Mind Matters: Tips to sleep

Most of us would agree that these are very stressful times. However, how we respond to stress is up to us.

One aspect of our lives that we need to attend to, in tense times, is our sleep. There is a two-way street between stress and sleep. While stress can negatively affect our sleep patterns, our sleep patterns themselves can exacerbate stress.

The American Psychological Association, in the online article, “Getting a Good Night’s Sleep: How Psychologists Help with Insomnia” lists several steps to better sleep. For starters, ensure that your bedroom is “dark, cool, and quiet” without any electronic lights or hums. The APA reminds us how melatonin levels that we need for sleep are negatively affected by such light and noise. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain when it is dark. Light inhibits such production.

Setting a sleep schedule is also important. “Late afternoon naps can interfere with nighttime slumber” notes the APA. Instead, develop a regular bedtime routine, going to bed and awakening the same time on a daily basis. Going to bed too early and before you’re ready for sleep can be problematic as well.

Exercising or engaging in stressful discourse or anxiety-producing activities should be avoided before bed. While we shouldn’t avoid necessary discussions or activities, it is best to plan on them way before we hit the hay. Likewise, regular exercise, while beneficial to sleep, shouldn’t be undertaken before bed. Heated discussions and heated exercise both increase body temperatures and energy levels. For restful sleep, we need to be calm, cool and centered. In fact, the APS recommends taking time to unwind and get quiet. For example, meditate, take a calming bath, listen to relaxing music.

We may think that alcohol or heavy meals may aid sleep, but the opposite is true. While alcohol may at first seem to help, it can disrupt sleep during the night. Stimulants, such as caffeine (and nicotine), if consumed late in the day, are also disruptive.

The APA suggests writing down your stream of thoughts if you find you can’t sleep.

I often recommend to folks to do a “worry list” before going to bed — to take 20 to 30 minutes to write down free-floating thought — all the anxieties and worries bumping around in the brain. It helps to get the rattlings going on in the head onto paper. This can be very freeing to set you on your way for a good night’s sleep. (Note: best to write with pen and paper, not type onto a computer screen.)

The full APA article can be viewed at https://www.apa.org/topics/sleep-disorders.

 

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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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