Establishing Healthy Sleep Patterns:
Robert Gardner, Ph.D., LPC
Rest and refreshing sleep are essential to our good health. Sound sleep provides a total release from the pressures of everyday life. Few of us get through life without experiencing some difficulty with sleep patterns.
Sleep is controlled from a regulating center deep in the brain. It processes information from all parts of the body as well as the higher thought centers of the brain, or cerebral cortex. A low level of stimulation induces sleep, while a high level of stimulation leads to wakefulness.
A calm mind and body are necessary for satisfying sleep.
Sleep goes in cycles. The first main cycle is quiet sleep which is true rest, with a quiet brain. It lasts about an hour. This is followed by rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is a shorter cycle of roughly 20-30 minutes. This is dreamtime, and the brain is active.
The average sleep needed for an adult is 7 ½ hours—approximately five complete cycles. Individual patterns vary widely according to age, health, and personality.
Sleep-retraining takes between two and six weeks to start working. The following regime has proven to be successful in helping to restore refreshing, drug-free sleep. You can also apply this approach if you wake up during the night.
- Once in bed and ready to sleep, lie on your back and practice slow abdominal breathing (through your nose) and relaxation techniques. Check your body for any tense areas and stretch and release the tension.
- Lie in a comfortable position (usually on the left side to start). Notice what time it is.
- If after 15 minutes you are still awake, get out of bed. Go into another room and do something else (read, listen to soothing music).
- When you feel ready for sleep, go back to bed, and if again you are not asleep within 15 minutes, repeat the sequence until you go to sleep.
When we go to bed expecting not to sleep, we are often proven right.
The good news is our poor sleep patterns can be changed. Anyone who has a chronic problem with sleep should consult a sleep specialist for assistance.
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Robert Gardner, Ph.D., LPC is Director of Psychosocial Oncology at Touro Infirmary and administers all aspects of Touro’s Supportive Cancer Care Center. Dr. Gardner earned his Ph.D.. from the University of New Orleans in 2008. He completed his Internship at Tulane Cancer Center in 2005, where he also served as Clinical Mental Health Counselor from 2006 – 2008. Dr. Gardner is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Louisiana.