When sleepless nights stack up for days, anxiety may take over your thoughts when lying down. Your mattress, pillow, or comforter could even be the culprit.
Whatever the reason, your work and social life are suffering from the sleepless daze. A lot of factors can disrupt a good night’s sleep, but there are sleeping habits you can fix overnight after reading these tips.
- Snacking too close to REM. Keep your stomach acids from dancing during your sleep and do not eat after dinner. Eating before bedtime can cause indigestion or heartburn. Plan ahead and make sure your dinner has protein and not fast-burning carbs so it sticks until bedtime.
- Falling asleep to electronics. Unplugging prior to bed is important, but it doesn’t end at your cell phone. Falling asleep to a movie or Netflix keeps your brain active and can disrupt your sleep cycle when left on. One quick fix is purchasing a traditional alarm clock separate from a cell phone to keep the phone plugged in across the room.
- Start a bedtime routine. It is not just for children, but it is important for adults as well. Establishing a regular time to go to sleep and to wake up, even on weekends and holidays, is important. And you can start with a routine. You can begin with an epsom salt bath, essential oils on your nightstand in a diffuser, and a book.
- Remove distractions. The proper stage of sleep can include a cool, dark location that contains a sound machine or sound-free depending on the preference of the individual. But what needs to be remembered is to make certain your sleeping space is clutter-free. Start small with any eye sores distracting your mind: stacks of books, laundry piles, or trash that can easily be thrown away.
- Exercising too late. We are not suggesting to give up exercise, but working out too close to your bedtime causes delayed or disrupted sleep. With blood flowing through your body raising your heart rate, you risk a sound sleep when exercising after dinner. Look at your calendar and try to locate a time earlier in the day or after work; it may mean waking up an hour earlier if your schedule is tight.
- Old accessories. If you find yourself checking mattress tags at hotels or a family member’s house, you probably have found a mattress better than your own. The list of options is sometimes more tiring than the lack of sleep you are lacking! Here is the good news: mattresses have trial periods. Take advantage of the hunt for a mattress by doing your homework and purchasing from a store or online that has an easy return policy. Some offer trial periods up to a year if you are not fully satisfied.
- Too hot or too cold. Temperature matters in the bedroom. For years, your grandma may have told you to add an electric blanket or keep your house warm. But the best environment is a cool environment: about two degrees cooler than normal. Some even recommend a drastic temperature change in the bedroom closer to the mid 60s.
An extra consideration is your mobile device. We introduced unplugging in our tips, but with the addictive nature of a cell phone, here are some expanded bad habits to consider.
Think back to the last time you fell asleep without your cell phone in bed. It may be too long to remember, but exposure to “blue light” from screens before bed leads to drowsiness even with a full eight hours in bed. Studies show emittance of the blue light “prevents our brains from releasing melatonin, a hormone that tells our bodies it's nighttime.”
Giving up the phone for an hour before bedtime will help distract your brain from the light. I am not suggesting you keep your phone at 5 percent life but don’t charge your phone next to your bed; otherwise you will be tempted to get on your phone in bed. In fact, “71 percent of people sleep either holding their smartphone, having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand.”
Starting with these 7 tips can lead you to healthier sleep patterns and a sleep diary or journal can keep track of changed habits. Quite often patients have a sleep study without adequate information into their nightly habits and get diagnosed with Insufficient Sleep Syndrome, which is basically having terrible sleep as a result of voluntary (albeit unintentional) behaviors that impact their sleep negatively.
If you start to notice a negative pattern that could be corrected by your own choices, make changes after a week and see how your next week goes. If there is a vast improvement to your sleep, you may be able to correct the behavior yourself and avoid having an unnecessary sleep study.
A sleep study may still be the best choice though the type of sleep study varies by a patient’s symptoms. Healthcare providers will monitor your sleep either in a lab or at your home using portable home sleep apnea testing equipment.
If you live in Alaska and are ready to take back your sleep, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic and receive a free 10-minute phone consultation with a sleep educator who can help you determine if a sleep study is right for you.