Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
This Blog is published for information and educational purposes only. No warranty, expressed or implied, is furnished with respect to the material contained in this Blog. The reader is urged to consult with his/her physician or a duly licensed mental health professional with respect to the treatment of any medical or psychological condition.


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Monday, August 26, 2019

How to Get a Good Night's sleep

Don't just toss and turn in bed when you are having trouble sleeping. Get up and do something Boring!  

When I was working in the New Jersey State Prison system, each of us in the Psych Department had to meet with one group of prisoners per week to teach a class in "sleep hygiene," because as you might imagine, it's easy to get your days and nights mixed up in there. We were able to trade notes freely among each other, and over time we accumulated quite a bit of useful information which I'd like to share with you.

The most important thing keeping people awake at night is probably worrisome thoughts. The following video by Eckhard Tolle shows how to turn them off.

Here are some other things that will help.
  •  Make sure you get enough daylight so that your body will be able to establish a daily wake-sleep rhythm. Some people have found commercially-available light boxes to be helpful, especially if you live in a location where there is less sunlight during certain seasons of the year. This lack of sunlight can lead to a condition known as seasonal affective disorder  (more popularly known as "cabin fever"), characterized by periods of depression and interference with regular sleep patterns.
  • Keep the bedroom dark and quiet. Darkness causes the body to produce melatonin, a natural sleep-inducing agent.
  • Your body remembers what it feels like as you are falling asleep, but the memory is stored directly in your muscles. Get into a comfortable position and bring that memory back into conscious awareness. Hold  onto it, and let it fill your mind completely..
  • Don't play on the smartphone, the computer, or watch television. They all give off light which suppresses the melatonin in your system and overstimulates the brain,   
  • Most people need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Trying to get by on less than this biologically-determined amount builds up a sleep debt which  cuts into your well-being and efficiency, and becomes harder and harder to repay.
  • Establish a consistent sleeping schedule. People tend to become sleepy 24 hours after they last went to sleep, and awaken 24 hours after they last woke up. Significant changes in either time -- especially shift work schedules which frequently change -- disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.
  • If your sleep is troubled by nightmares, or if you have personal problems which prevent you from getting the sleep you need, you may want to consider seeking professional assistance.
  • Have a set ritual before going to bed. 
  • Limit the amount of food you eat for the last two hours before you go to bed.
  • Limit your daily use of caffeine, or eliminate it entirely.  One or two cupsc of coffee or tea  is probably okay to get you going in the morning, but using coffee, tea, or other drinks which are high in caffeine throughout the day only makes it harder to repay your sleep debt.
  • Exercise regularly, preferably in the morning. .
  • If possible, adopt a life style which reduces your total amount of stress.
  • While most of us prefer not to use prescribed sleep medications, millions of people do use them regularly without ill effects. Melatonin, the favorite of many, is available without prescription. Others prefer nutraceuticals such as St. John's Wort.
  • We frequently do not notice the "aches and pains" in our bodies because we have grown so used to them, but they can still interfere with our sleep.  Many prople find that taking a couple of aspirin, ibuprophin, or Tylenol works well before going to bed, particularly when they do not wish to feel groggy from sleep medication the next day. 
  • Perhaps most importantly, use the bed only for sleeping and for sex. Instead of tossing and turning, find  something boring to do until you get sleepy. This helps you to avoid a conditioned association between not sleeping and being in bed.
  • If it takes you a while to get back to sleep after getting up to use the bathroom, consider allowing yourself an extra hour or so in bed so that you can still get all the sleep that you need. 
  • You can tell your virtual assistant to play soothing music or background sounds such as ocean waves or falling rain to lull you to sleep -- or you can even ask it to tell you a bedtime story!