Most of us don't need a scientific study for proof of sleep's importance to our health and well-being. A single night of lost or impaired sleep will leave most of us with a feeling of general malaise and fatigue for a day or even longer. It makes us cranky, interferes with our reasoning skills and impairs our ability to deal with daily stress. But sleep doesn't always come easyily in our busy, hyper-connected world.
We all know the drill: on any given night you check your email one last time, have a browse through Facebook or Twitter and finally fall into bed completely exhausted thinking, "I'm gonna sleep good tonight!" But that's when your brain goes into overdrive. You relive the day in your mind and you worry about tomorrow. Then your mind wanders to Things left undone: how you haven't called your parents in ages, that the grass needs mowed, when you'll find time to finally clean out the science experiments growing in the refrigerator. And before you know it, you're reaching for the remote because, clearly, there's no sleep to be had so you might as well see who's on late night TV.
You might think the TV helps lull you to sleep, but it turns out that all that technology in the bedroom could be more culprit than companion when it comes to a good night's rest. Sleep experts recommend expelling cell phones, tablets, computers and even televisions from your bedroom for good. They also say you should give yourself a good one- to two-hour break from electronic devices (including the television) before hitting the sheets because those pretty HD screens actually suppress melatonin, which is the chemical that tells your brain that it's time to mellow out.
So what to do? Create an environment that is conducive to sleep - and only sleep - in the bedroom. First, invest in a good mattress and comfortable pillows and bedding. Second, develop a bedtime routine to help signal your brain that it's time to shift gears. Third, banish those dastardly glowing devices. Retain only your alarm clock and maybe a sound machine to block out distractions from busy streets or noisy neighbors. Finally, read a book - any book as long as it's the paper kind. Reading an actual book, no matter the subject, helps calm the nerves by eliminating sound and vision stimulus (as well as distractions like commercials) and doesn't expose you to melatonin killing light. Experts agree that changing a few Things in your surroundings and routine immediately and dramatically improves sleep patterns. But it doesn't take an expert to tell us what we know from experience: we're all happier and healthier when we're getting our straight eight!
Sleep well. I'll see you next week,