When we get up in the morning, most of us have some kind of routine which gets us going and ready for the day. Some may start with coffee, while others need to hit the shower to fully wake up. Breakfast is usually thrown in there somewhere, along with a quick check in the mirror to make sure you at least match and then you’re off running in a million directions.
It’s no wonder that at the end of the day, an estimated 50 to 70 million American adults suffer from some kind of sleep or wakefulness disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Developing good sleep hygiene is an important component to getting the good night sleep you deserve.
Two common sleep issues are not being able to fall asleep and falling asleep but waking up in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep. There are many reasons why people experience these problems; the question is what to do about it.
Problem One: You can’t fall asleep.
Falling asleep requires your body to release the stresses of the day and to move into the five cycles of sleep. When you are serious about being able to fall asleep, you need to prepare the mind and the body.
- Set a consistent bedtime and awake time. Even if you are not working or you have the ability to stay up later, it’s important for your body’s internal clock system to have consistent sleep time.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine four to six hours prior to your pre-determined bed time. While many people think a “night cap” helps them fall asleep, you pay for it later with fragmented or disrupted sleep as the alcohol levels drop in the blood, which can act as a stimulant later.
- While exercise is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle, experts say that strenuous exercise two to four hours prior to going to bed may disrupt your ability to fall asleep. If you have a hard time falling asleep after exercising at night, consider switching your workout time.
- Relaxation and meditation techniques really do work. Like anything worth achieving, it takes practice. There are lots of options for relaxation; you need to find the one that works best for you.
Problem Two: You wake up and can’t get back to sleep.
This happens to everyone at some point in their life. Whether it’s a loud neighbor, crying baby, or a snoring spouse, sleep is going to be disrupted from time to time. It's good to know some tips ahead of time so you don’t get caught up and frustrated because you can’t get back to sleep.
- If it’s been more than 20 minutes, get up and leave the room. Find something quiet to do, but avoid watching TV. The light from the TV acts as a stimulant and can keep you awake.
- Avoid turning on bright lights.
- Slow the mind with simple tasks and avoid picking up your book you couldn’t put down earlier in the day. A warm bath or shower with candle light is a calming option.
- A light snack may also be on the menu, but avoid food high in sugar.
It’s important to have a sleep plan so that when sleep disruption occurs, you know what you are going to do rather than laying in bed mad that you can’t get to sleep.