The Science of Sleep
July 12, 2012
The other night I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned, and texted my frustration to a friend. We were both struggling. He suggested we count electric sheep together via text. I thought, hey why not? Back and forth we went, 1...2...3...4 (this is silly)...5 (but you like it)...6...until I actually did fall asleep. Why did that work?
The theory is that focusing on a mundane task quiets your brain and allows you to drift off to dreamland. "The idea behind distraction strategies is to stop your mind worrying, planning, or problem solving as these are activities that lead to production of the stress hormone cortisol." (Richards, 2009)
Well, apparently, we are weirdos. There was a study done showing that what you should really do is picture relaxing scenery. Scientists say it helps calm your mind. Counting sheep was actually shown to keep people awake longer than usual. (Did I mention I only made it to 9?)
Are you insomniac? Here are some healthy sleep tips:
- Stick to a fixed bed/wake up time. Setting a sleep schedule helps train your body to know when it's time to sleep.
- Avoid heavy foods and caffeine 4 - 6 hours before bedtime.
- Find a comfortable temperature. Being too hot or too cold can keep you awake.
- Don't force yourself. If you don't fall asleep within 30 minutes, get up and read (not watch TV) until you fall asleep. (Unless you're like me, and then you read for 3 hours!)
South Independence Branch
Richards, Dianne. (8/9/2009). "Does Counting Sheep Help You Sleep?" [electronic resource] ABC Health and Well Being. Retrieved June 12, 2012
O'Connor, Anahad. (2/15/2010). "The Claim: Counting Sheep Helps You Fall Asleep" [electronic resource] New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2012