The Beauty of Blissful Sleep

Photo: © Heide Benser/Corbis

Photo: © Heide Benser/Corbis

If your nights are filled with so much tossing and turning that you feel like the restless lass in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea, don’t lose sleep over it. With a few expert tips, you can begin the year with improved slumber habits that will help you wake up rested and refreshed.

Although each person’s sleep requirements vary, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it’s best to aim for seven to eight glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

The academy also advises that too much or too little sleep could elevate the risk for heart disease. In fact, heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease and angina are twice as prevalent among people who consistently get fewer than five hours of sleep nightly. But don’t opt for the Rip Van Winkle sleepy head approach either. Sleeping in an extra hour or two each morning also poses a problem because the rate of cardiovascular disease is 1.5 times higher for people who sleep nine or more hours a night.

The body needs deep, restorative sleep regularly to rejuvenate cells and keep the mind alert and emotionally balanced. The quality of sleep each night directly correlates to the way you feel during the day.

If you enjoy catnaps, studies suggest that 30 minutes of early-afternoon shut-eye is optimal because anything shorter isn’t refreshing, and anything longer in duration or later in the day might give you a jetlagged feeling and disrupt your sleep later that night.

And ladies, if it seems your sleep is more fragmented than your male sleeping partner’s, it‘s not a dream. “In general, women’s sleep patterns can differ from men’s for a number of reasons,” says Dr. Federico Cerrone, director of Atlantic Health.

Sleep Centers at Morristown Memorial and Overlook Hospitals (866-906-5666; “Physical discomfort and sleep disturbance are common during pre-menstrual and menstrual cycles, and this can become chronic and perpetuate for months or even years. During menopause, a whole new set of issues can arise—hot flashes, night sweats and fluctuating heart rhythms.”

“We advise our patients, if you lie awake in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, do not turn on the lights and start watching television or doing housework,” he says. “If you just don’t feel tired, go to another room, keep the lights dim, and listen to soothing music or read. When you begin to feel tired, go back to bed. This is a methodical process not unlike training a young child to establish a regular sleep-wake cycle.”

Dr. Cerrone also notes that about two percent of women suffer from sleep apnea and many may not recognize the symptoms. Women of any age, particularly those with high blood pressure, who snore and wake frequently, should see their physician to rule out sleep apnea, he advises.

Experts agree that if you don’t snooze, you’ll lose. Consider these simple tips to help you wake up on the right side of the bed:

1. Easy does it

Keep your bedroom quiet and temperature regulated. Consider using white-noise machines ( and earplugs, and remove nearby distractions such as your television and computer. For optimal comfort, sleep in a room that’s about 65 degrees.

2. The kitchen is closed

Avoid heavy evening meals and sugar-laden desserts. Alcohol and caffeine in the evening, even 12 hours before bedtime, can stimulate you to wake up in the middle of the night.

3. Get in sync

Put your head on your pillow at the same time each night, and rise at the same hour, even on weekends. Your body will respond to a natural schedule if you go to bed when you’re tired and treat your body to quality sleep each night.

4. Don’t be alarmed

If you’re experiencing sufficient slumber, you really won’t need an alarm clock because you will wake naturally once you’ve enjoyed the right amount of slumber. If your alarm clock rings and you’re still in a deep sleep, try going to bed earlier.

5. Couch potatoes beware

Resist snoozing on the sofa after dinner because this typically affects your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep later at night. If you feel tired in the middle of the evening, force yourself to get off the couch and do something productive.

6. Dim the lights

Your natural sleep-wake rhythm, called Circadian rhythm, is affected by daylight and darkness. Keep bedroom light as dim as possible and, if you have to wake in the middle of the night to comfort a crying child or to use the bathroom, avoid turning lights to their brightest setting. Black-out shades also can be helpful.

Besides these expert tips, you can always try the old standards: sip warm milk at bedtime, relax in a hot tub or consider a more comfortable mattress and pillow.

Maya Ben, president of Hollandia International with a location at the Mall at Short Hills (973-564-8808;, says, “The way you sleep really can affect all aspects of your life—your work, your family, your friendships. The only disadvantage to having a wonderfully comfortable mattress at home is that once you sleep in a hotel or at a friend’s house, you’ll likely miss your own bed.

“Your mattress is much more than a place to sleep,” Ben adds. “When you have a large, comfortable bed, it’s a great place to relax on a Saturday or Sunday morning. That’s why our company slogan is, ‘Let’s stay in bed.’ ”

However you aspire to improve your slumber habits, here’s wishing you restful beauty sleep—fit for a princess.

Wake Up Sleepyhead

Drowsy Driving Statistics Are Eye-Opening

If you sometimes find yourself turning up the car radio, rolling down the windows or chewing gum to keep yourself awake on the road, you’re not only sleep deprived, you’re putting yourself and others at real risk.

Tests* have shown that an individual who has been awake for 18 consecutive hours has an impairment equivalent to a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent, which exceeds the nationwide   legal limit for operating a vehicle. 51 percent of adults surveyed admitted to driving while drowsy at least once in the previous year, 17 percent of whom admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel.

Statistically speaking, one out of every 15 cars on the road is operated by a person who is too tired to be driving safely. Data released in 2002 indicated that 100,000 motor vehicle accidents, more than 40,000 injuries and at least 1,500 fatalities annually were officially attributed to driver fatigue or drowsiness. Primary rates of incidence occurred between the hours of 12 am and 6 am with the vast majority attributed to single vehicle accidents on long, monotonous stretches of road.

Yet another reason to manage your sleep schedule and soak up your restorative beauty sleep.

* NSF 2002 Sleep In America Poll

If you like this article please share it.

About this article

Author: Issue: Jan/Feb 2011
Credits: Photo: © Heide Benser/Corbis
Tags: , , ,