It should be as easy as falling off a log, however falling asleep at nights – and staying asleep – can be quite frustrating for many of us. In fact 30 percent of American adults are reported as having some difficulty with consistently getting sufficient sleep. This is of concern since getting insufficient sleep has been linked to several chronic diseases as well as to a shortened lifespan.
If we take a close look at how we operate throughout a regular day, we will see that most of what we do is not really conducive to us maintaining a natural cycle of sleeping and waking. Our inborn circadian rhythm becomes adversely affected by the many unfavorable external cues in our daily routine. The constant glare of the computer screen and the hectic schedules we try to maintain interfere with our ability to get truly restful sleep when we need it.
Take heart in the fact that there are ways of tackling whatever it is that is stealing your zzz’s. The following is a look at some sleep problems and ways in which they may be corrected. Certainly, there is no cure-all, and you may need to try a few suggestions to find the one that works for you. Also, you may be affected by more than one sleep deprivation issue requiring you to take them on one at a time. Just bear in mind that getting the sleep your body needs is vital for keeping you psychologically, emotionally, and physically strong.
1. Aches and Pains
Though they may not initially affect the quantity and quality of your sleep, aches and pains can set you up for a cruel pattern of pain leading to lost sleep leading to more pain and then to less sleep as the nights roll by. There are several approaches to lessening the pain and adding more hours of beneficial sleep to your night.
The first practical thing you could try is to simply avoid sleeping in a position that causes pressure on the site of your pain. A good deterrent for inadvertently rolling over onto the painful side is a tennis ball (or similar object) tucked into your clothing on that side.
Something else to try is a gentle massage of the painful areas (as long as it does not bring discomfort).
Also, do not go for vigorous exercise, especially when it is nearing your bedtime. Instead, try to do some light exercise in the afternoon.
Deep abdominal breathing or other relaxation techniques may prove helpful in relaxing aching muscles and joints, making it easier for you to fall asleep.
2. Disturbing Bedmate
The reason for your inability to get sufficient shut-eye may be lying fast asleep beside you. If you are a light sleeper it may be difficult to get sufficient sleep if your partner snores, moves around a lot in their sleep, is an early (and noisy) riser or bounces into bed just as you are hitting your deep sleep cycle.To deal with a sleep-killing bedmate the first approach is to talk about the problem with emphasis on the fact that it is ‘our’ problem.
Below are a few other options you should consider:
If the problem is snoring, a change in sleep positions for your partner may be the solution. Equally useful are a wide variety of gadgets on the market to help eliminate snoring. To be on the safe side have your partner checked for a condition called sleep apnea – a sleep disorder in which there are pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep.
In the instance that you have a partner that’s a restless sleeper, you may both decide to try switching to a bed with firmness controls, to see if that prevent you from waking with their every toss and turn. Simpler ways of shutting out the distractions include eye covers, earplugs and white-noise machines. Each takes some getting used to but they are worth a fair try. If all else, fails then your partner may need medical attention to help them get over the condition.
In the case of your sleep being disturbed because your partner wakes before you or comes to bed after you do a bed with firmness controls may again be the answer. Also, consider installing dimmer lights that won’t jolt you out of your slumber when your partner needs to find stuff in the room. If they use an alarm clock, suggest putting it on vibrate mode and low volume with something less annoying than a constant high pitched beeping.
3. Something On Your Mind
For most of us the busy day does not end when we crawl into bed. Rather, we are preoccupied with going over details of the past day and planning for the day to come. In some cases even if we are able to shut out all the niggling concerns and fall asleep, we wake prematurely and all the anxiety returns making it difficult to fall asleep again. Try these next points to help clear your mind and ease you off to sleep.
Relax. Have a warm and massaging bath or shower; do breathing exercises; close your eyes and practise chanting; or do some light stretching. These will help you shed the worries of the past day and the day ahead.
Let your sense of smell help you drift off to sleep. Try scents like lavender and lemon which have been reported to have a calming effect.
Consider reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake, particularly in the evenings. This will help to ensure that you are not being kept awake when your body is ready to fall asleep.
Since sleep begets more sleep, try grabbing a nap for 10 – 20 minutes in the afternoon. It will help to ensure that you are not too tired to sleep (strange but true).
4. Where You Sleep
Quite often your lack of sleep cannot be blamed on yourself or your partner. What’s wrong with you getting all the necessary rest?The environment you are trying to get it in. Take a moment to think about it and you may just be able to pinpoint the factor in or about the room that is leading to your sleep deficiency. Some of the usual suspects are highlighted below.
Too much light is one of the most obvious environmental issues affecting a person’s inability to either fall asleep or stay asleep. We are biologically wired to the rising and setting of the sun – it is the most important driver of our circadian rhythm. It is natural for us to sleep at night and wake as the morning comes. Changing to curtains that completely block out the sunlight is one option for getting extra sleep past sunrise.
Noise level can also affect the quality of your sleep. Some persons find it easier to get to sleep and stay asleep with background noise such as from a white noise machine or even a music player. These help by supply a providing a constant, even sounds that mask any sudden and jarring changes in the surrounding noise level. Studies show that often it is not the sounds themselves that wake us, but the change in the sounds. Ever wonder why a baby will sleep through the noise of the vacuum cleaner then wake as soon as it is shut off?
The temperature of the room is often an overlooked cause of sleep problems. Daily temperatures are affected by the sunshine, and hence our sleep cycles are affected by both in the same way. A thermostat is very useful for keeping the room at a comfortable temperature while you sleep. Otherwise, you may simply need an extra blanket, or perhaps no blanket (and no clothes!).
The firmness of the bed is one easy to appreciate cause of losing sleep. It’s either too soft or too hard. Consider changing the mattress, preferably to one with firmness controls.
5. Difficulty Staying Asleep
This sleep issue can perhaps be regarded as adding insult to injury, because it is often combined with one or more of the sleep stealers listed above. If you suffer from a chronic inability to stay asleep ensure that you seek medical advice so as to rule any serious medical issues. If none is indicated, then levels of melatonin production may be the root cause of your wakefulness. Melatonin is a hormone that controls our daily night-day cycle. In other words, it helps our bodies follow the natural biological rhythms of sleeping and waking.
Your body produces melatonin normally in the absence of light. So consider staying away from bright light for the last couple of hours leading up to your bedtime. This could mean shutting off the television or computer and reading by dim or candle light.
If you find it difficult to stay away from light altogether or even to remain in dim lighting, then there are glasses with amber-colored lenses that block blue light. This helps since blue light has been shown to be the part of the spectrum that significantly reduces melatonin production. You may also consider installing a program such as f.lux (free on line) to gradually adjust the levels of blue light emitted by your computer or cell phone screen as the day progresses.
Melatonin is available as a supplement for those affected by sleeplessness. Just be sure to take note of how it works for you. Some persons find that quick release melatonin helps them to fall asleep but they then wake a few hours later and find it difficult to go back to sleep. In these instances sustained release melatonin is a better option. The slow release of the hormone ease you off to sleep and it helps to keep you asleep.
You body deserves the restorative goodness of a good night’s sleep. You are not doomed to going through the day like a zombie or to falling asleep at your desk. Whatever the reason for your lack of sleep, you can rest assured (pun intended) that there is most likely a way to identify it and put in corrective measures to help you get the sleep you need.