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December 20, 2016

It is a fact that a lot of us suffer from the inability to get a good night’s sleep.


Sadly, there are too many things to keep us awake.  It is estimated that almost half of the American population is sleep-deprived, for one reason or another.  When we were little kids, we resisted bedtime because we didn’t want to miss out on anything.  I strongly suspect that some adults suffer from the same syndrome.  We tend to trade sleep for more time awake…time to work or play or watch TV or surf the Internet.  We still don’t want to miss out on anything!  How old are we, really?


Sleep deprivation has some serious effects on our bodies and on our minds.  It impairs our ability to think.  Our concentration levels drop, and our memory tends to develop holes.  Our brains simply do not operate as well without adequate sleep.  Decision-making abilities are compromised, and it becomes much more difficult to solve problems.  When we are tired, we don’t handle stress as well, and fatigue defeats our capabilities to maintain a healthy immune system.  Our emotions can more easily get out of hand, effecting us and those around us.  Depression, tremors, slowed speech, heart disease and hypertension can be the result of lack of proper rest.  Lack of sleep may even effect how well you maintain your weight, because your blood sugar and appetite tend to bounce around.


Even if you are lucky enough to get plenty of sleep, keep in mind that about half of the other drivers out there every day are suffering from sleep deprivation.  Comforting, isn’t it?


So, you are worried about your health or your finances or your family or whatever and you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since the ‘50s, and here I am yammering at you about how dangerous it is.  What good is that?


I want to summarize some of the steps that might help you.


Lay off the caffeine!


You probably know that coffee anytime after noon is not a good idea.  However, many cola drinks, chocolate, and other food and drinks contain significant amounts of caffeine.  Be careful what you eat or drink in the afternoon and especially during the hours just before bedtime.


Find activities that relax you.


In our modern world of multitasking, it is way too easy to watch television, answer e-mails, and answer your sister’s phone call right up until the time that you fall into bed, only to lay there wondering why the heck you can’t drop off.  Try meditation or restful music.  If you can establish a ritual that tells your body and your mind that it’s time to relax, it becomes much easier to do so.


Keep a journal.


Once you write something down, you don’t have to remember it anymore.  So many of us lay awake, worrying about stuff that we have done, stuff that we haven’t done, stuff over which we have absolutely no control.  Write it all down, knowing that you can pick it back up in the morning.  If you want to worry about it then, fine!  Just don’t take it to bed with you.


Sugar is bad.  Alcohol is worse.


Sugar tends to jack up your adrenal glands, which either keeps you awake or wakes you up in the middle of the night.  Alcohol may relax you and help you to go to sleep, but alcohol metabolizes into sugar in the body, and then guess what? 


Turn the lights off.


Melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep, can be purchased at the health food store.  (As usual, check with your doctor before you add anything to the plethora of stuff that you already take.)  Melatonin is also produced naturally in the body, but light tends to interfere with its production.  It is best to keep your sleeping quarters as dark as possible.  We tend to sleep at night and do whatever it is that we do during the day.  Take advantage of that fact.


That said, naps are our friends!  I love naps!  When our daughter was a baby, the first two things that I taught her were how to blow her nose and that naps were good!  Best things I ever did!


Uncle Jim



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