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March 3 to 10 is National Sleep Awareness Week in the U.S. this year, and one of the symptoms of depression is difficulty sleeping. People may be unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, or they might sleep for more than 12 hours at a time when depressed.
Lack of good sleep can make a generally cheerful person grouchy. Those of us who are irritable with depression are wise to develop habits known to promote sleep.
Good sleep habits will not guarantee a restful night’s sleep 100 percent of the time, but by maintaining the habits we can slumber well more often.
The bedroom should be a quiet, comfortable room where the main business of the day is sleeping. Having a TV in the bedroom is not conducive to sound sleep. It brightens the room and tends to keep people awake longer into the evening. If you dislike silence, consider exchanging TV shows for soft instrumental music, maybe with nature sounds.
Make sure you get necessary personal business completed before it becomes a worry. Planners, try writing tomorrow’s to-do list before you get ready for bed. If you carry the day’s tension in your muscles, do a few simple stretching exercises just before or after brushing your teeth.
People generally sleep the best in rooms that are dark, quiet and cool. If an outside light source keeps your room bright, hang thick curtains or opaque shades. Noises such as passing traffic can be masked with ear plugs or a white noise machine. If you do not feel relaxed and supported on your mattress or pillow, they could be keeping you awake; time to replace them.
The human body seems to appreciate regular waking and sleeping hours. If you have problems sleeping, go to bed and rise in the morning at the same times every day. Your habit-loving body will get the hang of it quickly.
However, being rigid about a sleep schedule is not helpful either. On nights when you cannot fall asleep after about 20 minutes of lying still, getting up to read or listen to soft music until you feel sleepy is best.
If you are not sleeping at night, it is time to be honest about how much you nap during the day. Limit your naps to a half-hour or less, and do not start one after 3:00 p.m.
Most people have trouble sleeping when they go to bed stuffed or hungry. When snacking close to bedtime, avoid caffeine, nicotine and sugary foods, or any substance that occasionally upsets your stomach.
Half of a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread and a small glass of milk or warm water about an hour before bedtime is a good snack option. Remember, alcohol may make you drowsy but can prevent you from sleeping through the night.
A simple bedtime ritual might be taking a warm bath and then reading for 20 minutes. Listening to relaxing music while you prepare for bed is another good one. Any routine before crawling between the sheets will signal to your body that it is time to slow down. For most of us, this routine should not include computers, TV, handheld games or novels labeled as thrillers.
People who lead an active lifestyle sleep better at night. The activity does not have to be strenuous. Yoga, walking and qi gong are all excellent forms of exercise, as is yard work, vacuuming and organizing the garage. Some of us need more vigorous exercise during the day if we are going to sleep well, but consult your doctor before going from couch potato to putting on running shoes.
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