Top tips for a healthy night's sleep

By Lt. Col. (Dr.) Robert McKenzie, USAHC-Vicenza Behavioral Health chief

We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is very important for our overall health and wellness. However, getting the amount of sleep we need isn’t always easy, especially with busy lives. If you, your spouse, family or friends are ramping up for a deployment, or during the weeks after your Soldier leaves, getting a good night’s sleep may be even more difficult. If this is you, the following information may be helpful.

We can predict that many Soldiers deploying to a combat theatre will initially have some trouble sleeping. Many know the frustration of watching the minutes tick by in the early morning hours. You are getting ready to spend a long time in a stressful environment where vigilance helps keep you and your fellow Soldiers safe. Your body will adjust to that situation. Getting enough sleep is one of the factors that will ensure your resilience, keep you sharp, and ready to respond to whatever mission or challenge you are faced with.

Daytime Tips: Skip the snooze button — Consistency is important in establishing a regular sleep cycle. Ideally, get out of bed at the same time every day, even on the weekends.

Be wary of naps — When we take naps, it decreases the amount of sleep that we need the next night.
Exercise — Exercise promotes continuous sleep. Get it in before 2 p.m. and avoid rigorous exercise before bedtime. The adrenaline from an intense work out will actually keep you awake.

Stop smoking or at least cut back — Nicotine can affect your ability to fall asleep or enjoy deep sleep.

Have a quiet comfortable bedroom — Get comfortable bedding and set your thermostat to a setting that’s just a bit cooler, if you have that luxury. Turn off the TV and other sources of noise. Keep pets out if they wake you. Turn lights off.

Know your medicines — Some medicines can cause sleeplessness and others can help with sleep. Talk to your doctor about trouble sleeping.

Evening Tips: Give yourself time to wind down — Set aside a half hour before bedtime to unwind with a good book, soothing music, or anything relaxing.

Limit alcohol and caffeine — Alcoholic drinks may cause you to wake more frequently through the night and disrupt any quality sleep. Stay away from coffee, energy drinks, and other sources of caffeine for several hours before bed.

Avoid TV — TV can engage your mind and increase alertness, keeping you awake. Video games or surfing the internet may have the same effect.

Explore relaxation techniques — Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and other techniques can help you reduce anxiety and decrease muscle tension.

Don’t stay awake for more than 10 minutes — If your mind is racing or worrying, get out of bed, sit in a chair in the dark until you’re sleepy and return to bed. Try writing down what you’re worried about — get thoughts out of your head and onto the paper.

Enroll yourself in our Healthy Sleep Habits program by calling 636-9675. You can also call the Health Center for more information

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