Strategies to Improve Sleep for Working Parents

baby crying in its cribSleep deprivation can leave you exhausted, stressed and can contribute to health problems. And when you’re a parent, you lose sleep. During that first year of infancies, parents can lose hundreds of hours of sleep. Each family might handle the division of night time tending to an infant differently and fathers are also often sleep deprived.

Women of young children and babies often are particularly sleep deprived. For example, a woman who is breast feeding her baby will have to wake for feedings at night. According to the Department of Labor in 2009 122 million women age 16 years and over in the U.S. were labor force participants—working or looking for work. As many as 3 quarters of working women are mothers. Continue reading “Strategies to Improve Sleep for Working Parents” »

How to Survive the Stress of Fall and Winter Holidays

It’s early October and already I’m starting to prepare for the holidays.  It’s time to get Halloween costumes, buy tickets for holiday shows, negotiate Thanksgiving plans and begin answering questions from the kids about how long until the big day.  If you send out a picture on your holiday card, which many of us do, it’s time to find that special one from the past year or arrange to have one taken.

Continue reading “How to Survive the Stress of Fall and Winter Holidays” »

Mindfulness to help you sleep

We all have nights when sleep seems elusive, but some of us experience sleep problems and insomnia with regularity.  Recent research has indicated that mindfulness can help improve sleep.  Below are a  few exercises you might try when you’re tossing and turning.

When you notice you’re having trouble sleeping, begin by bringing your attention and awareness to what is going on in your mind and body.  Notice if you are worrying or thinking about something.  Are your thoughts racing?  Are they triggering emotions that are not calm and relaxing?  If you get distracted and wrapped up in your thinking again, just notice that, label the thoughts you were distracted by (you might label them as worries, or simply label them as thoughts of the  “past”, “future” or “fantasies”).  Bring your mind back, again and again to simply observing your thoughts.

Do the same with your body.  Bring your full attention to your body.  Scan from head to toe.  Are you holding tension?  Do you have discomfort or pain that is interfering with sleep?  In this season of colds and flu, are you congested or feeling sick?

Once you’ve attended to what is interfering with sleep, choose a mindfulness exercise to help you get calm and relaxed.

If you need to focus your thoughts, try breathing exercises. A few breathing exercises that can be useful when trying to get to sleep include: counting with each breath from 1-10, repeating as necessary; saying  “in” and “out” with each inhalation and exhalation; breathing out until you feel your lungs entirely empty of air and then breathing in feeling them fill from bottom to top- repeat 4 times; or breathing out while imagining your entire body from head to toe emptying of air and breathing in and imagining your entire body filling up.  With each exercise, notice if you become distracted and return your thoughts to your breath.  Repeat as often as necessary.  Mindfulness exercises become easier and distractions lesson over time.

If you have noticed that discomfort and tension in your body is keeping you from sleep, you may want to try a body scan and tension reduction exercise.  You may simply scan your body from head to toe and relax each area of your body as you bring your attention to it.  Or you may tense muscle groups, like the hands, feet and face for several seconds and then relax those muscles.  You can repeat these exercises until your body is feeling more relaxed. As with the breathing exercises, bring your mind back if you become distracted.

Mindfulness Training Improves Sleep Quality; Lessens Need for Sleep Medicines

Stressed-out people sleep better and take sleep medication less often when they learn to let go of intrusive thoughts, according to researchers at Duke Integrative Medicine.

Their data shows participants who took an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course reported less trouble sleeping through the night, and also less sleepiness during the day. This is the first study to document several positive effects of mindfulness training on sleep quality in a group of generally healthy, but stressed, individuals.

“When we don’t know what to do with intrusive and persistent thoughts, the mind and body feel threatened, says Jeff Greeson, PhD, MS, a clinical health psychologist at Duke who presented his preliminary results at the North American Research Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine.

Greeson’s study followed 151 adults, three-quarters of whom were women, who underwent eight weeks of MBSR training. He validated improvements in sleep quality using a nationally recognized sleep quality scale — The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

Statistically significant improvements were noted in overall sleep quality (26 percent), sleep disturbances, i.e., waking up at night and feeling uncomfortable (16 percent), frequency of using prescription or over-the-counter sleep medications (25 percent), and improvements in experiencing sleepiness during the day (28 percent).

Greeson’s research is part of a larger study on mindfulness funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. His work will continue to research the effects of the MBSR program first developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts 30 years ago. That program is now taught by trained professionals throughout the country.

By Duke Medicine News and Communications:  http://www.dukehealth.org/HealthLibrary/News/mindfulness_training_improves_sleep_quality_lessens_need_for_sleep_medicines?utm_source=dukehealth.org&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS_news