Sleep Hygiene: Forming Good Sleep Habits
At different times in our lives, we experience changes to our lifestyles that can have adverse affects on our overall well-being. Even many happy occasions - new jobs, the arrival of children and entering retirement can all change our sleep patterns as we adapt to new living situations.
What can we do to ensure that we get the sleep that we need each night? The term “sleep hygiene” is a relatively new one, but the concept is not. Sleep hygiene refers to our sleep habits and the surroundings in which we sleep. Creating a good environment for ourselves is key to getting a good night’s sleep. This is true both for our physical surroundings as well as our behaviour leading up to heading for bed.
“Poor sleep habits are very common, especially as we age”, says Ruth Bittorf, Nurse Practitioner at the Artists’ Health Centre at Toronto Western Hospital. The transition into retirement can be the most challenging for our sleep. Not having a full work schedule can mean that people fall into the potentially bad habit of napping throughout the day and then are not able to fall asleep at night. Having a consistent routine prior to bedtime can help trigger the brain into knowing it is preparing for sleep. This could mean having a cup of chamomile tea or taking a hot bath each night. What we do is specific and unique to each of us, but try thinking about what relaxes you and incorporate that into your sleep regime. Going to sleep at a regular time each night and getting up at the same time each morning also improve our overall sleep hygiene. Try to sleep only in bed – not on the sofa or in the easy chair. Having a set routine – which includes where you sleep – will make it easier to create those brain triggers that help us get to sleep.
With technology being increasingly more accessible, it is also very easy to not “switch off” even when going to bed (and occasionally in bed!). Making sure that the bedroom is a calming, restful place is key to consistently having a full night’s sleep. Try making it a media free zone – no television, iPhone or laptop! Light and temperature are also very important. Be sure to keep them both at settings that work for you. Being too hot or too cold, having too much light or too much noise, can all disrupt our sleep patterns.
What else can we do to support good sleep habits? Get regular exercise but try to avoid vigorous exercise in the evening that fire up the body and mind. It’s good to keep away from anything that acts as a stimulant after the late afternoon – caffeine and alcohol are two common ones. Alcohol might make you initially feel sleepy, but as Bittorf’s says it has a “rebound effect” and an hour later it wakes you up. Take any prescribed medication only as directed and don’t take any over the counter sleep aids without first speaking with the pharmacist and your health care provider.
If you find that you can’t sleep, try getting up and doing something peaceful and relaxing until you feel drowsy again. Lying in bed awake with your mind whirling can add frustration to the discomfort. Bittorf also suggests having a small snack just before bed.
Interestingly, research from the 1990s and early 2000s is seeing a resurgence of interest that debunks the idea that we need eight hours of continuous sleep each night. So if you are someone who finds themselves wide awake in the middle of the night, you are not alone. Click to read the BBC World Service article The Myth of the Eight-Hour Sleep
Ultimately, it comes down to how you feel in the morning – do you feel rested and ready to embrace the day? Or do you want to hop right back in to bed? Listen to your body and if you don’t feel you are getting the sleep you need, try improving your sleep hygiene.
Disabilities Can Be Workplace Assets
Peggy Klaus, The New York Times
MANY people know of Berkeley, Calif., as the birthplace, in the 1960’s, of the Free Speech Movement. Fewer people know that Berkeley also played a major role in the disability rights movement. It was here, also in the ’60s, that Ed Roberts — a student with quadriplegia — became an outspoken advocate of the cause.
I became aware of this after being invited to give a lecture for theDisabled Students’ Program at the University of California. I was delighted and, of course, flattered, but I was also nervous.
Sure, I’d given workshops and lectures hundreds of times, but this would be my first time speaking to an audience made up entirely of people with disabilities. To be perfectly honest, I’d always felt uncomfortable around disabled people. Suppose I said the wrong thing? Came off as insensitive?
I needed guidance, so I turned to Paul Hippolitus, the director of the program. Reluctantly, I acknowledged my discomfort. Paul had spent 30 years at the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the federal Labor Department before coming to the university, and he had heard it all before.
“Perfectly normal,” he told me. “In this culture, nearly everyone is uncomfortable with disability.”
Apparently that goes for those with disabilities, too. Enduring the stares and the obvious uneasiness of others, people with disabilities often feel painfully self-conscious. Not surprisingly, they can lack self-confidence.
His students are not exempt. It’s the reason, he says, that many opt to go on to graduate school, thereby delaying the task of entering the work force. Besides the distinct disincentive to work because of a possible loss of federal disability benefits, the students are not nurtured, and are often discouraged, when it comes to career goals.
23 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?
if you haven't yet seen this, it's definitely worth watching...and be sure to watch right to the end.
The Health Risks of Being Left-Handed
The Wall Street Journal
Left-handers have been the subject of curiosity, stigma and even fear over the centuries. Researchers now, however, are recognizing the scientific importance of understanding why people use one hand or the other to write, eat or toss a ball.
Handedness, as the dominance of one hand over the other is called, provides a window into the way our brains are wired, experts say. And it may help shed light on disorders related to brain development, like dyslexia, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, which are more common in left-handed people.
Other recent research suggests that mixed-handedness—using different hands for daily tasks and not having a dominant one—may be even more strongly linked than left-handedness to ADHD and possibly other conditions.
About 10% of people are left-handed, according to expert estimates. Another 1% of the population is mixed-handed. What causes people not to favor their right hand is only partly due to genetics—even identical twins, who have 100% of the same genes, don't always share handedness.
More important, researchers say, are environmental factors—especially stress—in the womb. Babies born to older mothers or at a lower birth weight are more likely to be lefties, for example. And mothers who were exposed to unusually high levels of stress during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a left-handed child. A review of research, published in 2009 in the journal Neuropsychologia, estimated that about 25% of the variability in handedness is due to genetics.
Integrated health care needed as Canada ages: report
TORONTO — With the leading edge of the baby-boom generation turning 65 this year, Canada's health-care system will need to adjust its focus to meet the future needs of an ever-expanding population of seniors, a new report warns.
The report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, released Thursday, shows that those in the 65-plus demographic are the most frequent users of health care, costing more than any other segment of the population.
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