By: Don Wright

Military personnel, veterans and spouses of veterans are used to extended periods of sleep deprivation.  From service years, being on call, long hours and the necessity to be constantly vigilant – veterans have experienced years with necessary hours of sleep cut short.  Likewise, spouses have seen and witnessed long hours waiting for a phone call, a message and assurance that their loved one was alive and well – often spending long nights worrying without getting the necessary amount of sleep.

 Well, why is sleep so important to our health?  First things first … sleep is vital for appetite regulation and fat storage and or the lack of fat storage.  All of this is conducted via proper hormone regulation which occurs when we get the proper amount of restorative sleep.  In addition, inflammation is left unchecked when you are sleep deprived.  If this wasn’t enough your very aging clock is intricately tied to the amount of  sleep (rest) you get each night.  You age faster when you are sleep deprived or achieve less than an optimal number of hours each night.  The optimal amount of sleep is at least seven hours a night and for many eight hours or more. 

 So, what are some tips to help you achieve that deep sleep your body so desperately needs?
  1. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary, completely dark, a special place dedicated to only one of two purposes – restorative sleep or “connection” with your partner – nothing else.
  2. Bluetooth devices – lights, electronics … TV’s, cell phones, computers etc. should not be on at night and must be turned off and or unplugged.
  3. The bedroom should be kept comfortably cool (sleep is deeper and more relaxing in a cool room rather than in a warm room) … cool your room, close a heat vent – find it necessary to use a blanket.
  4. Plan your evening accordingly. Turn off your computers, Bluetooth devices two to three hours before knocking off for sleep.
  5. You want to sleep through the night, not have to make a bathroom trip or an extra trip. Drink most of your fluids during the first half of the day and taper off in the second half. Try not to drink anything two to three hours before bed.
  6. If you find yourself mulling over the days events with racing thoughts try this tip: make a habit of listing things that need to be done the next day before sleep. Do what you need to do during the day and list anything that wasn’t done – put it on your list and forget about it – knowing that it will be part of tomorrow’s to do list and not a part of the stream of worried thoughts that keep so many of us awake.
  7. If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, due to a bad dream, a memory jog of something you forgot to do and can’t forget … get up from bed. There is no point in lying in bed the rest of the night without sleeping. Instead, quietly go to your den, living room and pick up a copy of a book, a magazine, a tax manual and sit down and try to read it. Do this in a comfortable chair. Try to read this “most” boring literature. If you are like most of us it won’t take long before you either fall asleep in that chair or drag yourself back to bed and into a deep sleep.
  8. Sleep aids: I don’t recommend any over the counter sleep aid – sominex, unisom or anything like it due to the likelihood that you might develop a dependency. Instead, something like tart cherry juice – four to six ounces before bed just might do the trick. Why? Tart cherry juice contains naturally occurring melatonin – 13mg in a glass. In addition, tart cherry juice can act to help relieve pain and inflammation at night while you sleep, naturally, without the risk that often accompanies NSAIDS – aspirin, advil, motrin etc. So many of us suffer from these aches that they are often what wakes us up. Try some. It just might work.

I hope these tips help. The body works best and performs best when it gets enough sleep. Good night!