Many of the physical problems that disrupt sleep have been fodder for situation comedies. The husband who snores or has to get out of bed to go to the bathroom is often cause for laughter, when in reality they may represent a serious health concern. The same holds true for sleepwalking. Though sleepwalking in children is neither uncommon nor serious, in adults it represents a potentially dangerous situation. Adult sleepwalkers are trying to act out their dreams, and may become violent, attempt to drive or climb out windows or doors. It is important that medical attention is sought immediately, whether the problem is chronic or a recent development. Medication and therapies are available and effective.
For those whose sleep problems are more run-of-the-mill and not caused by physical ailments, there are several strategies that can be used to help with getting a good night’s sleep. One of the keys to drifting off to sleep is to properly set the mood. The process of winding down your day gradually is an excellent way to communicate to your body that bedtime is approaching, and purposely creating a calming and peaceful environment and ritual may be all that is needed. Effective quieting practices include letting go of the day’s stresses through deep breathing or meditation, listening to calming music or reading, watching stress-free television, or taking a warm bath.
All of the ideas listed above can be included into a nightly ritual, but beyond exercises that are specifically targeted at relaxation, the act of doing the same thing each night before going to bed actually prepares the brain and body and alerts them to the fact that it is time to sleep. Parents of young children know the power of bedtime rituals, and they work for adults as well. The nightly routine of walking dogs, setting the alarm clock, or brushing your teeth signal your body that it is time for bed.
Finally, it is important that you avoid stress immediately before bed, and if you recognize that you are stressed, don’t attempt to go to sleep until you have calmed yourself. Regardless of whether the stress that you are experiencing is due to an argument with your partner, frustration with your children, a problem at work or any other source of anxiety or anger, attempting to go to sleep while your blood pressure is raised and you are experiencing high emotion will be fruitless and will make you feel even worse.
Take the time to relax yourself if you are feeling this level of tension, and the same holds true if your anxiety is being caused by the fact that you are having trouble falling asleep. Getting upset about not falling asleep creates an impossible cycle that will frustrate you and may impact your ability to fall asleep for nights to come. If you are experiencing insomnia, focus on pleasant thoughts and relaxation rather than on your sleeplessness, and if you simply can’t sleep, stop trying and make use of your wakefulness.