Archive for the ‘fall asleep’ category

Similarities between Childrens Sleep and Gambling?

January 30, 2014

Okay, you may think this is a stretch.  What similarities could there possibly be between children’s sleep and gambling?  Well, let’s talk about it.

Remember from a psychology class the idea of “intermittent reinforcement?”  This is when a behavior is only sometimes rewarded.  Researchers found that in animals, if a behavior was only rewarded about 50% of the time, that behavior would persist longer than if the action always gave a reward.  The same is thought to be true in human beings. 

We see this in gambling, because the gambling behavior is only rewarded by winning on an occasional basis, people will continue gambling for long durations in the hope of getting the reward.

Let’s relate this to helping your young child learn to fall asleep on their own.  After the bedtime routine you say “Goodnight” to your child, leave the room and close the door.  However, your child prefers to fall asleep with you there, so gets up and comes out to get you.  You return to the bedroom with your child, tuck them in, say “Goodnight” leave the room and close the door.  And the cycle repeats, with your child coming to get you, and both of you returning to the bedroom. 

As the night wears on, you are becoming tired, and think “well, if I just lay down with my child until he is asleep, I’ll finally be able to get some rest myself.”  If you sometimes stay with the child until he is asleep, and not other times, you’ve just given intermittent reinforcement, which will keep the child’s behaviour of seeking you out at bedtime to persist.

So for parents, first decide what the ideal scenario and expectations are for your child.  Then, be consistent so there is no “intermittent reinforcement” of the bedtime behaviors you don’t want.   Writing down the plan so that both parents are in agreement, and so you can remember and stay motivated when you are tired can make all the difference.

Tobacco Impacts Your Sleep

May 7, 2012

In past posts we’ve talked about the impact alcohol can have on sleep, which is widely known. Nicotine also has an impact, which seems less well known by the public.

Studies show that nicotine changes sleep, so that it takes longer to fall asleep initially, people sleep a lower percentage of the time in bed, and REM sleep and total sleep time is decreased. None of these are effects we want!

According to the Centers for Disease Control “In 2010, 43.5 million adults (19.3%) in the United States were current smokers—21.5% of men and 17.3% of women.” So that’s about 1 in 5 people who are exposing themselves to nicotine, and suffering the consequences on their sleep.

If you are someone who struggles with sleep, and smokes, it may be worth the effort to stop smoking in order to improve your sleep, and reap all the other health benefits too. Many state health departments have ‘Stop Smoking’ helplines, and your primary care physician can assist you.

Your Bedroom – A Perfect ‘Sleep Cave’

January 9, 2012

Remember the ‘Man Cave’ which was popular a few years back? Well, think of creating a ‘cave’ at home to sleep in, because the ideal sleep environment is indeed cave-like. Below is a check-list to work through as you design the perfect sleep environment. You can also see this month’s issue of SHAPE magazine, with tips from designers and yours truly.
http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/how-give-your-bedroom-better-sleep-makeover

To make a perfect ‘Sleep Cave’:
1. Dark. Should be as dark as a cave, this allows your natural melatonin levels to soar at night and help you sleep.
2. Quiet. Ever sleep in a basement and have a better night’s sleep because it was so quiet? Turn off everything that makes a sound, thus asking for your attention. Do what you can to keep the dog from barking, or his collar from jingling. If there are irregular sounds, a soft white noise machine might be helpful.
3. No electronics. Did a caveman have little lights flashing, or sales texts chirping in the night? Research this last year shows that many people are woken multiple times each week by the phone. Make sure you are not one of these folks by putting your electronics to bed in another room.
4. Comfy. Sleeping surfaces vary widely around the world. What’s most important is that the bed is comfortable for you. Unfortunately bedpartners can prefer different firmness in the mattress. Modify it with extra padding so it’s softer for one, or put a firm board under the mattress so it’s firmer for the other person.
5. Cool. People sleep better when it is cooler than 65, or even cooler at 60 degrees. Adjust both the temperature of the room, and the covers so you aren’t waking up too hot. Many patients tell me they like the bed to be warm when they get into it in the evening, but then get too hot in the night. You can use a heating pad, electric blanket, or hot water bottle to warm the bed beforehand, but then turn it off once you are in bed.
6. Minimal ‘stuff’. Back to those cavemen, they didn’t have so much stuff in their sleeping quarters, did they? Remove all the things from your bedroom that are thought provoking or call for action. You want the bedroom to be a place that you are ‘off-duty’ from the responsibilities of the day.

Although none of these recommendations are high tech, they are based on solid research, and make a huge difference in how well you sleep. Making these changes will be worth it as you get optimal sleep and all its’ daytime benefits!

Sleep In America Poll – Using Technology

March 7, 2011

The new Sleep In America Poll came out today, the first day of National Sleep Awareness Week 2011.

This poll was all about our use of technology during the hour before bed, our nightly sleep, and daytime function. Here are some of the highlights:
- 63% say that during the week their sleep needs are not met
- 60% say they have a sleep problem almost every night
- 95% of us use technology during the hour before bed a few nights a week or more
- 20% of 13-29 year olds say they are awoken by a text, phone call or email several nights a week
-22% of 13-18 year olds are clinically sleepy
- About 10% of 13-45 year olds say they drive drowsy 1-2 times a week

Even the light from your TV or laptop is enough to suppress melatonin. During the hour before bed your melatonin should be increasing, allowing you to become sleepy and fall to sleep easily. The time for bright light is in the morning to get energized.

Skills for Falling Asleep

January 11, 2011

There are many ways a person could experience insomnia. It could be difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night, or being awake for an extended time in the middle of the night, or waking too early.
Whatever time it is, being awake in bed can often lead people to feel frustrated, angry or hopeless about their sleep. As you can imagine, these feelings do nothing to help a person fall asleep. Let’s talk about some strategies to use to help yourself fall asleep.

An ‘Over-active’ Mind
Frequently people tell me that their mind is going a mile a minute once they are awake in bed, that they have ‘buzz brain.’ In this situation, you want to establish boundaries with yourself that bedtime (from lights out to wake time) is not a time to think things through.
So first of all, schedule time 2-3 hours before bed to jot down the thoughts that arise at night, and put them to rest. Spend just 10 minutes on this, so you don’t get further entrenched in those thoughts. You can use any format that works for you – a To Do list, journal, problem and solution brainstorming list, calendar system, or any other format.
Second, if thoughts arise in the night, tell yourself that you already thought about it, and will have time tomorrow, now is time to rest. Putting your thoughts aside like this is a skill, and like all skills, you will get better the more you practice.
Follow this up with purposefully substituting thoughts that help put you to sleep. Some strategies are: a sleep promoting visualization (think dozing on the warm sand at the beach), or slow deep breaths, or repeating a prayer or mantra. For people who are also physically restless, doing progressive muscle relaxation starting with the feet can help still both the body and mind.

Concluding Thoughts
Almost everyone has difficulty sleeping occasionally, and these strategies can help quiet the mind and promote sleep. Establish with yourself that during your sleep time you are “off duty” from all types of thinking or planning. You will feel better for having a good nights sleep, and be better able to think things through well during the day.

Falling Asleep at the Wheel

March 3, 2010

Several years ago I had a neighbor who worked odd hours. Sometimes she’d work in the day, sometimes leave for work at 4pm, and sometimes she’d be in her office for more than 24hrs. Our kitchen and dining room looked out onto her driveway and front door so we frequently saw her coming and going.

And thank goodness we could see her! Several times she pulled into her drive in the morning after being gone all night, and fell asleep right there in the car, with her head on the steering wheel and the engine running. We’d go and wake her when we noticed that the engine wasn’t turned off.

This is just one example of the dangers of drowsy driving. What would have happened if she’d fallen asleep on the road, or if nobody had been there to wake her up?

How to Help Your Baby Sleep Well

February 10, 2010

Once your baby starts to have more sleep at night (about 7 weeks old), you can start to teach them to sleep well. At this point, you can observe when your child is sleepy, and put them down to sleep at that time. The first signs of sleepiness are that your child will become quiet, will stop making eye contact, and will no longer be interested in toys. If your baby starts rubbing her eyes or is fussy, then she is getting overtired. Gradually the times that your child naps will become routine, consolidating into two naps after 6 months of age.

Sleep is interesting because it is shaped by both our physiology and our habits. Here are some habits that will help your baby sleep well.
- Have a bedtime routine that is consistent each night, for instance “Bath, bottle, book, bed.” Write this down and post it so everyone who puts the baby to bed can do it the same way. Research shows that after just 3 weeks of a consistent, relaxing bedtime routine, babies fell asleep more quickly, woke less in the night, and return to sleep more easily.
- Put the baby to bed sleepy but still awake, so that he learns to fall asleep by himself.
- Be thoughtful about the sleep environment your child falls asleep in, and make sure it will be the same during night wakenings so he can return to sleep easily. For example, if the room will be dark and quiet in the middle of the night, it should be dark and quiet when he is put to bed at the beginning of the night.
- Decide what strategy you will use in the middle of the night to help the baby return to sleep, and be consistent each time. Again, post this strategy so you can refer to it in the middle of the night when you are tired.

The most important thing to teach your infant is that when she is sleepy she goes to sleep, and the way to help her fall asleep easily is to be consistent with good sleep habits.

You can learn more about Naturopathic Sleep Medicine at www.naturalsleepmedicine.net.


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