Rest and Recharge in 2013

Hit the Hay and Catch Some Z’s

There’s one New Year’s resolution you’ll literally want to sleep on. Commit to restful sleep each night, and you’ll feel how it can boost your health and mood. In fact, without the proper amount of sleep, our attention, concentration, reasoning and problem solving are impaired. You can easily forget what you learned and experienced during that day, and brain function can plummet after an extended time of sleep deprivation (parents to newborns can attest to this). During this time of the year, the nights seem longer and the days shorter, but many of us still have difficulty getting a restful night’s slumber. If counting sheep doesn’t help you fall asleep, try these tips to create the right sleeping environment.

Stick to a Sleep Schedule

For better sleeping, experts recommend maintaining a regular bedtime and wake-time schedule including weekends, holidays and days off. Being consistent reinforces the body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night. A regular waking time in the morning strengthens the circadian function, which helps the body balance sleep and wake functions.

Create a Ritual

Do the same things each night to tell the body it’s time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath, reading a book or listening to soothing music away from bright lights. Check out the dedicated section of recommended staff picks at Books Inc., 1344 Park St., and you’ll never be at a loss for good night reading.

At one point, we’re all told to grow up. But in this instance, listen to your inner child when it comes to lullabies and soothing music to lull you to sleep. Let sound machines with white noise and sounds from nature slow down your heart rate and relax. Bed, Bath & Beyond, 2246 South Shore Center, carries Dohm by Marpac Original Sound Conditioner ($59.99) and Homedics Sound Spa Machine ($19.99).

Relaxing activities and low lights can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness. Try outfitting your rooms with light dimmers to give more control of light levels. Encinal Hardware, 2801 Encinal Ave., carries various light dimmer styles ($5.99 to $23.99 each), plus the staff is happy to give advice on how to change your existing lights to dimmers. Be wary of using the TV or other electronic devices as part of your bedtime ritual since the backlights of some electronic devices trick our brains into thinking it is daytime light.

Get Comfortable

Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Consider using room-darkening shades, Levolor Room Darkening roller shades ($11.99 to $14.99) at Encinal Hardware, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. Your mattress, pillow and bedding can contribute to better sleep, too. Because the features of good bedding are subjective, choose what feels most comfortable to you. Luxurious bedding, such as Pine Cone Hill’s ultra-soft bedding sets ($150 to $200) at Daisy’s, 1347 Park St., and Eberjey’s 100 percent rayon pajamas from France ($100) at Poppy Red Flowers, 1428 Park St., can boost comfortableness and take you to dreamland. If you share your bed, make sure there’s enough room for two. If you have children or pets, set limits on how often they sleep with you—or insist on separate sleeping quarters.

Include Physical Activity and Light Exposure in Your Daily Routine

Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep. Alameda is blessed with moderate temperatures and weather year-round, making it conducive for outdoor exercise. In addition, the Island boasts several health clubs and exercise classes for early birds or night owls around town. Timing is important, though. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be too energized to fall asleep. If this seems to be an issue for you, exercise earlier in the day. Increase light exposure during the day and change existing light bulbs to ones that offer full-spectrum light, which eliminates the yellow they cast and mimics sunlight.

Manage Stress

When you have too much to do and too much to think about, your sleep is likely to suffer. To help restore peace to your life, consider healthy ways to manage stress. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Before bed, jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. Try attractive paper pads to keep at bedside, such as Quill and Ink Mini Journal ($4) and Speak Bubble Notepad ($5) at Modern Mouse, 2228 South Shore Center.

Pay Attention to What You Eat and Drink

Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed, because your discomfort might keep you up. Also limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the restroom. You can safely drink a warm cup of decaffeinated tea at least 90 minutes before going to bed. Teas made specifically for nighttime sleep can include calming herbs such as valerian, passionflower and chamomile. Organic Nighty Night by Traditional Medicinals ($5.89), Sleep and Relax by Gaia ($7.99) and Get Some ZZZ’s by The Republic of Tea ($9.29), can be found at Alameda Natural Grocery, 1650 Park St.  Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol, which can take hours to wear off. Even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.

This article appears in the January-February 2013 issue of Alameda Magazine
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