Well, you have accomplished another busy day. Meals prepared, work completed,
laundry done, kids ferried, and pets tended. Now, you can’t wait to fall blissfully into bed and drift off to sleep. Until you think of your to-do list while a heat wave moves down your body, your bed partner snores like a chain saw, and the panic sets in about that forgotten urgent task. What is a person to do?
Before you head for a sleeping pill, ask yourself some questions that will help identify causes:
- • Am I having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?
- • Is there physical discomfort such as back pain, indigestion, or achiness or stiffness overall?
- • Listen to the environment. Was there a noise that woke you up? Examples might include a neighbor leaving to work a night shift or the cat dashing across the bed on a secret errand?
- • Are you hot or cold?
- • What did you have to eat or drink that day, especially within a few hours of bedtime?
- • Do you feel anxious and, if so, why? Was it a nightmare or unfinished task?
- • Are you tired during the day, as though you haven’t had good sleep?
Now see if your solution is here!
Be Touchy Feely
Pain or daytime fatigue? You spend 7-9 hours with your mattress, and as much as you may love it, it may be time to break up. A broken-down mattress can cause you to sleep hot or wake up achy. As you get older, lose or gain weight, or have a pregnancy, the type of support you need can change. Do you need a traditional, hybrid, foam, or pillow top? A split bed which allows for use of different linens on each side may be the answer. (Note: A split bed can be difficult to make up.) Adjustable beds can be helpful for orthopedic issues, reflux, and even some snoring conditions (especially if you control your snoring partner’s remote). Linens and mattress pads can be made of various materials that impact sleep differently. A helpful (but not all inclusive) chart can be found at https://www.cuddledown.com/ResourceCenter.aspx?article=14.
Pillows should support the head and neck without the chin tucking or raising toward the ceiling. Designed for back, stomach, and side sleepers, they are available in a variety of materials. Leg pillows align your body to relieve lower body pain.
Best room temperature has been shown in studies to be 65 degrees F. But try adjusting the temperature to see what is right for you.
For Those Who Sleep Hot
Thread count 200-400
Gel cooling pillow
Iced drink in insulated cup by bed
Lightweight, moisture wicking fabrics
Blinds drawn during the day to reduce heat
Ceiling or portable fan
Spray bottle of water to mist body
Extra set of PJs or sheets
For Those Who Sleep Cold
Thread count 400+ or flannel fabric
Hot pack or heating pad
Hot drink in a thermos by the bed
Heavier sleepwear and sheeting fabrics
Open blinds during the day to warm the room
Electric blanket to warm the bed
This could be due to something as simple as allergies (see below) or something as serious as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can have potentially serious health implications like heart disease, stroke, or reflux (https://clevemed.com/what-is-sleep-apnea/), but people fear the screening procedure or possible treatment regime. Fortunately, advances such as in-home sleep studies and newly designed masks and quieter machines make this a much more comfortable proposition. If you or a loved one snores, check out this screening questionnaire: https://clevemed.com/what-is-sleep-apnea/patient-sleep-apnea-screener/. Don’t know if you snore? Consider taping yourself while you sleep. (Or, you can check out an app like SnoreLab, but a humorous heads up: A friend of mine told me about this app. She was taping herself over time, and was quite alarmed one morning to listen and find an “odd” sound to her breathing. Turns out, the cat had rested on her chest near the phone overnight and his purring was recorded.)
- • Launder bed linens weekly in 130 degree F+ water and use automatic dryer.
• Dehumidify the room to below 50%.
• Air out the bed before making it up (dust mites like moisture).
• Cover mattress and pillows with dust mite covers.
• Vacuum the mattress monthly, and if desired, sprinkle baking soda on mattress 10 or so minutes before vacuuming to draw out moisture.
• Vacuum and dust the bedroom weekly, and don’t forget air vents, blinds, and curtains.
• Consider HEPA air filter.
• Keep pets out of the bedroom.
• Keep windows closed to keep pollen outside.
The Light and Dark of the Matter
Light wakes up the brain by affecting hormones the body makes. Unfortunately, the body does not know that light from the TV, smartphone, or streetlamp isn’t day light. Gadgets should be put away 1-2 hours before bedtime, preferably in another room because they still can emit small amounts of light while charging, notification alerts, etc.
Use window treatments such as blackout curtains to prevent leakage of outside light. Consider a sleep mask (a friend tells me hers makes her feel like a glamourous 1930s film star.) These tips are especially important in shift workers. In the morning, getting outside for 20 minutes of natural sunlight also helps to reset your sleep cycle.
To Sleep, Per Chance to Dream: Sleep Assistance
- • Start the morning with an exercise routine. Exercise helps to reduce extra energy, but undertaken too late in the evening it may prevent sleep.
• There is an old adage: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” Consuming and expending most of your calories during the day are best; night-time consumption can cause reflux and restlessness.
• Alcohol and caffeine will disrupt sleep. Cut off the caffeine early in the afternoon, and never use alcohol to “help” you go to sleep.
• Keep the bedroom tidy, the bed made, and decorate with comfortable colors and furnishings. Calm surroundings will contribute to calming the mind for drifting off to sleep.
• Before lights out, commit to paper the to-do list to release it from your mind as you fall asleep.
• Induce sleep by heating the body with a warm drink or bath then let it cool down.
• A regular daily bedtime and wake time is important. Lost sleep is just that…lost. Don’t expect to make up several days of sleep deprivation. Unless made up within a few hours, the damage is already done.
»Turn the TV off. The frequent volume changes prevent deeper stages of sleep
»Use white noise such as a fan running or white noise machine which is good at masking noises such as traffic.
»Try ear plugs.
»Music with a beat of 60 beats per minute may assist in bringing the heart rate down and causing sleep. BUT put the music on a timer for 30 minutes. Much longer than that and it, too, can wake the brain.
• Some people swear by lavender or other essential oil scents. While these may be helpful for some, others may experience allergic reactions. Also be aware that pets can be harmed by them in very low doses.
• Breathing exercises such as 4-7-8 breathing or focusing on relaxation of each part of the body progressively are often helpful.
• Should you wake during the night, have a large tablet and pen by the bed to write down in one or two words what is bothering you, preferably without turning on a light. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or staying “in the lines.” This is just to get the thought on paper so you don’t focus on it to the detriment of further sleep.
• Should you wake up and be unable to go back to sleep for 20 minutes, go ahead and get up. Find a quiet activity such as reading to occupy your mind. Sleep cycles take about 90 minutes, so when you start to feel tired, go back to bed.
Additional information can be found at: