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Help, I Can’t Sleep!

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The National Sleep Foundation just released the results of its 2011 survey of Sleep in America®. Sixty percent of those polled reported that they have a problem sleeping every night or almost every night. And they don’t feel rested when its time to get up.

Part of the problem may be our reluctance to shut off the world at bedtime. A full 95% of us don’t un-plug from our electronic devices before trying fall asleep. We watch TV, stay at the computer screen, play one more video game or continue to text within the hour before going to bed. 

It is well known that artificial light suppresses the hormone melatonin, which helps promote sleep. The light from all of our screens may be keeping us from having a restful sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following to improve your sleep:

  • Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. 
  • Expose yourself to bright light in the morning and avoid it at night. Exposure to bright morning light energizes us and prepares us for a productive day. Also, prepare for rest by dimming your lights when it’s close to bedtime. 
  • Exercise regularly. Morning exercise can help you get the light exposure you need to set your biological clock. Avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime if you are having problems sleeping. 
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Allow enough time to wind down and relax before going to bed. 
  • Create a cool, comfortable sleeping environment that is free of distractions. If you’re finding that entertainment or work-related communications are creating anxiety, remove these distractions from your bedroom. 
  • Treat your bed as your sanctuary from the stresses of the day. If you find yourself still lying awake after 20 minutes or so, get up and do something relaxing in dim light until you are sleepy. 
  • Keep a “worry book” next to your bed. If you wake up because of worries, write them down with an action plan, and forget about them until morning. 
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages, chocolate and tobacco at night. 
  • Avoid large meals and beverages right before bedtime. 
  • No nightcaps! Drinking alcohol before bed can rob you of deep sleep and can cause you to wake up too early. 
  • Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medications might be contributing to your sleep problem. 
  • Skip all late-afternoon or evening naps, unless you work nights. If you must nap, keep it under 45 minutes and before 3:00 pm.

To these words of advice, we would add that comforting promises from the Bible and a prayer asking God for rest can also help to bring a good night’s sleep:

The Bible says, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8 (NKJV)

If we trust in God, He promises that “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.” Proverbs 3:24 (NKJV)

A few deep breaths before lying down may also help you relax and fall asleep. Ellen White, a 19th century health reformer, advised, “A good respiration soothes the nerves; it stimulates the appetite and renders digestion more perfect; and it induces sound, refreshing sleep.” (The Ministry of Healing, 272)

Author

Dr. Adams is a graduate of Loma Linda University School of Medicine. His MPH is from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Adams is retired from the position of Medical Director of Tarrant County Public Health in Fort Worth, Texas. He is the developer of the Best Weigh nutrition and weight loss program. He is also the author of the Handbook of Health Evangelism and Jesus Was Thin: So You Can Be Thin Too.