. Sleep needs vary by age, and from person-to-person. Activity level, chronic diseases, and a lot of other factors weigh into how much sleep each person needs in a given night. But, of course, many of us find it hard to get the amount sleep that we need to perform at our best.
    The National Sleep Foundation’s website shares a lot of tips for keeping your bedroom optimal for sleep. Of course, we all know those tips that we should keep devices out of the bedroom like laptops and smartphones, but how many of us actually do? I, for one, use my iPhone both as an alarm clock and to track my sleep time and quality, so I’m certainly not following these recommendations!
    What else goes into an optimal sleep environment? [1]
    • What goes into your body. [1.1]
      • Food: Eating lightly before bed can help you not wake up in the middle of the night hungry, but prevent digestion from keeping you up—a light snack, like milk and cookies or cheese and crackers, will do the trick!
        Caffeine should be avoided after mid-afternon, as it may take until just before bedtime to leave your system.
        Alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but it actually makes it harder for your brain and body to get to the deep sleep zone.
      • Allergens: Sniffling and sneezing can keep you and your partner (and other family members!) from getting deep refreshing sleep. A dust allergy may be a culprit, and a visit to the allergist or Ear Nose and Throat specialist may reveal allergies or other sinus issues that can be treated to help you sleep more soundly. Allergy-friendly bedding may be a good choice if you have allergies and/or asthma—a dust-proof mattress cover may be an investment to make, but these are also recommended for those with dust allergies or asthma.
      • Smells [1.2] Did you know smells can actually influence your dreams? It’s true! (…Although the article did not recommend I bake cookies every night, darn!) Some smells may help relax you and prepare your body for sleep—lavender is one such smell. [1.2] However, remember, essential oils may cause problems for those with asthma or allergies.
    • Senses and sounds [1.3]
      • Feel of bedding: Everyone has different preferences about how your bedding feels, and the weight of bedding. I personally find a weighted blanket helps me to relax, while others like sleeping best only with a sheet! We’ll discuss sleeping temperature in the next section.
      • White and other noise: If you live in a city, it may be hard to create that optimal, quiet sleep environment. White noise machines or calming music may help. Quiet is best, but there are other solutions!
        TV noise should also be minimized. If you fall asleep with the TV on, many TVs come with “sleep mode” settings that will turn your TV off after a certain amount of time—and if you’re still awake, that’s probably a good cue to go to bed anyways!
      • Light / screens Bedrooms should be dark, and especially if you have a sleep schedule where you do not sleep entirely in the dark of night, black-out curtains may be a good option. And of course, there is the recent research about blue light from electronic devices that recommends turning off your screen an hour or so before bedtime, and keeping devices out of the bedroom.
    • Your bed and bedroom [1.4]
      • Mattress, pillows, blankets: With so many choices out there, what’s best for you? Well, that depends on you! A trip to IKEA (or your other favourite bedding and furniture store) may help you decide which type of mattress is best for your sleeping position and preference. It is recommended mattresses be replaced every 8 years (I discovered I needed a new mattress when a hospital gurney was more comfortable than my own bed! Yikes!), and pillows whenever they just don’t feel like they used to.
        Bedding should be washed regularly, including most pillows.
      • What you wear! The material of your PJs may also play a role in how well you sleep!
      • Temperature of the room: Experts recommend keeping your bedroom around 65 degrees for optimal sleep—it’s cool, but that’s what blankets are for! [1.4]
    Of course, daily stresses running through your mind during the night also are not ideal to produce sleep. Journaling before bed can help get these stresses out of your head, and make them into actionable items to conquer the next day. Keeping a notebook beside your bed may help, but since you’ll probably need a light to write in it, it may make just as much sense to jot it down in your phone—as long as you don’t get distracted by social media for an hour.
    If you have certain sleep disorders, or work shift-work, you may need to invest more time into ensuring your bedroom is optimal for sleep so that you can still get enough, whether it is getting a full “night” during the daytime, or taking naps if you need to for medical reasons.
    One common sleep disorder is sleep apnea, which causes breathing to stop while sleeping. A machine, known as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) responds to when you breathe and ensures your airways stay open while you sleep. These machines are completely silent, because of course the sleep doctors especially know the important of keeping your bedroom quiet. If this is a concern you or a loved one has stopping you from using CPAP, know that these machines run even quieter than when your heat or air conditioning kicks in! If you have a sleep disorder, a medical alert bracelet or necklace may be important—we can make custom bracelets for sleep apnea, necklaces or bracelets for narcolepsy, or other disorders that affect sleep.
    While it can be hard to get a good night’s sleep every night, settling into a routine is your best chance to make it happen! Learn how your medications may affect your sleep, and tell your doctor if they are causing you issues with sleep—either making you too sleepy, or keeping you awake.
    Published by My Identity Doctor on March 6, 2017


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