Sleeping Well and Getting Up Right

Assuming you don’t have chronic snoring, obstructed nasal passage or sleep apnea problems (which indeed affect millions and millions of Americans), what methods are there for better assuring a good night’s sleep — and then waking up both on time and ready to go?

First, let’s look at some sleep aids related to room ambiance:

The scent of lavender: No one is sure why, but lavender seems to relax and help soothe the savage beast, er, normal person to sleep. “The reason this works is poorly understood, but it may act as a relaxant prior to sleep,” Robert Oexman, DC, director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Mo., explains. You can burn lavender incense to see if it works for you.

Eye masks: It’s been shown that light, sometimes even in the tiniest of amounts, can suppress or retard the body’s production of melatonin, a crucial sleep hormone. Even lights from clocks and other necessary but ignored room fixtures can interfere with sleep. On the road especially, you may find you need eye masks to cope in a strange hotel room where you can’t necessarily control the sources of light. The key overall is getting eye masks that are comfortable and don’t in turn interfere with sleepy-bye time.

Room color: Certain bedroom colors seem more conducive to sleep than others, but you may find the list surprising. Soothing, sleep-inducing colors include purple and blue, but on the soft side. You may need to balance the need for room-color sleep facilitation and daytime appearance of the room in deciding whether to go purple. Still, it’s important to consider all aspects of getting a good night’s sleep.

Now, as for waking up in the morning, many people have the habit of hitting the snooze alarm and trying to doze off for “a few more.” Usually, this just makes it harder to get up when time really becomes critical and also normally does little to revive the body if you haven’t already had a restful night’s sleep.

To the rescue come what are called “smart alarm clocks.” One such device will even start cooking bacon at your wake-up time so the aroma will arouse you. Others rely on different tricks, but most come with a hefty price tag.

One such smart clock recommended by sleep professionals mimics nature by emitting bird and animal sounds at wake-up and then gradually turning on the lights in the room to act like sunrise.

“Some patients feel more comfortable with gradual light and are traumatized by abrupt light,” says Helene Emsellem, MD, director of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Bethesda, Md., and author of Snooze or Lose: 10 No-War Ways to Improve Your Teen’s Sleep Habits. “If you have a 5:30 wake-up time, having the light come on gradually can be a relief.”

Another and cheaper trick is to station the alarm clock across the room so you have to physically get out of bed to turn it off. The act of actually leaving the comfort of your covers tends to increase the chances that you’ll convince yourself it’s time to stay up and not try to snooze more.

These are all tips and tricks if you have “normal” problems sleeping. However, you may think what you’re experiencing is normal when in fact it’s being caused by physical problems that need diagnosis and treatment. If in doubt — and certainly if you’re a chronic snorer and/or are chronically fatigued in the daytime — don’t delay but seek out professional help.

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