I have a confession to make- I’m a self-diagnosed parasomniac! OK, it sounds more scary than it is. Parasomnias are “undesirable physical events or experiences that occur during entry into sleep, within sleep, or during arousals from sleep”. More specifically, I exhibit somniloquy which is a parasomnia that refers to talking aloud while asleep. Believe me, I say some crazy things when I’m slipping away into dreamland! Someone should record my talking one day… it’s pretty entertaining from what my friends tell me. But luckily for me, when I need to sleep I normally have no issues falling and staying asleep. So the rare time when I get insomnia and have trouble falling asleep, I find it very frustrating.
Whenever someone tells me that they suffer from insomnia, I feel for them. Not only is insomnia frustrating but lack of sleep can affect your health. Not enough sleep or non-restful sleep can: affect job performance and concentration, slow your reaction time (this can be dangerous when driving), lead to depression or anxiety, cause you to gain weight, depress your immune system functioning, and increase the risk and severity of long term diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes (from the Mayo Clinic website).
The point? Most of us have experienced sleep issues at one point or another. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, then you know how it feels to miss out on the crucial restorative hours. Or possibly you sleep all night but still wake up feeling tired. The issue could be something simple or it could be a sign of a more serious underlying health issue. If you try these tips and you are still having trouble, seek the advice of a medical professional.
- Stop stressing. This can affect your ability to fall or stay asleep. Try to write down the things on your mind just before you go to bed. Keep it short and in point form. Then put it aside and deal with it tomorrow- losing sleep won’t resolve the issues. Get them out of your mind and on paper.
- Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self! Is you mattress firm enough? Do you sink into it or does it retain its firmness and support your back? How about your pillow, is it supporting your neck? Read my previous post on how to choose the right pillow.
- Get rid of distractions. Remove electronics- they cause a distraction, emit a blue light that can disrupt your sleep, and can even affect your melatonin production while you are sleeping (an important hormone secreted at night while we sleep from our pituitary gland). Lack of melatonin can affect our sleep rhythm and has even been linked to cancer. Also, don’t introduce anything new into the bedroom that could wake your senses- new sounds or smells may cause your mind to stay alert. Loud noises distracting you? Try a white noise machine.
- Set the mood with dim lights. Keep a dim lamp by the bed and turn it on (and the brighter main lights off) while you are getting ready for bed. This helps to settle our minds down slowly and decrease wakefulness.
- What ARE you eating? Monitor your sugar and caffeine intake late in the day. Even small amounts can affect us more as we get older and make it harder for our minds to settle down at night. Avoid processed foods, candies, rich desserts, carbonated drinks, chocolate, spicy foods and heavy carbs late at night. Also try drinking some tea. Many people already have camomile tea at home. I’ve read that skullcap, california poppy and valerian are stronger if you need something more potent.
- Stop fighting, kids! My feet MUST be covered and warm or I continue to wake up during the night. When I go on trips with friends, I try to make sure we each have a blanket so that the covers aren’t pulled off my feet and disturbing my sleep. Makes for a less grumpy traveller in the morning. Speaking of not fighting…. “they” say to never go to bed angry. Easier said than done, I say! But make your best effort to at least form a plan for making peace the next day and communicate this to the one that you have the issue with. Any effort to take the stress off your mind.
- Make a bedtime routine. Habits take 15 days to set in so stay patient. Think about younger children- they fuss and whine at bedtime but if the parents are strict with the bedtime routine (eg. bath at 7pm, followed by PJs, then brushing teeth and washing face, completed with a bedtime story…) eventually the routine itself can make the kids feel sleepy and at ease. Try it yourself! Also try take a hot bath before bed. After a bath, I comb my hair and tie it into a high bun to keep the damp hair from disturbing me. Then come back to a cooled pillow. Some people put it in the freezer for a bit just before bed. I hear a cool pillow calms some people when they can’t sleep. Bonus: if you store the pillow for 24 or more hours in the freezer while washing the pillow case, apparently this can kill dust mites. I’m a lover of all things warm so I have not tried this but you may want to consider cooling your pillow down before bed.
Let me know if these tips help or what else you have found helpful. Say hello to the sandman for me!
Here’s a song for you to enjoy before bed-