Sleep: What Works

Are you getting enough sleep? It is estimated that 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders ,such as insomnia, and 60 percent of adults have sleep problems a few nights a week or more. Many of us have problems with daytime sleepiness that interfere with daily activities. A high percentage of children experience sleep problems a few nights a week or more.

Irritability, moodiness, depression, impaired memory and problems completing tasks are some of the first signs of lack of sleep. Most of us need 8 hours of restful sleep.

Before running off to the sleep clinic for a study, it’s important to look at the reasons for disturbed sleep and to see if the root cause of sleep problems can be addressed. Sleep problems are a signal from the body. What does the body need to enjoy the restful sleep it needs to stay active and healthy?

What’s great about evaluating where we sleep and our sleep habits is that it these are factors we can begin to address immediately, and almost all of them free:

( ) Is your sleeping room dark, really dark? Even a little light can be disruptive to sleep.

( ) Is it quiet, really quiet? Shhhh. The body needs quiet to sleep.

( ) Is it well ventilated and the right temperature? Consider turning the thermostat way down and adding blankets.

( ) Is the room clean and free of dust? You might consider a small air purifier .

( ) Is your mattress comfortable with just the right amount of support and is it big enough?

( ) Have you made your bed with clean sheets and comfortable pillows?

( ) Does your sleeping partner have a sleep problem that is keeping you up?

( ) Is your TV off? Watching TV before sleeping is not recommended.

( ) Are animals or children (bigger than baby-sized) disturbing your sleep?

( ) Are you staying away from alcohol, caffeinated beverages and food for a few hours before bedtime?

( ) Are you following a regular evening and morning schedule. The body responds to an ordered schedule.

( ) Are you shutting down computers and stopping mentally intense activities prior to going to bed?

( ) Are you engaging in reasonable exercise activities you enjoy? Consider a 30 minute walk in the evenings.

( ) Are you wound-up when you go to bed? Consider a period of relaxation before bed with time to unwind and write down worries and plans for the following day.

( ) Are you dependent on a sleeping pill such as Ambien? Consult with your medical doctor and consider addressing the causes of your sleep problems. Taking sleep medications can disturb restful sleep and have unhealthy side effects.

Stress in the primary cause of sleep disturbances. Some of us have immediate stressors disturbing sleep that will go away. Some need to initiate changes in lifestyle that reduce the effects of stress. Some have chronic stress patterns that benefit from active care such as the chiropractic and cranial therapy. Some need psychological evaluation to treat emotional sources of stress. I will be talking about managing stress in future posts.

A number of health imbalances can contribute to sleep disturbances including emotional disorders (such as depression), hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular (heart) disorders, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome (a cluster of symptoms of imbalance), alcohol and drug abuse, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, back and neck pain.

In my practice, I emphasize natural, drugless approaches including gentle chiropractic, reflex therapies and cranial craniosacral therapy that can be helpful in addressing a number of these problems. Especially important are lifestyle changes including improved nutrition, reasonable exercise and stress management.

Comments are welcomed.

Dr. Arn Strasser is a Portland Chiropractor.

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