Seems like every day there’s another brilliant and innovative suggestion being offered to help us get a better night’s sleep. With so many ideas and solutions available, it’s easy to feel like there’s something wrong with you if you still are struggling to get your seven to nine hours per night. If you have been listening to and following all of the sleep hygiene instructions, doing yoga, practice mindful meditation, cutting out caffeine and dosing up on the melatonin and you still find yourself staring at the ceiling, here are some ideas for the things that might be causing your struggle.
• Too much light, even for a few minutes
When our eyes see light late at night, the image gets passed back to the brain and triggers a slow-down in the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel drowsy and keeps us asleep at night. You may have already eliminated your use of electronic devices at night, but there may still be light that is having an effect on you. Take a look around your room and see if street lamps or your neighbor’s house spotlights might be slipping in from behind the curtains, or if your alarm clock has a glowing LED that may be having an impact. Even going to the bathroom in the middle of the night with the lights on can have an effect, so try purchasing night lights with red bulbs and using those instead of the full strength bathroom light, and try dimming the lights in your home in the half hour before bed.
• Your medications may be working against you
Pain killers often contain caffeine or ingredients that have a similar impact, and so do asthma medications, high blood pressure medications, and depression meds. Beyond giving you the jitters, your medicine may make you get up in the middle o the night to go to the bathroom. If you are taking medicine regularly, talk to your doctor and ask if it could be what’s keeping you up at night, and if it is ask if there are alternative medications you can take.
• Unusual noises at night
Ask anybody who lives near a train station or whose next-door neighbor has decided to hang wind chimes on the back patio, and you’ll find that the body and brain quickly gets accustomed to regular noise. The same is not true, however, of unusual or unfamiliar sounds that may come in the middle of he night, so if your neighbor has suddenly switched to a night shift at work or if you have been awakened by the sound of a horn honking or cats screeching in the alley behind your building, it may be time to invest in a white noise machine or some earplugs.
• Night sweats can make the night a clammy, uncomfortable place
Night sweats are normally associated with menopause or perimenopause, but they can also be caused by the hormonal shifts of menstruation, by medications, diabetes and other chronic conditions. You should mention it to your physician to see if he or she has any answers, but also try setting up a fan to evaporate away excess moisture, or pajamas that effectively wick away the sweat.
• Pay attention to temperature
The body is programmed to get drowsy when it gets cooler, so you can help yourself fall asleep faster by turning down the thermostat. Opening the window and letting in some fresh air can also help, but it’s important to remember that during REM sleep our body temperature takes an additional drop, and if the room is too cool you’re likely to wake up feeling cold. Make sure you have an extra blanket nearby to minimize this disruption and maximize your comfort.
• Television sounds can be disruptive
Man people find that they fall asleep best to the sound of the television, so they leave on their favorite night time talk show host or newscaster in hopes that their soothing tone will lull them to sleep. Though this may work, there’s nothing to be done about the disruptive, extra loud sounds that come from advertising, which can be programmed to play at a louder volume. If you’re finding this a problem, you’re better off recording the late show and going to sleep in silence.
• Your pillow may be too plush
The idea of a cushy soft pillow may be appealing, but the reality is that the fluffier your pillow, the bigger and more potentially uncomfortable the angle that it is going to force your head and neck into. Plush may be lush but thinner is better for your comfort. The rule of thumb is that when you’re in bed, your pillows are supposed to keep your body in the same basic posture as when you’re standing erect, so if your pillow is throwing your head to far to one side or another, or too far forward, then it’s too thick.
• Your bed may not be supportive enough
Here’s a simple test. Lay on your bed and see how many fingers you can fit between the small of your back and your mattress If you can get three fingers into that space side by side then it’s time for you to purchase a new mattress, or at the least rotate the mattress in order to seek a spot with more support. It’s time to replace your bed when you are regularly waking up feeling stiff or experiencing numbness or back pain.
• Your pelvis is crooked when you’re sleeping
If you wake up in the morning with sore legs and achy knees, then there’s a good chance it has to do with their position while you’re sleeping. Having your knees falling forward or rubbing against each other can put your pelvis into an awkward and uncomfortable position. The problem can quickly be alleviated by putting a pillow between your legs while you sleep.