Florence Fairbanks, “Six Ways to Get Your ZZZs,” Ensign, Mar. 2003, 68–69
If you have trouble getting the rest you need, you are not alone. One study I’ve reviewed shows that half the people surveyed were sleep deprived. Why? One of the many reasons is insomnia, which means you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Insomnia is considered chronic when it persists three weeks or more. As a clinical specialist in psychiatric nursing, I counsel many who suffer from insomnia to try the following:
1. Keep a regular sleep schedule. As much as possible, go to bed and arise at set times to develop a regular sleep-wake rhythm. This advice is emphasized in Doctrine and Covenants 88:124 [D&C 88:124]: “Retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” In that verse we are also reminded not to sleep longer than is necessary. How much sleep do we need? It depends on the individual, but the following are general guidelines: children, infancy through childhood, about 10 hours; adolescents, about 9 hours; adults, about 7 to 8 hours. The elderly, who often experience less-efficient sleep at night, require more daytime naps than other adults. Whatever your age, sleep only as needed to feel well rested. Oversleeping disturbs regular sleeping patterns, making it harder to fall asleep at night. On the other hand, if you are sleep deprived, get additional sleep; then return to a regular sleep routine.
2. Try a short “power” nap if it’s difficult to stay awake in the day. Doze for a few minutes, whatever works for you, but keep it less than an hour. Naps are beneficial if you can go to bed at your normal time and sleep soundly.
3. Relax, and reduce distractions in your bedroom. Develop a relaxing routine before bedtime, such as reading a book or taking a bath. Then avoid sleeping with a light or distractions such as TV, which can prevent you from achieving the deepest level of sleep. Also, limit “nonsleeping” activities, such as work-related tasks, in your bedroom, as they can hamper you from “shutting off your mind” when you’re trying to fall asleep.
4. Exercise daily. Consistent exercise can help you sleep more soundly. But avoid strenuous exercise within two hours of bedtime.
5. Avoid going to bed hungry or overeating at dinner. A light snack may help you fall asleep and may prevent hunger pains during the night, but avoid overeating, since this can make falling asleep and staying asleep more difficult. Indigestion may also wake you up during the night.
6. Never try to sleep. If you have not fallen asleep within 10 to 20 minutes, get up and do a relaxing activity, something to take your mind off of trying to fall asleep. You may need to arise and return to bed a few times before your body naturally falls asleep. But staying in bed, watching the clock, and forcing yourself to get some rest will only prolong the time it takes to doze off.
Adequate sleep helps us to be more productive in every aspect of our lives and is especially important in tasks such as driving. When we feel well rested, we have more energy to enjoy life’s pleasures and to recover from stressful situations. We are also less vulnerable to infection and other illnesses. Because our ability to make good decisions is enhanced when we are alert, it is essential that we take care of ourselves, and that begins with a good night’s rest.
Florence Fairbanks, Forestview Ward, Salt Lake Grant Stake