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Brandon Peters, M.D.

30 Days to Better Sleep: Make Sleep a Priority

By January 29, 2013

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As the "30 Days to Better Sleep" blog series draws to a close, there are only a few finishing touches necessary to ensure a good night's sleep. One of the most important is completely within your control: it is the decision to make sleep a priority.

Sleep concludes our day. It is, quite literally, the last thing we get to, but it is a finish line that we tend to postpone when necessity or preference dictates. Work, family obligations, and hobbies may intrude on the amount of sleep that we obtain. A late night with friends, a few hours surfing the internet or watching a movie, a project for work; there are endless distractions and diversions that can intrude on our time for sleep.

The first task is to consider how much sleep you need and when you should be sleeping. Once these determinations are made, you can recognize an appropriate bedtime and wake time. It can be helpful to draw a line in the sand to conclude your day, a previously described artificial closure. From this point, a period of relaxation called a buffer zone before bedtime should be observed. Then, when it is time to go to bed, the transition to sleep will be eased with a decreased likelihood of suffering from insomnia.

The challenge presents in how to preserve your sleep period. How can you protect it from the innumerable intrusions? Enroll your family and friends in these efforts. By including your bed partner in these priorities, he or she can contribute to your adherence. Be kind but firm with others who may present opportunities for distraction. If you find consistent conflicts, you may decide to slightly shift your sleep schedule to accommodate these needs on a permanent basis.

Do your best to keep your sleep schedule consistent through the week and weekend. Avoid sleeping in or staying out too late on a handful of days. Instead, go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. You will be rewarded with a consistent ability to sleep well at night, wake feeling refreshed, and be rested during the rest of the day.

Sleep may seem like the least interesting part of your day. It may be viewed as an inconvenience, a waste of time, a hassle. Neglecting your sleep needs can lead to the ill effects of sleep deprivation. These can undermine your ability to function during the day, causing poor concentration or attention, loss of short-term memory, or a disagreeable mood. If you gain more of this compromised wakefulness at the expense of some shut-eye, what good is this?

Instead, now that you have made many changes and improved your ability to sleep, respect your newfound gains. Set aside the time you need to sleep, just like you make a priority to eat or exercise. It is as just an important part of your life. Give it the respect that it deserves. You will be glad that you did.

Check out the entire series, "How to Sleep Better in 30 Days."

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