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Jeanne W. Shiffman, MD, DABFP
For Better Sleep, Tone Down Three Types of Noise
Steinmetz Integrative & Functional Medicine Center

For Better Sleep, Tone Down Three Types of Noise

Sleep is important. If you get too little sleep too often, you raise your risk of high blood pressure, heart failure, depression, stroke and irregular heart rhythms.

But getting good sleep can be challenging. Chronic insomnia affects 15 percent of adults, and more than half of us 60 percent have trouble sleeping at least some of the time.

One major culprit preventing good sleep is noise. But many people don't know there are three kinds of noise that can interfere with sleep, each needing a different approach to eliminate. “Noise” doesn't just mean loud, unwanted sounds. It refers to any kind of interference with natural patterns.

Often, people try to fight insomnia with sleep aids. There are many popular over-the-counter brands, and they can work to knock you unconscious, but their effect is really not a replacement for restful, natural sleep.

The concept of three kinds of noise comes from the integrative Sleep Health Model developed by Dr. Rubin Naiman, Ph.D. The three kinds are body noise, mind noise and bed noise.

Body noise comes from biological disruption. It can be pain or discomfort, the metabolism boost of caffeine, a consequence of inadequate exercise or the side effects of certain medications.

Fighting most body noise starts with healthy nutrition. Foods that promote inflammation or cause a rapid rise in blood sugar can interfere with sleep.

Avoid heavy meals within three hours of bedtime. Limit alcohol and caffeine. Get plenty of exercise, but don't exercise strenuously within three hours before bedtime.

Mind noise is when you cannot turn off your thinking. That may arise from a particular stressful situation you're trying to think your way through, or it might come from an anxiety disorder or obsessive thoughts.

There are many treatments for this including meditation, hypnosis, guided imagery, gentle yoga, heart rate variability training and general breathing exercises. Cognitive behavioral therapy with a psychologist can be very helpful for this. Develop healthy bedtime rituals to clear your mind and allow you surrender to sleep.

Finally, bed noise includes exposure to too much light at night, a bedroom temperature that is too warm, an uncomfortable mattress, or actual sonic noise. Keep the room as dark as possible. Room darkening shades are not expensive and can be a lifesaver. Also, maintain a bedroom temperature of 68 degrees. And, please seriously consider replacing your mattress if necessary? Investing in a good night's sleep is well worth it.

Avoid using sleep medications. They shortcut the natural sleep phases, and it is possible to develop a dependency that will make it increasingly hard to sleep without them. Instead, if the techniques described above are not enough, consider an herbal remedy. Good dietary supplements that have been proven to work are melatonin, valerian and hops. But get your melatonin levels checked prior to supplementation to assure the proper dosage. Because, natural or not, you can still overdo it on sleep aids and the goal here is to try to work yourself into a natural, restful sleep free of any dependency.

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