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Sleep tips to combat insomnia

Illustration by Cathryn Cunningham/Journal

Experts offer sleep tips to combat insomnia
Developing a habit for good sleep practices can help people reset the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, and break the cycle of insomnia. Here are some measures as recommended by Dr. Shanna Diaz, medical director of the Sleep Disorder Center of the University of New Mexico; Roxroy Reid, a licensed clinical social worker at Bosque Mental Health in Albuquerque; and various online sources, including

  • Allow about eight hours each night for sleep. Going to bed about the same time and waking up about the same time consistently will help reset the body’s internal clock.
  • Don’t train your brain to associate your bed with dread. If you’re not sleeping well, get out of bed and sit in a chair in the dark until you feel sleepy, and then return to bed. Reading under a soft light is OK, but do not turn on the television or look at your computer, tablet or phone. These operate with a different wavelength of blue light that tells our brain it’s daytime and you should be awake. Turn these devices off at least 45 minutes before going to bed.
  • Don’t look at the clock after you go to bed. That only serves to magnify the anxiety of insomnia and causes people to calculate how much time they have left to get some shut-eye.
  • Daytime exercise helps nighttime sleeping, but don’t do vigorous exercise within four or five hours of going to bed. Exercise causes endorphins to circulate in the body, which can interfere with initiating sleep.
  • Avoid going to bed hungry, but don’t overeat. Allow no less than three hours between dinner and bedtime, so that digestion can occur and contents of the stomach move into the small intestine. This will help prevent heartburn and bloating, which can disturb sleep.
  • Stay hydrated during the day so you don’t have to drink so much at night and wake from sleep to use the bathroom.
  • The effects of caffeine can last for several hours. Avoid late evening coffee, tea, sodas, chocolate and other food and drink containing caffeine.
  • Alcohol sedates the brain pathways that help people sleep as well as the pathways that keep people awake. As the alcohol wears off, all the pathways become active again and that can interfere with sleep. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages two to four hours prior to going to bed.
  • The body is more relaxed and receptive of sleep when the room temperature is cooler. Sleep experts say a good range is from 65 to 68 degrees.


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