‘To sleep, perchance to dream’


By Dr. Roger Spahr

This phrase, buried in the middle of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,”finds its speaker in the middle of moral and mental anguish. Perhaps that, too, is you as you sprawl across your bed. Arms and legs akimbo with some parts buried in blankets, while other body parts peak out to prevent the “too hot” feelings that may engulf you at night.

Researchers have learned poor sleep increases inflammation and can increase risks for depression, heart disease and cancer. Inflammation can cause fluid retention, weight gain, excessive cortisoland reduced immunity.

So why do many people struggle with their sleep? These factors may be the answer.

  1. Don’t drink alcohol before bedtime. Although you may drift off, the processing in your liver of the alcohol occurs overnight. It interferes with the stages of sleep that help your body repair. Hence, you do not awaken refreshed. If you are a woman, it can compete with estrogen breakdown, and hot flashes may be what awaken you. Low blood sugars can result from alcohol and will surge your cortisols and adrenaline as you sleep.
  2. Stress before retiring. Newscasts might be informing, but they have been proven to start you thinking and you just can’t turn off. You stare worriedly at the ceiling. Bad news just got worse.
  3. Eating sugars and snacks that turn into sugar in the evening have a similar impact as alcohol, but without the other negative aspects of the alcohol. Chips and a soft drink, or pretzels and beer, are not the food of champions when it comes to sleep. A light protein snack works better.
  4. Room temperature between 65-72 degrees. Your body temperature drops at night. Taking a warm bath before retiring helps you drop you temperature naturally at night. If the room is too warm, you will awaken prematurely.
  5. Forced late nights. Whether you work swing shift or just have too many things to do, late nights disturb your rhythm. Your brain chemicals are confused with light from computer screens, big screen TVs and not to mention that last load of laundry that just HAS to be done.

The problem is with multiples of these and other things, such as caffeine, we run our bodies and minds down, and then lose the ability to correct it ourselves. Don’t put up with sleep problems. Medication will only go so far. You have to identify the source,then the action plan to dream on.