What Keeps You Up at Night?

07-01-2018The Well

Whether you lie in bed staring at the ceiling at night or wake up at 3 am and can’t seem to get back to bed, sleep problems are nothing to laugh about. We’ve all heard the saying “try counting sheep”, but when you are five hours away from your work day or a screaming child, there’s little comfort in knowing you could count to 100 and still be up. I know that in my final trimester of pregnancy, sleep was an allusive beast for me.

If we are having trouble with sleep, we are told that we need to look at our daytime and bedtime habits and routines.

  1. Caffeine consumption. Drinking coffee or consuming any stimulant in the afternoon can delay your sleep. An easy rule to follow is do not have stimulants past noon and refrain from any stimulates such as caffeinated soda in the evening especially close to our bedtime.
  2. Watching television before bedtime or working on our laptops at night have scientifically shown that blue spectrum light disturbs our circadian rhythms. By decreasing the stimulation of television and working on our computers in the evening, we will be able to fall asleep faster and sleep soundly.
  3. Stress is a big factor for the inability to go to sleep or stay sleeping. Have you ever heard the expression: “I can’t turn off my brain?” By doing some relaxation techniques before bedtime helps us relax and go to bed with a clear mind. Our bodies and our minds need time to wind down.
  4. Believe it or not, our sleep environment is as important as the mattress we choose. The more non-sleep activities we do in bed like watching tv, the more we associate the bed with not sleeping. That is why it is suggested to never watch tv while lying in bed Is our bedroom too hot? We are told the best sleeping temperature of a room is slightly cool. I do my best sleeping in the winter with the temperature in our bedroom at 68 degrees.

But what if your problem isn’t falling asleep, it’s staying asleep?  Sleep study specialists say that at the end of every sleep cycle, we wake up briefly, but most of us don’t remember that because we fall back to sleep easily. But if you are unlucky enough to wake up and not be able to fall back to sleep, look to your pre-bedtime ritual. Perhaps something in your environment is different from when you first went to sleep, and that’s why you are having trouble falling back to sleep. Perhaps its too warm in the bedroom.

Another reason for waking up and not being able to fall back to sleep could be an underlying sleep disorder. It could be sleep apnea. Best rule of thumb is, if getting to sleep or staying asleep becomes a consistent problem, consult your family physician.

If you have any questions regarding this article or about your health, feel free to contact Kathy Ford RN/Parish Nurse at the church office at pastoralcare@hscc.us or 630-922-0081.