From The Providence Journal / May 7, 2012
A controversial study about sleep in the British Medical Journal recently might be keeping some people awake during May’s Better Sleep Month. The report says that getting a prescription for sleeping pills appears to increase one’s risk for cancer and death.
Carl W. Bazil, MD, Ph.D., Caitlin Tynan Doyle Professor of Clinical Neurology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, says:
“There is an association there, but that does not prove that the pills themselves cause the problem. There may be other related contributing factors.” He suggests looking for better solution than a pill.
Sleep is so important that even losing an hour or two a night can interfere with a person’s thinking and judgment. With interrupted sleep, what can eventually happen is “an involuntary pattern of poor relaxation and sleep interference with associated depression and poor functioning levels,” added Bazil.
He noted: “Although this cycle can be broken by medication, behavioral techniques such as meditation are also very helpful. However, the longer sleeplessness continues, the more difficult it can become to restore good sleep patterns.”
What does he suggest? Here are some general bedtime rules:
æ Go to sleep at about the same time each night, and awaken at the same time each morning.
æ Try not to nap after 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
æ If you are not sleepy, instead of tossing and turning, get up and try quiet, relaxing activities until you feel sleepy, then return to bed.
æ Perform relaxing activities in the hour before bedtime and avoid doing stimulating, frustrating or anxiety provoking activities in bed or in the bedroom such as watching television, studying, or balancing the checkbook
æ Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, is good for both sleep and overall health but it should be completed at least five hours before bedtime.
Basil also advises against coffee, tea, cola or other caffeinated beverages after about noon as well as chocolate late in the day. Quit smoking an hour or two before bedtime. Limit alcohol especially before bedtime. And talk with your doctor about stimulating over the counter medication you might be taking. As for people with insomnia, “It is sometimes helpful to place a paper and pen by the bedside,” said Bazil. “If you find yourself worrying about completing or remembering a task the next day, write it down and let it go.”
Two more tips for a heavenly sleep: Create a space with no clutter and simple harmony using feng shui principles. Then try our Grandmother’s Rule: Never let the sun set on your anger.
Rita Watson, MPH, ( www.ritawatson.com ) is a regular contributor to The Journal and a relationship columnist for our “All About You” section.