Have you ever heard a TV or radio program informing you of the importance of sleep for health, happiness, and productivity? That would be great if you could get to sleep, right? Sleeping problems are indicated even with such things as lying in bed for more than 30 minutes without being able to fall asleep; trouble staying asleep: waking up frequently during the night and waking in the early hours of the morning before you need to get up but not being able to fall back asleep. Yet these things seem to be the norm rather than uncommon. Here are some suggestions, but if sleeplessness persists it is advisable to speak with a medical professional or seek counselling.
Let’s divide the problem into two phases: first getting to sleep and second, staying asleep. For many, getting to sleep when you were young was easy but is no longer so. Two things are likely different between now and then. First, many children have a sleep schedule imposed on them by their parents. This created routine. Second, most children were physically very active whereas most adults are active with stress creating responsibilities. Stress isn’t merely an emotion, but a state of our central nervous system that is our body uses to keep us safe in times of danger. It doesn’t matter to our body whether the stress is from a video game, from our boss, or from an attacking wild animal. It’s going to wind us up for action. So, activities in nature with fresh air, reducing sugar, alcohol and caffeine, routine quiet time in the evening, and reading a book until your eyes get tired are helpful in winding down and reducing stress before bed.
For staying asleep, body pain management is a good place to start. So yes, do replace that mattress before you feel like your bum is going to hit the floor. From there, much can be done with a pillow or two. Are you a back sleeper with neck problems? Pull the pillow down till its right under your shoulders Just putting it under your head is stretching your neck out all night. Back sleeper with low back pain? Put a pillow or two under your knees. You’re a side sleeper? The pillow needs to be firm enough so that you aren’t stretching the side of your neck, and the second pillow goes between your knees. If you are a belly or combination sleeper with back pain, work on core strength and flexibility in your quads and hamstrings.
One of the most powerful ways to improve sleep is to make small changes in everyday behaviours that impact how fast you fall asleep and whether you stay asleep. The goal is to increase the behaviours that improve sleep while you reduce the behaviours that interfere with sleep. These changes don’t have to happen in one day or even a month. Relax and take it a day at a time. Bonne nuit!