National Sleep Week – April 23 to April 29 – is upon us. But, sadly, so is unsettled sleep patterns or insomnia. There are numerous factors that steal our slumber. Insomnia is characterized by delayed sleep onset, or waking up, and tossing and turning for several hours. Either way, it amounts to severely disrupted sleep, and often the inability to achieve one full sleep cycle. The results are profound – loss of cognitive clarity and efficiency, daytime fatigue, and decreased productivity. Also, slower reflexes can result.
The National Sleep Foundation has quite a few recommendations, notably about ensuring your bedroom is sleep-environmentally friendly. This encompasses all your senses. For example, the sense of smell: lavender is a calming scent, which has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure. Lavender essential oils are great here. Fresh, clean-scented bedding helps, too. Your sense of hearing plays a part too, and the Foundation recommends generating “white noise,” which is a consistent, somewhat rhythmic low sound such as the hum of an air conditioner, or ceiling fan. If you are a bedtime TV watcher who likes to fall asleep to it, make the sound low enough. Typical station programming volume rises and falls (and those pesky “But wait, there’s more!” yelling commercials, which will disturb sleep to a degree.)
And of course, there’s the TV light, which also is highly inconsistent – bright one moment, dark the next. In our society within the past decade, flat-screen devices have become a major culprit of sleep disturbances for Americans of all ages. A poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 95% of people use some type of computer, video game, or cell phone at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed.
Yet, recent research has found that electronics that emanate light can disrupt sleep; because the light sends alert signals to the brain. Devices such as computers, flat-screen TVs, tablets, cellphones and some energy-efficient lightbulbs emit short-wavelength blue light, particularly around 460-nanometers – this light tends to delay melatonin release.
The recommendation is to try to ensure that electronic devices are kept out of the bedroom. It takes awhile for the brain to “power down,” and the blue light may delay sleep onset. Also, try not to use these devices for about an hour before bed.
For fun, below are odd – but real – insomnia cures from the past, compiled by the folks who developed the meditation app, calm.com:
- Rubbing dog’s earwax on your teeth
2. Eating sea slug entrails before bed
3. Drinking a potion containing the bile of a castrated boar
4. Rubbing mouse fat on the soles of your feet
5. Shampooing hair with yellow soap
6. Eating fried lettuce before bed
7. Eating a raw onion before bed
8. Pointing your bed northwards
9. Watching a video of a crossword puzzle tournament
10. Curling and uncurling your toes
We recommend adding serenity to your day – it is empowering, and of course, it can help you sleep better. Check out Calm.com – and its app, available from Google Play and App Store.