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Resisting a rest

As you prepare for Christmas and the holidays that surround it, set aside some time for quality downtime. In the hustle and bustle of the season, you may feel like you don't have enough time to rest w...

As you prepare for Christmas and the holidays that surround it, set aside some time for quality downtime. In the hustle and bustle of the season, you may feel like you don’t have enough time to rest while you push yourself to deliver a few extra loads for some extra cash for gifts.

Or, maybe you’re not getting many days off over the holidays. No matter – take advantage of the free time you have and give your batteries a recharge with a few good nights’ sleep.

It is well known that not getting enough sleep puts extra stress on your body.

Harvard Medical School researchers have linked sleep deprivation to a wide range of illnesses, from high blood pressure and heart attacks to cancer. As well, not getting enough sleep affects your immune system, slows your brain function, makes you moodier and more impulsive, lowers your physical performance, increases your body fat, and decreases your muscle size.

Obviously, getting enough sleep is vital.

When you sleep, your body regenerates itself, repairing your damaged body cells, building your immune system and creating an environment to allow your hormones to work properly. Not only that, but when you sleep you burn body fat, build muscle, and fight off illness.

But, even when you know you need sleep, do you have trouble drifting off after you’ve crawled into your bunk or bed? Don’t stress about it. Here are some tried and true tips to help get you into dreamland.

To start off, make sure you finish exercising at least a few hours before bed time and stay away from food or drink beverages with stimulants, such as caffeine.

Think about the sounds around you before you settle down. Park in a quiet spot. Wear earplugs. Use an alarm clock that ticks softly, so it doesn’t disturb you (turn off that dripping faucet, too).

Now, turn off the lights. Be sure you don’t park near a street light if the light can come through your windows.

Studies show that the brain has a separate nerve pathway to the optic nerve to find out whether it’s day or night. So, your brain knows if it’s light or dark out, whether your eyelids are open or not. Decreasing the amount of light around you where you’re sleeping can increase your quality of sleep.

Practice a cool down, quiet time. If you set aside about 30 minutes before you go to bed, you give your brain, body and spirit time to relax and prepare for a restful night.

Take this time to think about pleasant thoughts, read a good book, or take a warm shower or bath.

But, be sure to forget about the bills, the bad drivers and the load deadlines. Stay away from activities that make you concentrate like logbooks, office work, checking e-mail, video games, etc.

Be sure the room or bunk is a comfortable temperature. Turn on your heater, or the air conditioning, whatever the season demands. Generally, cooler is better, as long as you have enough blankets.

Turn on some quiet, slow-paced, simple music. You may even want to invest in some tapes or CDs with peaceful nature or water sounds. Find a background sound that reminds you of a happy memory, then let your mind wander back to that time.

Warm up some milk to drink; it really works. You can probably remember a time when your parents gave you warm milk the night before Christmas because they thought you’d have trouble falling asleep.

They had a good reason; milk contains tryptophan, which can help relax the nervous system and make you drowsy.

Make yourself comfortable. Be sure you have enough pillows and move them around to make sure you have the support you need for your head, neck and lower back. (You may need to splurge on a better mattress, too.)

Don’t make a habit of reading, watching TV or eating in bed. This will help your subconscious keep the association between the bed and sleep.

Avoid excessive stress and worrying, especially in the hours before bedtime. Leave the issues to tomorrow to solve; there’s nothing you can do about them at this moment.

Later, if you don’t drop off, don’t just lay there, losing sleep over losing sleep.

If you haven’t fallen asleep within 20 or 30 minutes, get up out of bed and do something quiet until you feel tired. Stressing over not sleeping will only keep you awake longer.

Or, try a diversion. My husband has been learning a second language. When he can’t fall asleep, he mentally reviews some sentences and vocabulary he’s been studying.

Usually one lesson is all it takes for him to drift off. Think about something you’ve been learning. Use this time to review. If you follow these tips, you’ll be a sound sleeper in your sleeper.

Karen Bowen

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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