Saturday, February 25, 2012

Trouble falling asleep? 12 Ways to Help You Sleep Better

Are you like me and call yourself a poor sleeper?  That even when you know you have a full day ahead of you and need the rest, you can't seem to fall asleep.  And even though you know you will probably be woken up at least once during the night so you really need to rest, you can't go to sleep.  When you try to get to bed at an early time, you can still end up lying there for a hour or more...

Ok, that is me!  Most nights I am woken at least once by one of the kids, start the day anytime between 5am and 6am  and though I try to get to bed by 10am I still have trouble falling asleep.  So here are some of the ideas I am trying at the moment.

1.  Going to bed the same time every evening.
This one doesn't happen all that often for me because of having things on in the evenings.  So bedtime is anytime between 9.30pm and 11.00pm.  I'd prefer earlier rather than later.

2.  Getting up at the same time every morning.
Apparently this idea is meant to make the most difference with a good night's sleep.  It's to do with re-setting your body clock in the mornings.  However in this season of life I let the baby wake me up.  Any extra sleep I can have in the morning I will take.  But wake up time is generally between 5am and 6am.

3.  Take only short naps during the day if needed.
At the moment I do take a nap if I can while the kids are resting/ sleeping in the afternoon.  It helps me keep going to the end of the day without getting too grumpy or impatient.  Yes, my naps are probably too long, about 1 hour, since most would say a nap is between 10 and 30 mins long.  Obviously if you have too much sleep during the day it affects how you sleep at night.  Hmm, saying this, there are some people in life like hubby who can disregard all these ideas and still fall asleep quickly at night.  Just a little bit of sleep jealously here! :)

4.  Low lights in the evening.
Ok since I have gone back to dimming the lights at night I feel I have had some improvement with sleeping.  In the evenings I make sure most of the lights are off and use the table lamps we have in the bedroom and in the lounge room.  Why is this important?  Apparently we secrete a hormone called melatonin which helps us fall asleep and stay asleep.  Light suppresses melatonin secretion and darkness increases it.  So it is a good idea to be exposed to less light several hours before going to bed.  This leads to the next idea...

5.  Reduce or eleminate screen time in the evenings.
Computer screens give out a lot of light especially blue light which affects melatonin secretion.  So lately I have been trying to turn off the computer by 8pm.  Ok I admit sometimes I eek it out to 8.30pm.  Part of my reasoning for less screen time in the evenings is not just to do with sleep.  I have been telling myself that a lot of what I want to do on the computer (research, emails etc.) could be done in the morning and that I am more productive in the mornings anyway.

6.  Avoid eating within 2 hours of going to bed.
But if you are like me and feeling hungry can also stop you falling asleep then there are some foods that are better to eat.  Obviously, have a snack and not a meal right before bed.  Some foods that encourage the body to relax and sleep better are milk, bananas, almonds, cheese, whole grain toast and oats.  So have a cup of warm milk and an oat biscuit or cheese on wholemeal toast.  

7.  Avoid having caffeine after 3pm.
This is one idea that I am really strict about because it makes such a big difference to me getting to sleep or not.  On occasion I have a had a cup of tea about 4pm and I am wide awake at bedtime despite being very tired.  I have also found that green tea, even though it contains a lot less caffeine, still affects me.  I don't even bother with coffee.  :)  

8.  Exercise
The bane of my life! :)  I know this idea is good for me but fitting into my day to day routine at the moment and being motivated... another story.  But if are unlike me, apparently vigourous (aerobic) exercise in the late afternoon/ early evening affects sleep the most positively over exercising earlier in the day.  Though not within 3 hours of going to bed because it is actually too stimulating.  Exercise raises the body temperature and our body temperatures need to be lower to induce sleep.  Exercise, of course has loads of other health benefits!

9.  Lower your body temperature.
A great way to do this is to take a hot bath/ shower 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours before bedtime.  Avoid a hot bath/shower right before bedtime.  This works for me!

10.  Create a bedtime routine.
Apparently doing the same things every night 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed can help.  I am working on this idea because I have realised I don't have a consistent night time routine.  I use to give myself 10 minutes to get ready for bed, still working up until then and then collapse in bed.  One thing I do now is allow myself  light reading time before turning the lights off.  I just have to learn to be disciplined with my reading time and not read for so long.

11.  Get direct sunlight in the early morning.
I love this idea because I am one that tends to be up early in the morning and I love being outside.  Apparently having exposure to sunlight between 6.00am and 8.30am for at least 30 minutes is really important for re-setting your internal biological  clock.  Our biological clocks which are located in a section of the brain have a natural day length of just over 24 hours.  They need to be re-set to match the day length of the day/night cycle.  Light is key to that. This means I have more reason to enjoy feeding the chooks, watering the vegie gardening, hanging washing out in the early morning and appreciate my kids waking me up so early.

12.  Learn to deal with stressors in your life.
Personally I'm often kept awake at night by stressful, anxious thoughts.  We do have a considerable amount of stressors in our life right now, some of which I cannot do much about.  So  this is an area I am leaving be for the moment and instead I am trying some of the easier to implement ideas above.

Well I hope you find this this helpful with your sleeplessness and you are able to get some more zzzzzzz!

What do you like to do to help you get to sleep at night?

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