Taking Charge of Sleep: Part Three

We all toss and turn when under stress. The mind loops around, again and again. Do I have the right lawyer? Will I have enough money to live? What is happening to my children? What if I get sick? Have you ever noticed that anxiety comes out at night, just before you go to sleep (or at least try to go to sleep). Bedtime is a vulnerable time for the soul and this anxiety can undermine how much sleep you get.

Sleep is required for all human beings. When we fail to get enough (7+ hours a night), you will feel tired, burnt out and more regressed. The brain needs to heal from all the stress of the day, and sleep was designed to aid in this healing.

Here are some pragmatic ways to ensure a better sleep:

  • Physical and mental pain both interfere with sleep. Seek professional help when these problems inhibit your ability to get the rest you need.
  • Exercise during the day. It relaxes the body and helps to work off excess tension.
  • Before bedtime:
    • Take a warm bath.
    • Read a good book.
    • Drink warm, decaffeinated tea or warm milk.
    • Call someone with whom you’re close, like a parent or friend, to talk about your day.
  • When it comes to sleep aids, melatonin, valerian root, or chamomile tea may help you.
  • As a psychiatrist I am well aware of the use of pharmaceuticals in the treatment of sleeplessness. For the record, I am very cautious about using them for many reasons. That being said, they may be useful for some patients with life interfering sleeplessness. For example, low doses of Trazadone or an anti-psychotic mediation like Seroquel, can be helpful on a short term basis. The most commonly prescribed sleep agents are hypnotics, like Klonapin and Ativan, and non-hypnotics, like Lunesta and Ambien. See your doctor before pursuing any of these options.

Dr. Banschick is a child and adolescent psychiatrist. He has been quoted in The New York Times, The Huffington Post and The CBS Early Show. He is currently finishing the second of three books in The Intelligent Divorce series, which are devoted to teaching parents how to raise well adjusted kids during a divorce. You can reach him at mbanschick@gmail.com or at www.theintelligentdivorce.com

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