Sleep : Are we getting what we need from the sleep we get
We often hear how important it is to get enough sleep… the right kind of sleep. Even setting the alarm on a cell phone can trigger an electronic lecture. “Join us to learn better sleep habits.” Many of the suggestions we hear make perfect sense for dealing with sleep issues. Go to bed at the same time every night rings true to us. It follows that if we have regular bedtimes we will fall asleep easier. We know our bodies respond to habitual behaviors. We’ve trained them to do so. However, reality steps in and we find it almost impossible to get to bed at the same time every night, let alone get up at the same time each day. Where do we go from here?
The following material is excerpted from the Coping with Sleep Issues Workbook by Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John Liptak, EdD.
Many people feel that their sleep issues are just a normal part of their everyday life. Sleep issues can be disruptive and leave one feeling tired and sluggish throughout the day. These issues can continue, get worse, and become a sleep disorder.
Identifying and awareness of your sleep issues will help. Things pertaining to your sleep habits that you take for granted may be okay, or they may not be okay. Use the following information to help you document your sleep issues.
If you know or live with someone with sleep problems, send them a link to this blog and ask the person to do the exercises. Even better, interview the person by asking the questions posed below, and writing the answers down.
Your responses will also serve as a guide to take to your medical provider who can guide you to healthier sleep.
My Sleep Issues
Name ______________________________________ Date ______________________
How many of the items below that pertain to you and/or your situation? Describe your experiences in your journal or print out a copy for your use of the worksheet.
While Sleeping …
I am able to recall a frightening nightmare.
I am afraid I will leave the house when I sleepwalk.
I am confused upon waking after I sleep walk.
I am hard to console when I awaken after sleep walking.
I am often sleepy during the day.
I am sweaty and my heart is pounding after a bad dream.
I dream about doing work while I am sleeping.
I awaken out of breath.
I am confused if someone wakes me up.
I awaken feeling frightened.
I engage in aggressive behavior.
I awaken sweating and breathing fast.
I awaken with a dry mouth.
I awaken with a sense of panic.
I awaken with my heart pounding from fear.
I cannot fall back to sleep when I have a nightmare.
I do not respond to others when walking in my sleep.
I feel scared at the end of my dreams
I have difficulty staying asleep.
I often choke or gasp during the night.
I often have headaches in the morning.
I scream and shout.
I snore loudly.
I wake up and sit upright with a look of panic on my face.
I walk around while I am sleeping.
I will often scream while sleepwalking.
My dreams feel like they threaten my safety.
My dreams become more disturbing as they unfold.
My nightmares are so realistic they are scary.
Others say my breathing stops when I am sleeping.
Sleep issues can become worse if not treated. Treatment usually consists of a combination of cognitive-behavioral activities like the ones in this workbook as well as medication. Consult and bring the three pages that you just completed with you to a medical or sleep professional to ensure you are doing everything possible to treat your sleep issues.
My Self-Care Sleep Habits
Sleep habits are often dependent on wellness habits that you display during the day. Think about some of your wellness habits and how they may be negatively affecting your ability to sleep at night. In the chart that follows, write about how you can make positive change in your wellness habits.
|Self-Care Habit||My Present Self-Care Habits||How I Can Take Better Care|
|I eat a heavy snack an hour before bedtime.
|I can take a light snack a few hours before bedtime.
|Consistent bedtime rituals
|Intake of liquid
|Medications/drugs legal or illegal
|Nap during the day
Highlight each Self-Care Habit you can change immediately to ensure healthier sleep.
Exercise for Better Sleep
There is a specific correlation between stress and a lack of sleep. Research has shown that exercise is critical in the reduction of stress. Physical activity earlier in the day can be a key factor in your ability to let go of some of the stress and sleep well. Answer the following questions in your journal or print a copy of the worksheet for your use.
- What types of exercise do you do regularly (jogging, walking, swimming, aerobics, etc.)?
- How much time do you spend regularly in the activities above?
- Which types of exercise do you like best? Why
- Which types of exercise do you like least? Why?
- What exercise classes would you like to take?
- What stops you from taking those exercise classes?
- Are there any team sports that you could join?
- Why don’t you exercise more? (Be honest!)
- How can you compensate or overcome the reasons you do not exercise more?
Nutrition Influences of Sleep
Your food habits may have an influence on the amount and restorative power of the sleep you are currently experiencing. Journal about your current food habits, and then identify changes you would be willing to make. Note your current habits about the food group in question, and then identify the changes you want to make.
Proteins (example: milk, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, dried beans, oats, rice, whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, cashews, broccoli, peanuts)
Fats (example: butter, cheese, chocolate, pork, bacon, beef, veal, hotdogs, margarine, mayonnaise, canola oil, lunch meats)
Bad carbohydrates (example: sugar, corn syrup, sodas, doughnuts, cookies, cakes, pies,sugary cereals)
Good carbohydrates (example: potatoes, sweet potatoes, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, corn, oats, wheat, soybeans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans)
Vitamins – (example: liver, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, whole-grain bread, milk, cheese, salmon, tuna, potatoes, poultry, peas, soybeans, whole-grain cereals, seafood, carrots, seeds)
Drinks – (example: water, alcohol, coffee, sweetened fruit juices, sodas, hot tea, iced tea, lemonade)
Stress Management for Better Sleep
The relationship between stress and your ability to sleep well has been well documented. People who are experiencing a great deal of stress do not typically sleep well.
Write down the stress management techniques listed below that you will commit to trying.
- Avoid hot-button
- Be assertive with others – you have needs and wants too.
- Breathe deeply.
- Do not try to control what cannot be controlled.
- Eat nutritionally.
- Enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
- Express your feelings in a safe, effective manner.
- Focus on the positive.
- Forgive yourself and others.
- Journal about your feelings associated with stress.
- Keep and prioritize a to-do list.
- Learn how to say “No” when you feel overwhelmed.
- Look at the big picture of life and see where your issue fits in.
- Manage your time well so that you have time for yourself.
- Plan your time effectively.
- Prepare and accept that unexpected problems will arise.
- Relax with calming music.
- Schedule time for Yoga or stretching exercises.
- Spend less time with people who stress you out, if you can.
- Take control of your own environment.
People who have sleep problems or disorders often have concerns when retiring for bed because of some of the issues that go along with their sleep patterns. Going to sleep with these concerns, and worrying about falling asleep, can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Sometimes, talking or writing about the issues will help.
In your journal identify three of your concerns associated with your sleep.
Taking Worries and Fear to Bed
We often worry and fear things we cannot control. Read the Serenity Prayer out loud. Make photocopies of it, cut it out, and tape it to your bathroom mirror, by your bedside, or any places where you can easily see it and re-read it.
|God grant me the serenity
To accept the things
I cannot change;
Courage to change
the things I can;
And wisdom to
know the difference.
Print out this page. Cut out the tips below that pertain to you, and those you need to remember. Post them in places that you will see them. (bathroom mirror, refrigerator, etc.)
|Reduce your liquid intake before bedtime.
|Refrain from eating a large meal or snack before bedtime.
|Remember that your bedroom is for sleep and intimacy only.
|Get at least seven hours of sleep.
|Have a bedroom free of and electronic products.
|Turn your alarm clock around so that you cannot see it from bed.
|Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
|Go to sleep and rise at the same time each day – even on weekends.
|Avoid watching television shows that are upsetting before bedtime.
|If you aren’t asleep in 20 or30 minutes, get out of bed until you are tired.
|Keep a comfortable room temperature. Cool, but not cold.
|Think positive thoughts as you are falling asleep.
|Establish relaxing bedtime rituals.
|Maintain a healthy diet.
|Consider the things you have to be grateful for as you are going to sleep.
|Make sure that your bedroom is quiet.
|Review the good things that happened during the day as you get undressed.
|Free your mind as you get into bed.
|Avoid alcohol before bedtime.
|Use caution with sleeping pills that can become addictive.
|Do not allow cats or dogs in bed with you no matter how much you love them.
|Exercise regularly but not three or four hours before bedtime
|If there are noises, use a fan or white noise to block out the sounds.
|Avoid stimulants like nicotine and tobacco before bedtime.
|Avoid caffeine several hours before bedtime.
|Lower the lights a few hours before bedtime
|Finish eating anything an hour before bed.
|Reduce the number and time of naps during the day.
|Make an appointment with a medical professional.
|Make an appointment with a sleep professional.
Using Mental Imagery
Mental imagery (or guided imagery) harnesses our brain’s natural tendency to create vivid mental representations of our beliefs, desires, experiences and goals. It’s also a simple, inexpensive, and powerful tool for soothing symptoms and creating positive change. The use of mental imagery has been found useful with some sleepwalkers as well as people with other sleep problems.
Mental imagery is using memories of visual events to project a mental picture in your mind.
I picture myself at a beach in Delaware where I used to live. When I begin to feel anxious or stressed I can project myself back to that beach and begin to feel relaxed and sleepy. I just close my eyes and picture myself sitting in the sand. I notice how blue the water looks and how white the waves appear as they come in. I imagine walking along the beach looking for seashells. I smell the fresh air and hear the seagulls chirping above. The sun is warm on my body and I feel safe. With each breath I take I imagine breathing in the beautiful, vivid colors that are present. This is my personal paradise.
Now, write out a pleasant imagery scene that you will like picturing and remembering.
Before going to sleep each evening, you can begin to imagine this scene vividly.
Support for My Sleep Issues
In overcoming any sort of sleep issue, regardless of how minor or severe, support is important, and sometimes critical. Support can come in many different forms and from many individuals in your life. In the following boxes, list people whom you can rely on to suggest healthy lifestyle changes and activities that allow you to have a healthy bedtime sleep.
Make a list in your journal of all those who could support and help you with your sleep issues. Note how you believe that person can help you. Possible supporters could come from medical professionals, sleep issue professionals, family members, friends and acquaintances in the community, people with whom you work at a volunteer job, spiritual sources, or other groups you might know. Print the worksheet for your use if you wish.