To Sleep, Perchance to Dream v.1

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I am jealous of the sleep habits of my collegiate son, who for some time now has been able to log 10 hours of sleep in a single night...

I am jealous of the sleep habits of my collegiate son, who for some time now has been able to log 10 hours of sleep in a single night.

One of the "gifts" of aging is an alteration in our sleep patterns, causing us to have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Insomnia affects about a third of all adults, and can have significant effects on our health. This post addresses ways to alter your environment to improve sleep. Future posts will suggest ways to adjust your behaviors and identify the point when you should seek medical help for poor sleep.

Your bedroom should be reserved for sleep and sex. Consider watching TV, checking e-mail, paying bills, talking on the phone -- even reading -- in a place other than where you sleep.

To improve your bedroom's environment, take machinery that lights up or makes noise out of your room. That may include a television, a computer or modem, even one with a tiny light. If this machinery can't be moved, try taping over the LED lights with black electrician's tape. My computer pulses light when it's asleep, as does my mouse. Unplugging the mouse and taping over the indicator light made a surprising difference in the ambient light in my room.

Is your room too hot, too light, or too noisy? Simple sounds -- a ceiling fan rattle or a wall clock ticking -- can amplify when you're sleepless. How old IS your mattress? Parsonage living presents many challenges, but you can certainly find inexpensive ways to darken a too-bright room, and it may be wise to invest in a good mattress that moves with you. And does the phone have to be right next to the bed, or can it live elsewhere?

Can your spouse reach another blanket, or can you kick the covers off without waking each other? Does your pet's sleeping on your bed wake you? I had a dog who chased something in her dreams, and made enough noise to wake me on more than one occasion.

Begin your journey to improved sleep by checking to see whether simple changes to your bedroom could make a big difference.

Yours in health,
Robin

Robin Swift, MPH
Health Programs Director
Clergy Health Initiative

Photo Credit: Flickr/caribb

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