National campaign aims at catching Zzzzzz

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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You are getting sleepy, very sleepy. Problem is, you're probably not getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation celebrates National Sleep Awareness Week, which kicked off Monday and continues through Sunday, in order to promote the benefits of a good night's rest and the drawbacks from not having one. Coinciding with National Sleep Awareness Week is the release of a foundation study that indicates, among other findings, that working Americans are not getting the sleep they need. So what's a sleep-deprived zombie to do in order to get a quality night's rest? Different techniques work for different people, but routine is key, both with establishing regular bed and wake times during the week and engaging in wind-down rituals, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The right bed is essential to a good night's sleep, said Coy Miller, owner of The Sleep Shop in Auburn. It's very important that you get the right bed. If it's too firm, you toss and turn. If it's too soft, you might have lower back pain, he said. In a bed you're looking for support and comfort, and that's a little different for everybody. It's also important to consider who else might be sleeping with you. The first thing you're looking at, if you're sleeping with a partner, is the size, Miller said. In other words, squeezing into a twin is not an option. Miller, who said he and his wife prefer a bed on the softer side of the spectrum, said eating or exercising right before bed are activities not conducive to quality sleep. Susan Whitaker, owner of the Canyon Spirit Yoga Center, said the stretching and deep breathing that yoga offers can help both the body and mind wind down at the end of the day. When you stretch the muscles you release the deep tension and that allows you to become more relaxed, Whitaker said. Then there's the mind-body connection. When you pay attention to what you're doing, it's very soothing to the mind. Deep breathing is one of the practices that always helps Whitaker settle down, whether it's before bed or if she wakes up in the middle of the night. Lately I've been having a little cup of mint tea and I read myself to sleep, and if I can't sleep, I try the deep breathing, she said. Shelle Parsons, owner of The Book Haven in Downtown Auburn, recently had a sleep-related discussion with a customer who has sworn off reading in lieu of listening to audio books. She said that books were frustrating because they always put her to sleep, Parsons said. I thought it would be nice to know that a few pages could put me to sleep. If it's a good book, I'll stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning and the next day will be a long day, especially with kids. A busy, stressful day, or one that involves too much caffeine, might make for a less-than-stellar night's sleep for Parsons. When she can feel a bad night ahead, she'll take mental notes to make sure she doesn't repeat the patterns of the day, she said. Finding sleep is not a problem for Dawntrix Kerry, owner of Auburn Alchemy. I sleep exquisitely, she admits. Kerry said it's important to find a way to flip the off switch of your brain in order to settle down. If you're tired, go to sleep. It will all be there tomorrow, she said. Tired of counting sheep? Here are some tipsfor finding better sleep, from the National Sleep Foundation: 1. Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule including weekends. 2. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or hot tub and then reading a book or listening to soothing music. 3. Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool. 4. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. 5. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex. 6. Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime. 7. Exercise regularly. It is best to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime. 8. Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) close to bedtime. It can keep you awake. 9. Avoid nicotine (e.g. cigarettes, tobacco products). Used close to bedtime, it can lead to poor sleep. 10. Avoid alcohol close to bedtime. Although many people think of alcohol as a sedative, it actually disrupts sleep, causing nighttime awakenings. Consuming alcohol leads to a night of less restful sleep. The Journal's Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at, or post a comment.