Those who have trouble getting to sleep at night face a potentially serious health problem. Fortunately, a sleep disorder is often a serious problem that has a simple solution. People with a chronic sleep problem may have been affected by a slight change in their nightly routine, or by an environmental issue that can easily be resolved. The key is consistency and maintaining a regimen that works for you. It’s amazing how much impact something as innocuous as leaving a TV screen on, checking your Facebook account, or having a bite of your favorite sweet snack can have on your ability to sleep soundly. Changing sleep habits can have a transformative effect on your life and health. Here’s some helpful advice on how to do it:
Put out that light
Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle. The brain produces more melatonin when it’s dark, and less when it’s light. You’re more alert and awake in sunlight or in a well-lit space, while melatonin causes you to feel sleepy in the dark, which is why it’s so important to maintain a completely dark sleep environment, a room as bereft of light as possible. Consequently, it’s important to limit exposure to light at bedtime, so instead of flipping on your overhead bedroom light when it’s time to get ready for bed, opt for soft lighting from a candle or dim lamp. Conversely, let the sunlight in to help you wake up in the morning. If you have a problem feeling sleepy during the day, make a point of getting outside as much as possible. Take coffee breaks outdoors or go for a brief walk. Keep curtains and blinds open throughout the day. If you live in a place that tends to be overcast much of the time, consider investing in a light box, which simulates sunlight and tricks your brain into producing less melatonin. It’s a good way to get your circadian rhythms back in line and to feel sleepier close to bedtime.
Establishing a regular sleep routine in which you go to bed at the same time every night is an important first step. But its effect will be reduced if you don’t do likewise in the morning and get out of bed at the same time, weekends included. It’s tempting to sleep in late on Saturday and Sunday; most people consider it a reward for all those early morning rousings and countless hours spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic. But for someone with a chronic sleep problem, it can be self-defeating.
Keep in mind that maintaining a sleep schedule requires balance in other areas of your life. That means not working too much, not socializing too much, and generally being able to have lights out at the same time each evening so that you can feel well-rested when your alarm clock goes off. Creating work-life balance will require that you prioritize your sleep schedule so that you don’t overdo it in any other area of your life. You’ll also need to delegate work tasks or projects so that you don’t get overloaded and be ready to say no to extra work or social activities that could impede on your sleep schedule. Creating this balance will take time and practice but will be well worth it.
A hearty meal can leave you feeling drowsy and make it tempting to take a nice long nap. But giving into sleepiness will throw you off and lead to yet another night of tossing and turning. Instead of curling up on the couch for an impromptu siesta, fight the impulse and go do something to keep moving, like going for a walk, doing a load of laundry, or unloading the dishwasher. Avoid having a late-night snack or checking out social media.
Kids and adults alike need to feel comfortable in their sleep environment. That means having the right kind of pillow (e.g., fluffy or flat), soft bed clothing, proper lighting and a temperature set at 60 to 67 degrees. Another factor that can add comfort is having a soothing, relaxing experience just before bed. Pure by Rachelle Parker offers everything from therapeutic bath products to essential oil bath bombs to aromatherapy candles that can enhance your pre-bedtime routine and help you feel more calm and relaxed so that sleep comes easier.
Preparation and consistency are essential to overcoming common sleep problems. A comfortable sleep space and a consistent nightly regimen are key to correcting what can be a problem that threatens one’s mental and physical well-being.