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The Cardiologist's Wife - More Information on Sleeping Issues
Jul 08, 2019

A few weeks ago, I explored the topic of sleep and its importance to good health. You can read both articles by going to jonesboro.com and searching for "From The Cardiologist's Wife" Since those articles were published, I have been amazed by the number of people who shared their sleep issues with me. Most report the inability to fall asleep or waking frequently during the night and being unable to fall back asleep. I have these same issues and recently visited Dr. Mark Sifford with Clopton Clinic. He recommended I try cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).

CBT-I is much more effective than a sleeping pill because it fixes the underlying causes of your sleep problems but you must be prepared to spend a couple of weeks at least to see results. CBT-I is a structured program that helps you identify behaviors and thoughts that cause sleep problems and replace them with habits that promote good sleep. The good news is you can simply google cognitive behavioral therapy for sleep and find a number of articles explaining several techniques you can try. I already had good sleep hygiene, i.e. having a consistent bedtime, keeping the room cool, avoiding electronic devices for a couple of hours before bed, etc. I decided to try sleep restriction therapy.

In sleep restriction therapy, you must first determine the average number of hours you sleep each night by keeping a sleep diary for a couple of weeks and then add 30 minutes to that number. You determine the hour you need to wake up each morning. Your bedtime is determined by counting back from your wake time the average number of hours you sleep. For example, if you sleep 5 hours and you wish to wake up at 6 a.m., your bedtime is 12:30. Keep this schedule for at least 2 weeks. As you have less problems falling and staying asleep, you can gradually add time until you get to the desired number of hours you want to sleep.

I also tried another technique called cognitive shuffling to help me fall back asleep if I woke up in the middle of the night. Sometimes we are unable to sleep because our minds are busy thinking about what happened during day or planning for tomorrow. We get stuck in replay mode or worrying. Cognitive shuffling gives our brain something to do that is more relaxing and harmlessly repetitive. When you get ready to sleep, think of an emotionally neutral word, like bear. Next think of several words that begin with the letter B and try to picture each such as “baby, ball, bananas”. Then move on to the next letter, E and you may think “ear” or “eyeball”. Before you know it, you have drifted off to sleep.

I also tried a weighted blanket. If you’ve never heard of weighted blankets, they are exactly what they sound like, a quilted blanket that has glass or plastic beads inside to reach a certain weight. My blanket weighs 15 pounds. There are some studies in which participants slept better and longer with a weighted blanket because they promote a calm, secure feeling, like a hug. The downside is these blankets can be pricey (upwards of $100 and more). I recommend Layla as they are quality blankets and come with a 120 day money back return policy. They can be hot during the summer months so you will need to turn your air conditioning down even more at night so you don’t sweat.

I’m not sure exactly which of these therapies has helped or whether it has been the combination of them but I’ve gone from sleeping as little as 4 hours a night to 6 and 7. More importantly, I feel rested. If you suffer from a lack of sleep, I strongly encourage you to try some of these techniques.

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