As a mom, a wife, and the owner of a marketing company, it doesn’t take much to get my mind racing–especially at night. I’d like to say I’ve done my best work at 3 A.M., but the truth is, I don’t have a choice. Whether it’s counting sheep or emails, there are some nights when sleep is simply not happening. Studies show that 35 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended eight hours of sleep each night, and 10 percent of us suffer from insomnia, meaning we have trouble sleeping at least three nights every week.
The fact is, we need our sleep. Experts say a lack of sleep contributes to the risk of depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, and it can weaken the immune system.
So, if you are tired of being tired, here are five solutions for those sleepless nights.
1. Light therapy
The idea behind light therapy is to adjust your circadian rhythm, which helps your body respond to sleep and waking cycles. Here’s how it works. People sit near a special light box for a certain amount of time each day, and the light from this box mimics outdoor light. “Exposure to this bright light helps to adjust the physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle and helps the body respond primarily to light and darkness in the environment,” said the National Sleep Foundation. “This may help certain people sleep earlier at night or sleep later in the morning.” Light therapy is designed to use visible light while filtering out ultraviolet rays.
Despite the fact cold cereal tastes better at midnight, late-night snacks are a nightmare for restful sleep. “Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and high-protein meals can also keep you up,” said Bryce Williams, DDS, an oral maxillofacial surgeon at University of Utah Health Care. “A light, carbohydrate-rich snack (e.g., crackers, toast) before bed can help increase tryptophan levels, which induce sleep.”
3. Identify the stress triggers.
The occasional restless night is typical when people experience things like a new job or a big presentation, but when lack of sleep is prolonged, it’s time to address the things in life that are jeopardizing your health. “When I was just starting out, the pressure of building a new company and the toll it was taking on my family would keep me awake at night, every night,” said Ryan Westwood, CEO of Simplus, a Utah-based technology company. “It felt like circumstances were beyond my control. Bills were piling up, the bank was calling about my house, I was working long hours–it was a stressful time.” To move forward, Westwood compartmentalized the different areas of his life and sorted the things he could control from the things he couldn’t. “It made the pressure easier to manage, and it made it easier to focus on my health and getting better sleep at night,” said Westwood.
Related link: 3 life-saving things to know about sleep apnea
4. Your bedroom is for relaxation and sleep.
As tempting as it is to “do a little work or watch some tv while lying in bed”, experts warn that these habits are ruining our sleep. “One of the biggest mistakes people make in their bedrooms is they try to cram too much in there,” says Gary Zammit, Ph.D, director of the Sleep Disorders Institute in New York City. “They use it as an office and as an entertainment room right up until the clock strikes 10, and expect to just hit the lights and fall asleep. But the brain doesn’t work that way.” If you aren’t sleepy, leave the bedroom and watch tv or read in another room. By limiting the bedroom to sleep or sex, you are sending the message to your body that when I am in bed, it’s time to sleep.
5. Buy an alarm clock.
How many of you use your smartphone as an alarm clock? It’s true; I am connected to my cell phone all day, every day. But, if you want a better night’s sleep, invest in a simple alarm clock and charge the cell phone in another room. “You’ll sleep better if you charge your phone in another room,” says Success Magazine writer Michael Mooney. “You won’t wake up in the middle of the night and check your phone. You won’t sit there until 1 o’clock in the morning on your phone and then get less sleep.” A ten-dollar investment can lead to a priceless night of healthy sleep.
Let’s face it. Life has its share of demands, but when it’s time to relax and settle in for some life-sustaining sleep, controlling diet, stress, and distractions can pull the blinds on insomnia.
This article was published by the Daily Herald.