Sleep Problems? Fall Asleep Quicker and Easier
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep is vital to our lives. When we sleep, we allow our bodies to rest so that we may be able to function to the best of our ability the next day. We give our organs time to stop working so hard. Sleep allows our bodies to heal from illness and injury. Sleeping gives our body a chance to grow when we are young or when we are building muscle. When we sleep, we process information, through our dreams and our subconscious. Overall, it enables us to remain mentally and physically healthy and to achieve better health.
What happens when we deprive our bodies from getting an appropriate amount of sleep? A recent study indicated when we do not get at least 7 hours of sleep at night, we lose brain cells. There is no making up for any of these hours we lose. The brain cells we lose are forever gone. If we do not get our sleep, our ability to grow, heal, and function is hindered; therefore, it is important for us to take steps to ensure that we get enough sleep. This article will serve as a guide to assist you in proper sleep hygiene which means you will create an environment and lifestyle that will provide a healthy night's rest.
Common Causes of Sleep Disturbance
- Physiological changes [growth, menopause]
- Medical problems [hyperthyroidism, pain, illness, bladder]
- Emotional problems [anxiety, depression]
- Lifestyle changes [working late, a new baby]
- Life stressors or worries
- Environment [noise, temperature, lighting]
- Daytime naps
- Time of day
- Physical stimulation
- Mental stimulation
What's Keeping You from Sleep?
Before solving the problem, you need to determine the cause of your sleep problems if you do not already know completely. If you have not had a medical check-up in a year, you should first go get checked for any medical problems that may be preventing you from sleep. Additionally, if you are having any types of physiological changes such as going through menopause, consult your physician.
To determine the cause of your sleep difficulties, take some time to make a list of what typically occurs when you are trying to fall asleep. This could take five minutes or even a day or two to observe your experience with sleep.
If your sleep problems are not related to any medical, physiological, or mental health symptoms, or if you are now receiving help from your doctor but need further help, consider the suggestions below for appropriate and helpful sleep hygiene.
- Decide on a consistent time to go to bed and wake daily. Yes, this is a difficult task when you want to stay up or sleep late late for whatever reason on the weekends; however, consistency helps to regulate your internal clock. This means your body will be better prepared to sleep at your chosen times. A deviation in schedule every once in a while will occur, but try to get back on track as soon as possible.
- When determining your sleep and wake schedule, consider how many hours you need for a good nights sleep that will leave you feeling well-rested.
- Determine if short naps are helpful or a hindrance for you. Limit naps to approximately one hour. Pay attention to how these naps affect your sleep. If you find you have trouble sleeping at night when you have taken a nap, try eliminating them for a while to see if the naps may be a problem.
- Going to bed too early can disturb your sleep by causing you to wake too early. Your body has a set period of time that it needs to rest and take care of repairs. Going to bed early will not only create a less peaceful sleep, it will disrupt your regular sleep cycle and your internal clock.
- Keep your sleep environment comfortable. Make sure your room is clean and inviting. Clutter can trigger stress or a feeling of not wanting to be in the room. Dust or dirty sheets can cause allergic reactions or make sleep uncomfortable. Set the temperature in your room to an appropriate level. If you are too hot or cold, it will not provide you with a restful sleep. If you cannot sleep without being covered, make sure your room is cool enough. Ensure that your pillows and mattress are in good condition and are the correct level of support for you. Make sure your room is dark enough for sleep. Light coming from an outside light or even a clock that is too bright can cause you to wake up.
- Level of noise. Some people recommend a completely quiet environment. It is a fact that noise can disrupt sleep; however, if noises in your home bother you, it can be helpful to use a fan or some other calming sound to block out disruptive sounds. Note: If you use these items to block out sounds, understand that you may have difficulty with falling asleep when you are away from home.
- Designate your room for sleep and sex only. If you watch television in your room; work in your room; or do other activities in your room, your mind and body will associate your room with these activities and you will find it more difficult to relax and fall asleep.
- Avoid physical or mental activities directly before it is time to fall asleep. If you work out or work up until the moment before sleep, your body and mind will remain active will have difficulties relaxing.
- Develop bed time rituals. Take a bath, read a book, close up the house, put up your animals, turn off the lights, brush your hair, brush your teeth, have sex, etc.; it can be any routine that you do before bedtime that signals to your mind and body that it is time to relax and go to sleep. Note: Be careful of the timing and temperatures of baths and showers, as they can alter your body temperature and can make you uncomfortable in bed. Give yourself an hour or two so that your temperature has time to return to it's normal set point.
- Exercise regularly, just do not exercise directly before sleep. Exercise not only keeps your body healthy, but it reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and makes you feel better about yourself.
- Be careful of inviting pets into your bed. Although pets can be comforting, they can also be disturbing. They can prevent your legs or body from finding a comfortable position. Their body heat can increase your body heat, which may disrupt your sleep. Pets licking or scratching themselves can awaken you. When you move in your sleep, pets often believe it is time for you to wake up and love on them. Finally, when they want to be let out of your room, they may try to wake you or make noise at the door so you will let them out.
- Do not stress about not being able to fall asleep. If you are unable to fall asleep, take deep breaths and try to relax your mind. Try to envision a peaceful place or think of something that makes you feel happy or relaxed. If you are still awake after about 15 minutes, leave your bedroom and do something like reading a light book or meditate for about 20 minutes. Do not consider sleep for those 20 minutes to keep yourself from focusing on the negative, which creates more stress. After 20 minutes, return to your bed and try to relax without pressuring yourself to sleep.
Remember to Sleep, Not Stress
Sleep is necessary for your overall wellbeing. It helps to repair your body and to keep you physically and mentally healthy. Sleep provides you with the ability to have energy throughout your day and to function at your best. Although many physical, medical, and mental conditions can trigger insomnia at varying levels, these situations can be alleviated with the help of doctors, medications, relaxation techniques, or good sleep hygiene. And it is always important to remember not to create more stress for yourself by thinking about your inability to sleep, but to take appropriate measures to create a relaxing sleep environment within and around yourself.
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