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A Good Night's Sleep

Michael Breus, A Good Night's SleepAfter more than 25 years of insomnia I've read my share of books on sleep and this is by far the best. Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health by Dr Michael Breus is more than a fix for insomnia. The book also emphasises the importance of sleep to health, beauty, your sex life and your mood. A study using the Day Reconstruction Method found that

an extra hour of sleep had more on an impact on how participants felt throughout the day than earning more money.

I only have to think how I’m feeling today to acknowledge the truth of that statement. Last night my dogs barked at 1am and again at 1:30am and 2:30am. The result? This morning I am unaccountably irritable and clumsy. I don’t seem to be able to concentrate and find myself dropping things and getting frustrated at the smallest things. Unfortunately this isn’t a one-off problem. I’ve had years of poor quality sleep and have been really looking forward to putting into practise Dr Mike’s recommendations for a good night’s kip.

The book starts with a comprehensive guide to sleep hygiene which includes everything from choosing the best mattress, to sound proofing your room, developing good bedtime habits and understanding your own issues. I had already put in place a number of changes to help me with my sleep. I shut the bedroom door to keep four legged critters from disturbing my sleep.

I try to go to bed at the same time each night. Did you notice the word try? Unfortunately I keep trying to fit in extra things at night and find my bedtime running past my planned time. That’s where Dr Mike’s power-down hour comes in. He suggests devoting an hour each night to relaxing activities that won’t stimulate your mind and body as well as the little things that have to be done each night; letting the pets out to go to the toilet, brushing your teeth or tidying away your meal.

The book is full of handy quizzes that help you identify problem areas and provides comprehensive solutions for you to address these issues and get a good night's sleep. After 25 years of reading everything I can lay my hands on I thought I had a pretty good handle on sleep but Dr Mike introduces a lot of facts and information that were new to me. It had never occurred to me that sleep cycles might change according to menstruation. In my case I feel that my sleep is uniformly bad, but I will be keeping a diary over the next 28 days in the hope of uncovering new patterns to my insomnia.

If you're impatient (like I was) to jump into the four week program you can start that immediately but I would strongly recommend reading the preceding chapters so you can eliminate problems from light, noise, pets, uncomfortable pillows and the like.

Good Night covers all the basics of getting a good night sleep, including recommendations on snacks to help you get to sleep (unfortunately a nightcap of your favourite brandy is not on the list of sleep recommendations) and ideas for decorating your room to minimise distractions..
The book distinguishes between disordered sleeping and sleep disorders covering off the common sleep disorders and how they are diagnosed. I have experienced both initial insomnia (trouble falling asleep) as well as disturbed and poor quality sleep including frequent waking during the night (middle insomnia). These fall into the category of disordered sleeping.

The pros and cons of various remedies including sleeping pills and alternative remedies are also covered. This book is primarily aimed at non-pharmacological sleep solutions that you can manage in your own home.

For anyone interested in weight loss or wanting to look younger or remove those black circles under the eyes, Good Night tells you why sleep might be interfering with your energy, appetite and appearance as well as providing guidelines to look and feel younger healthier and slimmer. What could be better?

If you’re having trouble sleeping I recommend you check out the following resources:

Sound Sleep Solutions
has a questionnaire to help you identify sleep problems. In addition there are action plans to address problems with insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs or sleep apnoea as well as articles and tips on sleep.

Auckland University CALM
Free audios and information to help you reduce stress