Sleep Is Sometimes Easier Said than Done, but Here are Some Tips on How to Get a Good Night Sleep.
Although we spend almost a third of our lives asleep most of us don’t put much thought into the activity. Sleep position, pillows, mattresses, and pre-sleep routines all have a significant impact, not only on how we spend that 33% of our lives, but also how we feel during the other two thirds. In particular, sleep affects our energy, attitude, ability to concentrate and our creativity, as well as neck and back pain and physical power and energy.
Most of us take sleep for granted, assuming it will happen when we get tired enough. It’s not until a person runs into trouble with sleep that they put any thought into it. These troubles can run from insomnia or nightmares to discomfort, waking up with stiff and sore muscles or experiencing chronic pain. In fact, neck and back pain connected with sleep afflict a large number of people every year. It is one of the more common complaints of chiropractic visits. Most people suffer through such pain needlessly as there are some simple changes that can be made to drastically improve the situation.
Keep a consistent sleep schedule
- Regular bed-time – keep the variance to under 15 minutes per day
- If you get to bed late don’t sleep in late. Instead take in a short nap mid-day
- Insomniacs should not nap
- If you are getting drowsy after dinner but long before normal bed time get up and do something active to wake up – do the dishes, go for a short walk, get things ready for the next day, play a stimulating game of Wii bowling.
Getting day-time light
The body produces melatonin to regulate its sleep cycle. It tends to produce less melatonin in natural light and more in darkness. If you work indoors and rarely get out in the daylight this can become a problem. This is one reason why insomnia cases rise in winter when there is less daylight.
- Make sure to get outside during daylight hours as much as possible – go for a walk or run at lunch and eat afterwards.
- Keep the curtains and blinds open during the day to let in as much natural light as possible
- A light therapy box can be helpful. It simulates daylight
Improve night-time melatonin production
- Stay away from the TV, computer or back-lit reading devices such as iPads right before bed. These can prevent the production of sleep-inducing melatonin.
- Use low-wattage bulbs in the evening, especially as you are getting ready for sleep
- Keep the room dark during sleep.
- Use a dim light, such as a flashlight, to go to the bathroom at night. Exposure to a bright light will wake up the brain and make it much harder to get back to sleep.
Use a proper pre-sleep routine
- Reduce or mask the disruptive noises in your bedroom with a fan or white-noise machine.
- Keep the temperature in the room cool, around 60-65 degrees, and use extra blankets to keep warm if needed at first.
- A hot bath or shower can help relax you for bed, as long as you keep it short. Long hot showers and baths will raise your blood pressure over time which will make sleep harder to come by.
- Don’t use the bed for anything but sleep and sex. If you use the bed for other activities, such as work or TV it will be harder to relax and sleep.
- Reading is an ideal activity right before bed. Often just a few minutes of reading will induce drowsiness. If you struggle with insomnia pick an enjoyable easy book and read it until you can’t keep your eyes open. Don’t read a difficult book, even though this would seem to be tiring. In actuality it will either energize the brain or raise anxiety levels. A relaxing easy book can be read for as long as needed, gradually wearing down the brain until it is too fatigued to think about all the various things that would ordinarily keep you up.
- Make sure the bed is comfortable. This includes the length and width of the bed as well as ensuring you have a good quality mattress and pillow.
- Sleep in an appropriate body position. Sleeping on your back or side is ideal as it keeps the spine aligned and protects you from neck and back pain. Sleeping on your stomach may feel more comfortable at first, but you will be more likely to wake up in the middle of the night due to strain on the neck, back and stomach. For more information see this article.
Longer-term pre-sleep strategies
There are a number of general and evening activities that impact sleep.
- Smoking causes sleep troubles because nicotine is a stimulant. Also, during the night you go through nicotine withdrawal, which disrupts sleep throughout the night.
- Eat a light dinner in the evening, several hours before bed time. Avoid more than light snacking, and stop eating a couple hours before bed time.
- Cut down on caffeine, not just in the last hours of the day, but throughout the day. Caffeine can affect sleep ten-twelve hours after consuming it.
- Get moderate exercise every day. Sedentary people are more likely to have sleep problems than active people. Light exercise will make a slight difference, but moderate exercise or a generally active lifestyle will contribute to good sleep at night. Heavy training may have the reverse effect.
- Alcohol before bed may enable you to initially fall asleep faster, but your sleep will be of poor quality and you will be more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.
- Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. If you are caught up on fluids by bedtime you shouldn’t need more than another cup of water, juice or tea in the last few hours of the evening. This will prevent waking up to go to the bathroom. Make sure you start the morning replacing about one quart of fluid.
If you do wake up in the middle of the night, how do you get back to sleep?
- First, don’t use any bright lights, TV or computer screens or backlit electronic devices. These will signal the brain that it is time to wake up.
- Try praying, meditating, or reciting something you have memorized in your mind. This will prevent you from thinking about anything that might keep you awake and also fatigues the brain. Most people will begin to become drowsy within a few seconds of doing one of these things.
- Another way to occupy the brain is to count backwards from a high number, like 1000. Count slowly and deliberately. This doesn’t take much concentration, but keeps the mind from wandering.
If you cannot get to sleep after 15-20 minutes you may want to get up and do some kind of quiet, relaxing activity, such as reading. Visit this link for more great tips on how to sleep better.