Dear Health-conscious Friend,
Sleep, Sex and Electronic Devices
With more and more people reporting difficulty getting a good night’s sleep, there’s no shortage of advice on good sleep habits.
You have to be careful, I think, because anything you focus on too much can become a problem and obsessing about doing the ‘right things’ to get to sleep can cause stress and keep you awake.
A simple, easy-to-follow recommendation is not to make your bed the place where you watch TV, work on your laptop, lie around and read or just generally hang out.
Rather, reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex. This programs your mind that your bedroom serves a separate function from the rest of your living space and it becomes associated with relaxation.
And, sex actually does promote sleep. An orgasm releases a hormone called prolactin, which is responsible for feelings of relaxation and sleepiness.
After sex your body also releases a chemical called oxytocin, which is known to promote restful sleep. At the same time your body decreases production of cortisol which can induce stress and prevent sleep.
Those are a couple of good arguments for sex before sleep and keeping it in the bedroom.
On another front, we all seem to be distracted by devices – our Smartphones, iPads, iPods, Kindles, you name it, your bedside table might be stacked with devices that distract you.
Devices tempt you to check email, or wake you when texts pop in, or other messages or alerts you’ve set. Not only do they wake you, they can start your mind down the path of all the things you have to do – never good for catching Zzzzs.
Does that mean you should get rid of the devices in the bedroom? Not necessarily! There are a few ways to use your electronic devices to soothe you and help you get to sleep, or get back to sleep when you awake in the night.
There are several good apps that have soothing white noise – the kind of sounds that relax.
Anything from rain, to waves, babbling brooks to sounds that are particularly designed to soothe children and pets!
Other apps have short or long meditations and visualizations designed to help you relax and stop your mind racing, they way it often tends to do when your head hits the pillow.
Just lay back and listen, be soothed, take your mind off the day and your to-do list for tomorrow.
Some of the most hard core insomniacs I know swear by these apps. You can find them easily by searching online or in the app store on your phone – lots to choose from and many are free.
Another use of your devices for sleep is being read to. Most e-readers like the Kindle or Nook have the option to buy an audio version for most books.
Being read to is very soothing and quiets your mind, allowing you to drift off.
If you don’t have a reading device or Smartphone or you don’t want to spend money to get the audio version of a book, try your local library.
You’ll find audio CDs of white noise and meditation as well as hundreds of audio tapes and CDs on a wide variety of topics, including relaxation and meditation – even sleep specific audios.
These days, most libraries have downloadable books too. You can get the audio affects without leaving home or having to return anything to the library.
Even if you’re not tech savvy and aren’t of the people ‘plagued’ by too many devices, you can go into your local library and the info librarian will gladly make recommendations, walk you through the process and show you how to access free resources.
Just be sure that you put any device in silent mode before you go to sleep, so pinging and dinging doesn’t keep you awake.
And if you decide to go the route of white noise or books read aloud, be sure to use earbuds, earphones or a headset if you share your bed and your partner doesn’t want to hear the same thing you do!
Any of these methods work to promote a good night’s sleep, so you wake rested and refreshed. And, I’ll suggest one more thing as I sign off. Try 10 deep breaths. Inhale, hold your breath just a moment and exhale slowly and deliberately. You might not get to 10 before you’re asleep.
Yours in continued good health,
Dr Kenneth Woliner, M.D.