It’s happened to all of us. You have a busy day ahead of you so you turn in early and then find you can’t fall asleep. You roll over to look at the clock, realizing that you lied in bed for an hour already. You close your eyes and try to relax. Dang!! Now you need to use the bathroom. You come back, climb into bed and think about tomorrow’s to do list. You wake to the ringing of your alarm, feeling as though you just fell asleep.
Statistics show that 85% of the population is sleep deprived; this includes children as well as adults. The average person requires between 8 and 10 hours of sleep yet we are trying to live on 5 to 7. With increased technology, job responsibilities, and juggling family we are being forced to move through life with every minute filled, and little to no time to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet. We go to bed exhausted by too much on our minds and restorative sleep eludes us. So, how can we get not just more sleep, but a better night’s sleep?
We need to put a priority on sleep. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? I mean, sleep is a natural function and yet most of us cannot remember when we had a good night’s rest. There are different things you can try to improve your sleeping conditions and create a better environment for sleeping.
Make your bedroom your sanctuary– Leave your room uncluttered. Excessive furniture, and clothes, books or magazines piled on the floor do not create a relaxing atmosphere. Make your bed inviting and keep it for its intended purposes, sleeping and sex. This means no watching TV, doing office work, or fiddling with the computer while in bed. Figure out whether you like the feel of satin or the warmth of fleece against your skin and don’t skimp when it comes to your sheets. The same goes for your mattress and pillows. Sleeping, or trying to sleep on a wavy mattress or flat, smelly pillows would challenge the best of us. They don’t need to be the most expensive, but when they are no longer comfortable, it is time they were replaced. we can get new cheap mattress even under $200.
Keep your room dark and quiet– Thin, see-through curtains, night lights in the hall, and for sensitive persons, even the glow of the alarm clock can all prevent you from reaching a deep sleep. We have cells in the retina that do not shut down entirely when we sleep. If there is any light stimulation they will perk right up and send signals to the brain to stay alert. Another alternative would be to wear a sleep mask. To help tune out street noise or other household noises, many people will use a fan or a wave machine. Others prefer to continually re-play a soothing CD or use a set of earplugs. Try a few ideas and see what works best for you.
Be sure to exercise– Take a quick walk around the block or go for a bike ride. If you must stay indoors try running in place, jumping rope or knocking out a few jumping jacks. Our bodies were meant to be in motion and with all the sitting we do each day our muscles are in a constant state of rest. Try each day to challenge yourself physically for just a few minutes. This does not have to be a full 30 minute aerobic workout, whatever gets your heart racing and your blood moving for about 10-15 minutes will work. If you have a highly physical job, you may be thinking your job fits the bill, but it doesn’t. Your body recognizes what is work (routine) and what is exercise. It knows the difference and if you will just give this a try I think you will find positive results.
Get enough natural light– Sunlight stimulates the brain in a way that indoor lighting cannot. We need not only the light stimulation but everything that goes with it and when we step outside we get the added bonus of giving not just our brain, but our senses a workout too. Hearing traffic or the birds, seeing the colors all around you, the smell of a BBQ, and the feel of the sun’s heat or the wind gives us a mini mental workout. All these combined senses need impacted on a daily basis and it can be done in as little as 10 minutes so try to get outside every day. If you cannot get out everyday spend some time near a window or consider purchasing a UV light that simulates natural sunlight.
Watch what you eat– Try not to eat within 2 hours before going to bed and limit or avoid stimulants like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. When we eat late our digestive system does not have ample time to process the food and often there will be a back-up of acid which will wake us up. Too much to drink can create multiple trips to the bathroom, disrupting our sleep. My G-ma used to tell me that chocolate before bed will give you nightmares, not true for me but maybe chocolate is a problem for you.
Establish a routine– Going to bed and waking at the same time everyday establishes a pattern and your body will respond. Your bedtime is the more important of the two, so don’t fret if you like to sleep in on weekends. By having the routine of watching TV or reading for an hour, then brushing your teeth and washing your face; you are signalling to your mind and body that it is time to be quiet and prepare for sleep. Some folks like to sleep for 8 hours and other need 10 to be at their best. Once you figure out your body’s unique rhythm you will see that trying to sneak in that extra hour in the morning may explain why you were sluggish for half the day. Your brain is like a 5-year old child; when it is awake it wants to get the day started.
Please do not run out and buy sleep aids from the drugstore. Although they may say there are no harmful side effects, taking them can become “habit-forming” and you are still not addressing or correcting the problem. If you are willing to try a natural sleep remedy, about an hour before bedtime drink a warm glass of milk that you have added 1-2 teaspoons of honey. If you are lactose intolerant you can add the honey to a cup of warm water. Some folks swear by chamomile tea or melatonin capsules. I have found I do not care for chamomile, and my skin was sensitive to the melatonin, so listen to your body as you seek answers.
If you have tried these ideas and have not seen any improvement then I would suggest seeing your doctor for a complete physical. There are health issues that may be causing your restlessness which can be addressed once they are recognized. A few possibilities may include: being overweight, sleep apnea, snoring or acid reflux. Be assured that although it may seem that you will be someone who never gets a good night’s sleep there is help and as soon as the problem is discovered you can begin to correct it.
Sleep issues are very common and everyone has a story they can tell. Chronic sleep issues and sleep deprivation can contribute to depression, lack of concentration, poor co-ordination and a delayed response time. These are serious and should not be ignored. Take charge of your health and your life today so you can sleep better tomorrow.