Getting your ZZZ’s

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I recently saw a news segment that says more and more adults are suffering from insomnia.

DebbieNorrellBox

Are you under a lot of stress? Or depressed? Do you feel emotionally flat or helpless? Do you struggle with a chronic feeling of anxiety or worry? Have you recently gone through a traumatic experience? Are you taking medications that might be affecting your sleep? Do you have health problems that might affect your sleep? How about your sleeping environment? Is it quiet and comfortable?

When I read this next one I was surprised, are you spending enough time in sunlight during the day and in darkness at night? Do you try to go to bed and get up around the same time every day? Medications can cause insomnia.

Cold and flu medications that contain alcohol, pain relievers that contain caffeine (Midol—Excedrin) can keep you awake. Please read the labels of what you are taking and drinking. I am very caffeine sensitive and can’t tolerate caffeine close to bedtime. High blood pressure medication can also keep you awake. Make sure you read the side effects of your prescriptions.

Maybe your lack of sleep is connected to that big screen television in your bedroom or that computer screen or iPhone screen you can’t stop looking at right before you go to sleep.

Experts on sleep recommend that you turn off the television and computer screens at least one hour before bed. What happened to those days when I could fall asleep to the TV? I could put on any old boring show and fall asleep. Your brain produces the hormone melatonin to help regulate your sleep wake cycle. As melatonin is controlled by light exposure not enough natural light during the day can make your brain feel sleepy. While too much artificial light at night can suppress production of melatonin and make it harder to sleep.

To prepare your brain for sleep increase your light exposure during the day. Take breaks outside in sunlight, open blinds and curtains during the day. Limit artificial light at night. To boost melatonin production use low wattage bulbs, cover windows and electrical displays. I find that the display from the clock radio and the display from the cable box can keep me awake. From time to time I have covered them. Friends have recommended a sleep mask but I don’t like the feeling of the mask on my face. I did find some tips that will help you get your zzzz’s, here goes.

Take a warm bath, get a massage, get some exercise during the day, avoid illuminated bedroom clocks, sleep in a good firm bed and if you can’t sleep, get up. Maybe a before-bed snack will help you get to sleep. A small, low protein, high carbohydrate bedtime snack, such as juice and cookies, eaten about an hour before bedtime, may help you fall asleep sooner. (Pizza does not qualify.)

On the other hand: Studies indicate that foods with large amounts of the amino acid L-tryptophan help us sleep better. These include warm or hot milk, eggs, cottage cheese, chicken, turkey and cashews. I read a tip in a magazine that said watermelon contains tryptophan. Keep the room temperature between 60-65 degrees, any warmer and you’ll toss and turn from the discomfort of being too warm.

(E-mail the columnist at deb­bienorrell@aol.com.)

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