Sunday, October 12, 2008

Get More Beauty Sleep

I don't get enough sleep. I go to bed between 10 and 10:30 on weeknights and my dreaded alarm sounds off at 5:50 am. Even if I sleep through the night, I always feel like I could use more dream time.

Ask all the beauty experts out there and they'll probably all tell you to get more sleep, that sleeping more makes your skin look more radiant, your hair shinier, and reduces some of the effects of aging. But like me, I bet most of you aren't getting enough sleep.

I know one of my problems (along with a super busy schedule) is that I think too much to fall asleep quickly. And tonight, Sunday night, is perhaps the worst week for falling asleep easily. So what's a girl to do?
Here are some tips from Prevention magazine on fighting off insomnia and drifting off to dreamland:

Turn off your mind: Keep yourself from rehashing a stressful day of worries by focusing your thoughts on something peaceful and non-threatening, says Michael Stevenson, Ph.D., a psychologist and clinical director of the North Valley Sleep Disorders Center in Mission Hills, California. Play some soft, soothing music as you drift off or some environmental noise, such as the sound of a waterfall, waves crashing on a beach, or the sound of rain in a jungle. The only rule: Be sure it's not intrusive or distracting.

Don't turn your bed into an office or a den: "If you want to go to bed, you should be prepared to sleep," says Magdi Soliman, Ph.D., a professor of neuropharmacology at Florida A&M University College of Pharmacy in Tallahassee, Florida. "If there's something else to do, you won't be able to concentrate on sleep. Don't watch TV, talk on the phone, argue with your spouse, read, eat, or perform mundane tasks in bed. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.

Say no to a nightcap: Avoid alcohol at dinner and throughout the rest of the evening, suggests Dr. Stevenson. And don't fix a so-called nightcap to relax you before bed. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, but it also disrupts sleep. In a few hours, usually during the middle of the night, its effects wear off, your body slides into withdrawal, and you'll wake up.

Try sex before bedtime: For many, it's a pleasurable and mentally and physically relaxing way to let loose before settling down to sleep. Indeed, some researchers have found that hormonal mechanisms triggered during sexual activity help enhance sleep. But again, it depends on the person, according to James K. Walsh, Ph.D., the executive director and senior scientist at the Sleep Medicine and Research Center of St. John's/St. Luke's Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, and adjunct professor of psychology at Saint Louis University. "If sex causes anxiety and creates problems, it's not such a good idea. But if you find it enjoyable, it can do a lot for you."

Avoid stimulants after twilight: Coffee, colas, and even chocolate contain caffeine, the powerful stimulant that can keep you up, so try not to consume them past 4:00 p.m., says Merrill Mitler, Ph.D., the director of research for the Division of Chest, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the Scripps Clinic Sleep Disorders Center in San Diego, California. Don't smoke either; nicotine is also a stimulant.

Eat a light snack before bedtime: Bread and fruit will do nicely an hour or two before you hit the hay, says Sonia Ancoli-Israel, Ph.D., a psychologist and a professor in the department of psychiatry and research director of the Sleep Center at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. So will a glass of warm milk. Avoid sugary snacks that can excite your system or heavy meals that can stress your body. Use common sense. If you're older, don't drink a lot of fluids before bed, or bathroom duty might call in the middle of the night.

Learn and practice relaxation techniques: The harder you try to sleep, the greater the chances you'll end up gnashing your teeth all night rather than stacking some Zzzs. That's why it's important to relax once you're in bed. "The one problem with insomnia is that people often concentrate too much on their sleep, and they press too hard," Dr. Stevenson says. "The key to successfully falling asleep is to reduce your focus and avoid working yourself into a frenzy."

Biofeedback exercises, deep breathing, muscle stretches, or yoga may help. Special audiotapes can teach you how to progressively relax your muscles.

Here are two techniques that doctors have found particularly successful:

  • Slow down your breathing and imagine the air moving slowly in and out of your body while you breathe from your diaphragm. Practice this during the day so that it's easy to do before you go to bed.
  • Program yourself to turn off unpleasant thoughts as they creep into your mind. To do that, think about enjoyable experiences you've had. Reminisce about good times, fantasize, or play some mental games. Try counting sheep or counting backward from 1,000 by 7s.

Sweet dreams!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Also, warm milk! Just pop a glass in the microwave for a few.

Some people think it's gross, but there's some chemical in the milk that makes you sleepy if you warm it up--scientifically proven! =3