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Five Pointers to Sleeping Soundly

     How many people go to bed tired and ready to enter Dreamland but have difficulty falling and/or staying asleep? Sometimes medication is necessary; however, many can improve their sleep with these five simple pointers.

1. Create the sleep space. Bedrooms need to be dark, quiet, safe, and a comfortable temperature (cooler is usually best). To make a room dark, try blackout curtains or a sleeping mask. Extra lights in the room, like clocks, cellphones, and monitors affect your sleep patterns. These things can also tempt you to stay up late. Some research has shown the more electrical items in a bedroom that are plugged in, the more it disturbs your brain's sleep patterns. A white noise machine can create soothing sounds, and cover up distracting noises. Feeling unsafe will prevent sleep. Check your locks. If you travel, plan accommodations in safe areas of your destination. If it's your partner or roommate whom you feel unsafe around, seek help from a therapist or another appropriate authority.

2. Wake up and go to bed at the same time daily - even on weekends. Changing your sleep schedule upsets the balance of your inner clock. Besides, you cannot make up for the hours of lost sleep. Your body likes schedules, so it is beneficial to go to sleep at the same time each night. 

3. Salute the sun. Within 15 minutes of waking, go outside and soak up some sun. This helps set your body's internal light-dark clock. If it's overcast, storming, or freezing outside, use the natural light in your home. 

4. Avoid certain foods. Caffeine is a stimulant. Try to avoid using caffeine after lunch to help your body prepare for evening. Spicy foods can cause indigestion which wakes you. Alcohol disrupts normal sleep patterns. While the old tale is that it will put you to sleep, it actually prevents you from getting restorative deep sleep.

5. Use mini-meditations and a "worry book." During your waking hours, take the time to practice meditation. Take brief breaks from your day, shut your eyes, and breathe deeply (using your diaphragm). You can even do some progressive muscle relaxations (tensing and relaxing muscles). An overactive mind will have many thoughts while meditating. Allow these thoughts to come and go; don't try to change them or act on them - just BE. At night, you can practice a longer time, and likely drift off to sleep. If your worries continue to plague you, set aside time during the day to write down your worries and then write ways to solve them (no longer than 15 minutes for worries and then for solutions). You can actually train your brain to deal with stressful things during the time of day you set aside for it. Do not keep a notepad next to your bed because, even if a problem wakes you in the middle of the night, you can go back to sleep. If you turn on the light to write it down, you are now engaging and stimulating your brain, making sleep more difficult.

(Resource: All About You, Winter 2012, ViMax Publishing & Marketing, Inc and Affiliated Foods Midwest)

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