for your medical problems is the right thing to do,
but you might be wrong in considering your lack of sleep as a pure medical problem. Your sleep efficiency has much to do with so many other factors as well, primarily your daily routine.
There is a very high probability of overcoming your sleeping problems by mending your bedtime habits, sleep schedule and lifestyle choices.
You are at the right place if you are looking for optimising your sleep to have a more productive resting period resulting in mentally sharp, energising and emotionally balanced day ahead.
What's the secret ?
Devising some effective strategies is quite essential in getting reliable deep restorative sleep every single night. By identifying and avoiding common sleep enemies as well as formulating some sleep nurturing techniques, everyone can have a personalised prescription of a restorative sleep.
The secret lies in experimenting. Something that might work on one turns out totally ineffective for others.
Your quest begins with identifying the number of hours you essentially need to sleep. Though sleep requirements slightly differ for every single individual, majority of healthy adults need an average of 8 hours to have a refreshing and rejuvenating night sleep.
Keeping up with your circadian rhythm
Keeping up with natural sleep-wake cycle of your body - the circadian rhythm - turns out to be one of the most important strategies to get a great sleep. If you regularise your sleeping schedule, going to sleep and getting up the exact same time every day, your quality of sleep will improve significantly compared to when you sleep for equal hours but at different times daily. Keep in mind that consistency is the key to success. Here is how you can do this:
Fix a regular bedtime: Going to bed at the same time every single night is very important. Make sure to head to the bed when feeling totally tired in order to avoid turning and tossing afterwards. Stick to this routine even on weekends when it is most tempting to stay awake late. If you find changing your bedtime inevitable, introduce your body to small daily incremental changes to help adjust it. 10 to 15 minutes of change per night is deemed ideal in this regard.
Same wakeup time everyday: Most of the sleep experts believe that a person should be able to wake up naturally without the need of alarm if he or she is getting enough sleep. If not, you better look to fix an earlier bedtime. Just as with your bedtime, try to keep up with your wakeup time even on weekends for improved sleep efficiency.
Don't undermine napping: Napping can be very effective, especially in making up for a few lost hours of sleep. Instead of changing your bedtime routine and sleeping early in a bid to compensate the lost sleep hours, you better resort to daytime nap. This ritual makes sure your sleep-wake rhythm remains unaffected, paying off your sleep debt significantly.
Think before you nap! Because if you don't, you might end up with even worse insomniac attacks. Without any doubt, napping is good, but not if you are already suffering from insomnia. If you are insomniac, consider staying away from napping. If you must nap, do not get any latter than early afternoon, limiting it to no more than thirty minutes.
Keep away from post dinner drowsiness: If you feel like fighting yourself to keep your eyes open right after dinner, much earlier than your scheduled bedtime; you better get up and engage into a mildly stimulating chore to get rid of that early sleepiness. Washing dishes, calling a friend or readying your clothes for next day can be some really helpful ways. If you let this early drowsiness invade you, you might find yourself turning and tossing later in the night instead of getting back to sleep, once you wake up.
Natural regulation of your sleep-wake cycle
Naturally regulating your sleep-wake cycle is of prime importance for getting improved sleeping experience. Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone, helps human body regulate the essential sleep-wake cycle. Light exposure controls its natural production and your brain is designed to excrete more of it during the evening, when it is dark, compared to daytime when it is light around. However, many aspects of present day lifestyle (late sittings in the office away from natural light and late night TV) can hinder its optimum natural production in many ways, due to which your sleep-wake cycle is disturbed. Avoid them to help yourself naturally regulate this essential sleep-wake cycle. There are two dimensions to helping your body naturally optimise its sleep-wake cycle:
Early morning sunlight exposure: You can get this by removing sunglasses in order to allow more light on your face early in the morning.
Maximise daylight exposure: Small activities like taking work breaks out in the open exposed to sunlight, exercising in the open or even walking your dog out during the day instead of night, can help you significantly in maximising your sunlight exposure.
Light up your home/workplace: Open up the blinds and curtains during the day to let more light run through your home/workplace. Moving your desk closer to the window will also help greatly.
Light therapy box: You might also resort to light therapy box, especially during winters with short days. It assists in simulating sunshine to help improve your light exposure in days when you are able to take advantage of natural light.
No electronic devices in the bed: Electronic devices are just great, but not when you are lying in the bed ready to sleep. The light emitting from devices like television or laptops and ipads not only suppresses the essential melatonin production, but it has the potential to stimulate your mind rather than soothing it. Reading a book or listening to soothing music is a better option instead, or you can also resort to relaxing exercises. You can always record your late night favourite show to view it later the next day.
Get rid of bright light bulbs: Bright light bulbs are to be avoided if you want some sleep inducing ambiance in your bedroom. Replace them with some soothing low voltage bulbs immediately.
The darker the better! When it comes to sleeping, the darker the better; a bedroom with darker ambiance will help you in inducing sleep. If you are wondering how to sleep better; darkness is your ally.
Devise a relaxing bedtime routine
You will get to a deep relaxing sleep conveniently if you devise a relaxing bedtime routine by making a consistent effort. Serene bedtime routine stimulates your brain to wind down, getting rid of the day's stresses.
There are certain things that can be very helpful in winding you down:
Cutting down the noise from your sleep ambiance: You may get rid of many of your sleeping problems by simply doing this. If you are unable to cut the noises of traffic, loud neighbours or barking dogs at night, you may try a fan or some soothing music or white noise for masking bothersome sounds. Earplugs can also be helpful in this regard.
Keeping your room cool can also help you deal with your lack of sleep. Most people find a temperature around 18° C (with appropriate ventilation) to be the best for inducing better sleep.
Comfortable bed is also one of the top requisites of profound sleep. It should not only be comfy and cosy with suitable pillows, but also spacious enough not to interrupt your sleep while trying to twist and turn at night. So, do not hesitate in investing in viable furnishing accessories like a highly comfortable memory foam mattress with equally comfortable set of pillows if you want to make sure getting to sleep becomes effortless for you.
You need to associate your mind to the bed as a place to relax rather than an errand-station. Reserve your bed for sleep or sex only, so that your mind gets the cue to either winding down or getting romantic, both of which must be quite joyful to you at that hour!
Balanced diet and regular exercise
If you are constantly worried about how to sleep better, mending your eating habits and exercising regularly can help you beyond imagination. Not only through the day, but you should be especially watchful about what you gulp down just a few hours earlier than your sleep time. These habits would help you improve your diet and exercise routine to deal better with your sleeping problems.
No big meals at night, if you are looking for better sleep. Make sure you take dinner early in the night and avoid heavy, oily foods, especially not within two hours to bed. Your stomach needs a lot of effort in digesting this type of food, keeping you up late at night. You also need to stay away from spicy foods in the evening, because they might cause stomach issues and heartburn, affecting the quality of sleep.
No alcohol before bed time, if you want a soothing sleep. Contrary to what many people believe, a little alcohol is not a good but a bad idea immediately before sleeping. While it might help you sleep quicker, your sleep quality is affected with alcohol due to frequent awakenings later on.
No late night caffeine, no matter how strong urges you get, because it can affect your sleep routine significantly. You will be surprised to know that there are studies indicating sleeping problems even after 10 to 12 hours of consuming caffeine. To avoid this, stay away from caffeine intake after lunch or slash your overall intake.
Quit smoking if you are wondering about how to sleep better and longer. It can affect your sleeping routine in many ways. Nicotine serves as a stimulant for your body, disrupting your sleep in ways more than you can imagine. Smokers are also known to undergo nicotine withdrawal effects through the night, affecting one's quality of sleep significantly.
Make exercise a part of your daily routine to make sure you get a soothing and refreshing sleep at night. You don't need to work out like athletes for improved sleeping experience, just as little as 20 to 30 minutes of daily exercise can do the trick. If you find yourself totally unable to spare 20 or 30 minutes a day for exercising, there are many easy and effective yoga poses that you can do right before you sleep for improved results.
Stay away from anxiety and stress
Whether you know and realize it or not, many of your sleeping problems can be a direct consequence of stress and anxiety. Residual stress, anger and worry, all three can affect your sleep quality more than you can ever imagine.
These simple activities can help you greatly in staying away from stress and anxiety, especially at night:
Be watchful of what contributes to your worrying when you find yourself awake in the middle of the night or can't go to sleep at all. Try to identify the recurring theme. This will be helpful in figuring out how to manage your anger and stress during the day.
Learn to manage your thoughts, so that you can stop worrying, especially about the things above and beyond your control. Rather than going under stress on such thoughts, try to evaluate your worries to gauge if they are realistic and if so, try replacing fear and worry about them with productive thoughts. Many suggest developing a bedtime reading habit to keep your mind from wandering here and there to avoid bedtime stress and anxiety.
Deep breathing can also help you cope with bedtime stress. Close your eyes followed by slow deep breaths. Try extending each breath even slower and deeper than the last.
Ways to reclaim your sleep
Waking briefly during the night is quite normal, so much so that good sleepers won't even remember that. But the problem starts when you wake up in the middle of the night only to find yourself struggling hard to fall back to sleep again.
If so, these are a few things that can help you reclaim your sleep:
Staying out of your head: This is the most important thing if you want to fall back to sleep again; continually cuing your body to fall asleep. So, 'keep calm' and maintain a relaxed posture in bed. The key lies in not stressing over and panicking about the fact that you are awake, staying away from the fear of not being able to sleep again. In fact, this stress and anxiety is what leads your body to stay awake. So, you need to avoid that.
Focus on relaxing not sleeping: If falling back to sleep turns hard for you once awaken, cue your mind and body to relax rather than to focus on sleep. Different relaxation techniques like meditation, visualisation and deep breathing can help you with that, not even requiring you to leave the bed. Though not a total sleep replacement, you need to remind yourself that rest and relaxation still help your body and mind rejuvenate.
Indulge in a non-stimulating activity: If you are unable to fall back to sleep for more than 15 minutes, perhaps it is about time to get out of the bed and indulge in a mild non-stimulating activity like book reading. But make sure to do so in dim light, so that your body clock is not cued to take it as a wakeup time. Keeping yourself away from screens of any type – TVs, computers, mobiles, iPads – is also very important because they emit brain stimulating light. Light snacking or a cup of herbal tea can also help you relax, but make sure not to eat too much, so that your body does not expect a full meal at that time.
Avoid brainstorming: Sure, a great idea has the potential to not only change your life, but that of the whole humanity. But continually depriving your mind and body from sleep due to great ideas invading your brain when you wake up at night, carries the potential to expose you to some drastic implications. So, you better note down any such ideas on a paper and get back to sleep. You can always fine tune and pursue your ideas the next morning with a fresh mind and body. Brainstorming and worrying in the middle of the night can seriously affect your sleeping tendencies, so stay away from that.
Dealing with shift work sleep disorder
Shift work sleep disorder refers to the disrupted sleep schedule resulting from working night shifts or otherwise irregular shifts, leading to workplace sleepiness, negatively impacting your mood, energy and focus. It can also be responsible for work-related mistakes, injuries and accidents.
There are different ways to help you deal with shift work sleep disorder, such as:
Minimising irregular or night shifts: In order to curb the implications of sleep deprivation on your health, limit the frequency and duration of your night or irregular work shifts. If your job does not offer you such relaxation, avoid frequent shift rotation in order to maintain a relatively consistent sleep cycle.
Avoid long distance commuting: Because this results in reduced sleep time. Moreover, the more time you spend travelling in daylight, the more awake your body clock becomes, making it harder for you to sleep later on.
Contain your caffeine intake: If living your life without caffeine is not an option for you, make sure you resort to caffeine products early into your shift hours, avoiding caffeine intake close to bedtime.
Frequent breaks and high mobility: During your shifts, take small and frequent breaks, moving around as much as possible – stretch, walk or even exercise depending upon the circumstances.
Adjusting sleep-wake cycle: Adjusting and assisting your sleep-wake cycle helps greatly in optimising your body's natural melatonin production. Use daylight simulation bulbs or bright lamps throughout the night in your workplace, while using dark shades when getting back to home in the day, so that your body and mind prepare to go into the 'sleep mode'. Deprivation from brightness will help induce sleep.
Strive for noiseless and dark bedroom ambiance: This might be one of the best favours to bestow yourself with. Rely on blackout curtains to block the daylight or earplugs. Your favourite soothing music or a sound machine is equally helpful in blocking out daytime noise.
Take advantage of the weekends: Weekends can become your best allies in paying off sleep debt, if you make sleep a prioritised task on weekends.
Some quick fix solutions
The tips listed above sound and act more like a lifestyle change, which are very effective without any doubt, but need some real time and effort to be fruitful. There are some quick fix solutions as well, most helpful of which are listed here:
If sleeplessness is bothering you and you are looking for an immediately effective remedy, inhaling through your left nostril might be more helpful than you had ever imagined. This is basically a yoga technique believed to be helpful in reducing blood pressure and calming down a person. Simply lie down on your left side, blocking your right nostril with your finger. Now take deep slow breaths to calm yourself down. According to experts, this technique is most beneficial for sleeplessness due to menopausal hot flushes or overheating.
Another helpful way of easing into sleep is by muscular relaxation, which involves a combination of controlled breathing and muscle relaxation, readying your body for sleep. All you need to do is lie down on your bed flat on your back. Now take a deep breath slowly through your nose, also squeezing your toes imagining that you are curling them under your foot. Then release the squeeze as you exhale, as slowly as you inhaled. Now repeat the same breathing pattern, curling and squeezing your feet up towards your knees followed by relaxation of muscles and slow release of breath. Then move onto your calves. Squeeze and relax your calves' muscles while you breathe in and out slowly. Continue this combo of breathing and muscle relaxation all the way up moving through your buttocks, belly, chest to head. By the time you reach head, your breathing pattern should get steady, readying you for a restful sleep.
You will be surprised to discover an adamant rebel deep inside you when you try to follow this. Your mind will simply challenge you and try to rebel against you when you intentionally try to stay awake, referred as 'the sleep paradox' by experts. Human brain is known for not processing negatives very well. So, when you tell yourself "I will not sleep" keeping your eyes wide open, your brain will try to interpret it as an instruction for immediate sleep, tiring your eye muscles quickly, pushing you to slumber-land.
Many experts are of the opinion that a flashback of the whole day, when lying in bed trying to sleep, helps induce sleep quickly. Recalling the mundane details of the whole day (including sights and sounds) in reverse order is believed to prepare your mind for sleep.
What about rolling your eyeballs for a while with your eyes closed for lulling into a serene sleep? Well, doing so three times also helps significantly in sleeping, according to experts. This is because it is a simulation of how humans do when sleeping naturally, thus convincing your mind to release the sleep inducing hormone, the melatonin.
Visualisation meditation is yet another way to drift off with ease. Don't you think it is a good idea going to sleep imagining wonderful things and places? So, try to use at least three of your senses when practicing visualisation meditation, picturing in your mind a tropical paradise, feeling the freshness of cool breeze and the softness of sand below your feet. Experts believe that while exploring your paradise, seeing and feeling what's around you, your mind will soon relax and get ready to sleep.
To-do lists are great, but not in the bed, according to experts. They believe pondering on to-do lists is one of the major causes of insomnia. This might be your brain's pre-emptive measure to make sure it does not forget essential things to do, but it can become a hurdle in your way to a peaceful sleep. So, it is better to assure your mind that you won't overlook what needs to be done by passing on this 'worry list' onto a paper. This will make you calmer and readier for sleep.
Know when to consult a sleep doctor
If lack of sleep is still bothering you even after trying all of the above mentioned tips, you might be suffering from a sleep disorder requiring professional treatment. Make sure to schedule an appointment with a professional sleep specialist if you see any of the following symptoms prevailing despite your best efforts to help yourself:
Sleeping is definitely one of the most important functions for a healthy and invigorating body and mind. Not getting enough sleep can significantly affect one's physical and mental well being. There are many things that you might do by yourself to deal with your lack of sleep, but you might also need full-time medical assistance as well for getting rid of your sleeping problems. The tips mentioned above are not only helpful for self-healing, but also give you a cue on when to resort to professional medical assistance, so follow them to reclaim that serene sleep you deserved.