There are heaps of things that can get in the way of sleep – anxious thoughts, a full tummy, uncomfortable bed, noise, etc and I have experienced these many times myself, especially when I’m traveling.
It helps to try some techniques to improve sleep and stick to those that work for us. Remember that getting sufficient and good quality sleep provides long term benefits for our health, well-being and quality of life, so we should keep at it no matter how hard it is sometimes (our body will thank us for it big time!)
Try these helpful strategies from the experts…
*SleepFoundation.org recommends the following:
#1: Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends.
This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
#2: Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
#3: If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.
Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
#4: Exercise daily.
Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner’s sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, earplugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
(photo credit: SleepFoundation.org)
Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up during the night.
#7: Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms.
Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
#8: Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening.
Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
#9: Wind down.
Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
#10: If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.
#11: If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional.
You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.
*Sleep Health Foundation also suggests:
#1: Spend the right amount of time in bed.
Most adults need about 7 to 8 hours sleep every night. Some require more and some less. Many poor sleepers spend much more than 8 hours in bed and this makes fragmented sleep a habit. Except if you have lengthy sleep requirements, limit your time in bed to no more than 8.5 hours. If you often take hours to fall asleep, go to bed later. Remember that children need more sleep than adults.
#2: Wind down and relax before going to bed.
Have a buffer zone before bedtime. Sort out any problems well before going to bed. This may mean setting aside a ‘worry time’ during the day. Use this time to go over the day’s activities and work out a plan of action for the next day. Try to avoid using your computer or other electronic screens within one hour of bedtime. Exercise is fine, but not too late in the evening. Find a relaxation technique that works for you and practice it regularly, during your wind-down period.
(photo credit: Sleep Health Foundation)
#3: Don’t lie awake watching the clock.
Watching the time on a clock just makes you anxious about not being asleep. If possible, take the clock out of your bedroom. If you need the clock for the alarm, turn it around so that you cannot see the time. Resist the temptation to look at the time on your various electronic devices. These should ideally be charged outside of the bedroom overnight.
#4: Avoid sleeping pills except in exceptional circumstances.
They do not fix the cause of your sleeping problem.
Have a good night’s sleep!