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January 22, 2014 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

What To Do When You Can't Fall Asleep

By Rachael Ellen More Blogs by This Author

It’s twelve o’clock at night. You’ve already gone through the routine of brushing your teeth and visiting the porcelain throne one last time before heading to bed. Slowly, you crawl under the blankets, rolling yourself into a duveted taco of feathery goodness. Inside your makeshift cocoon it’s warm, cozy, and smells faintly of floral Downy fabric softener. After a few adjustments, you settle into that perfect position, sighing. You’ve waited all day for this moment, and finally it’s time to get some quality sleep. There’s just one little problem...

You don’t feel tired. On the contrary, you feel like you could run a flippin’ marathon!

Disgusted, you remove yourself from your comfortable position. How could this be happening? You can’t still be awake, you have to be up early tomorrow morning. (In that awful moment you realize that technically it is tomorrow morning already.)  Curse words start fumbling from your pouted lip. For the next two hours, you lie awake with your eyes squeezed shut in the hope that sleep will eventually seize you.

It’s not you bed, it’s me

In no way is it uncommon for people to get the occasional  crappy night's sleep. Poor sleep can be attributed to multiple factors and can affect people of all ages. The National Sleep Foundation lists factors such as stress, school/job pressures, family/marriage problems, tragedies,  drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages late at night, exercising, mentally intense activities before bed, shift work,  jet lag,  bad lighting or uncomfortable temperature in your bedroom, and medications as causes of a bad night’s sleep.

Get. Up. Now.

Lying awake in the middle of the night is something everybody has experienced at least once. Often, our response to being annoyingly cognizant  is to stay curled up under our covers and just wait for slumber. But Dr. Harneet Walia of the Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center says that by remaining in your bed, you’re doing more harm than good. Walia explains that by staying in bed, “you’re basically training your body not to sleep in bed, but to lie there and not sleep, and your mind can get conditioned to that.” 

A similar notion was expressed in an article called “ABCs of ZZZZs--When you Can’t Sleep” from the National Sleep Foundation. The experts suggest getting up and trying a relaxing activity, like “listening to soothing music or reading, until you feel sleepy,” and they urge people to remember that they’re trying to clear their minds, not trying to solve their problems. A great relaxation technique is striking your favorite yoga pose and practicing your breathing. (If you’re not familiar with yoga, I highly suggest you give it a go, even if you think you’re not the “yoga-type.” Click here to read about how I overcame my fears and fell in love with yoga).

Keepin’ it Real

Your bedroom should be your safe haven--your kingdom, if you will. Like the good king or queen that you are, you want to keep your “kingdom” inviting, pleasant, and comfortable. A crucial step toward good sleep is upholding the sanctity of your bedroom.  One of the key points the National Sleep Foundation makes (it is even repeated twice in their list of “So, What’s The Secret To Good Sleep?”) is “don’t use your bed for anything other than sleep or sex.” By following this guideline, your brain will associate your bed with sleep. This mental association should also be complemented by a bedtime routine to zap your brain with another “it’s time to snooze” signal.

You’ve got issues

It’s one thing to have the occasional off night, but recurring nights of poor sleep should be a red flag. If you’re having trouble sleeping over the course of a few days, start documenting your sleep pattern and your behaviors. By taking a closer look at how you spend your time before bed, you might be able to diagnose the problem. Continue jotting down your patterns as long as the problem persists. After a week of poor sleep, you should get in contact with your doctor and ask about any medications or lifestyle changes they would suggest.

The bottom line is this: Adequate sleep is as essential to health and peak performance as exercise and good nutrition. If you aren’t getting enough, talk to your physician. You deserve it.”  --  “ABCs of ZZZZs--When you Can’t Sleep,” National Sleep Foundation.

Now that you know a little more about catching some quality “ZZZs,” let’s call it a day. Sleep tight everyone, don’t let the bedbugs bite!

Sources: 

http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_disorders.htm

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/abcs-zzzzs-when-you-cant-sleep

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2013/11/22/5-tips-for-relieving-travel-stress

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/20/fall-asleep-wide-awake_n_4589634.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

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