Help! I Can’t Sleep at Night!
Everyone has trouble sleeping from time to time and chances are you have to. The problem is more common in women, and in people over the age of 60 yrs, but can affect anyone at any age. Usually, the problem will just fix itself and you’ll be back to your old sleep patterns in no time. But what if it doesn’t?
Anxiety, stress, depression, trauma, medical conditions, medications, poor sleep habits, and other mental health issues can interfere with your sleep and cause insomnia. This article will outline some practical steps you can take to help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. First, some things to not do:
1. Don’t use alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs. These may help you fall asleep but will affect your sleep patterns possibly making you wake up more tired than before.
2. Don’t drink caffeinated drinks, especially in the evening. Caffeine can affect you for 3-7 hours after you drink it.
3. Don’t perform heavy exercises in the evening- this will increase your heart rate and decrease your ability to sleep. High-intensity exercise includes things such as heavy weightlifting, interval training, or running.
4. Don’t eat before going to bed. You should aim to stop eating at least 3 hours before going to bed. If you’re hungry, a small easily digestible snack is thought to be OK.
5. Avoid napping if possible
6. Do not use your bed for activities other than sleep or sex. Ideally, your bed should have a strong association with sleep and intimacy only. You do not want to form an association with other things such as watching tv, working, or surfing the internet. These types of associations will increase your wakefulness when you get into bed.
1. Conversely, light or moderate exercise can help you to sleep. Ideally, you should be getting 30 min of exercise 5 days a week. Light or moderate exercise includes yoga, stretching, walking, light housework, or leisurely biking. Also, be sure to finish at least an hour before bedtime.
2. Ensure that your room is dark, quiet, and cool. If this isn’t possible, consider using earplugs and/or sleep a mask. The ideal temperature is 65* F.
3. Limit screen time prior to bedtime. Sleep studies show you should stop using devices that emit blue light at least 30 min prior to going to sleep. This is because the blue light lowers your melatonin levels and directly affects your sleep. Also, set your phone to “do not disturb” or turn it off because any incoming messages or banners flying across your screen will disturb your sleep. So put down your phones, tablets, laptops, and iPads!
4. Keep the same schedule every day- and yes, this includes weekends as well. Go to sleep at roughly the same time every night and wake up at the same time in the morning. This helps to set your internal clock.
5. Make and keep a regular nighttime routine to help you relax for sleep. Try reading (an actual book- no blue light remember!), meditating, stretching, taking a walk, or taking a shower. Whatever your routine, keep it consistent.
If you find that after trying these tips you’re still having difficulty falling asleep, please check with your doctor to ensure something isn’t wrong with your health. Also, if you have symptoms of depression, PTSD, excessive stress, or other mental health concerns, please reach out to a mental health professional. We really are here to help. I can be reached by clicking the button below.
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