by Tanya Feke, MD
Getting to sleep on an average night can be tough. When you are faced with a difficult situation, it is even tougher. Knowing what you can do to sleep better, without turning to medications or supplements, can help you through those messier nights.
When You Are Under Stress. When we are stressed our bodies run on adrenaline, which leaves us in fight-or-flight mode when what we really need to do is close our eyes and get some rest. The healthiest way to burn off stress is with exercise. Exercise in the morning has been proven to improve sleep quality in the evening; even a short 15-minute walk can be beneficial. Meditation has also shown benefits in improving both stress levels and sleep quality. Or try exercise and meditation all in one to double up your Zen efforts.
When There Is Noise Outside. Beyond opening your window and calling out for everyone to BE QUIET RIGHT NOW, you may be in for a difficult night if you have noisy neighbors or live on a busy street. You have the option of wearing ear plugs or using white noise to block out those other sounds. White noise can range from the steady hum of a washing machine to a meditation CD. If you distract the brain with the background noise of your choice, you are more likely to get quality sleep.
When There Is a Baby in the House. The best way for parents to get their own sleep is to get their child to sleep. A regular sleep schedule takes patience and time to establish. White noise has been shown to help children sleep. That said, it can still be hard for parents to fall asleep when they anticipate their baby will need them. If you have the option, you may consider taking turns with your partner to be “on-call” for the night. When you know your baby is getting the care he needs, you may be better able to relax and fall into a deeper sleep.
When You Have a Big Project Due. Big projects equal stress overload. Even if you have a lot of work to do, you need to pull away from the caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant which can last in your body anywhere from eight to 14 hours! If you feel you need a caffeine boost, try to cut yourself off at least six to eight hours before bedtime (warning: that means no afternoon pick-me-up). Also avoid working on your computer 30 minutes before your planned bedtime. Lights from these screens can stimulate your brain to release hormones that keep you awake longer.
When Your Partner Snores. The steady sound of snoring can be a white noise of sorts, but on-and-off snoring is disruptive for everyone involved. This pattern of snoring may mean your partner stops breathing temporarily during sleep, a possible sign of sleep apnea. While ear plugs may be an option for you, the most important thing to do is for your partner to seek medical evaluation. Sleep apnea is not without its complications, and you will both sleep better if you know you are healthy.
Dr. Tanya Feke is a board-certified family physician and patient advocate. She is also founder of Diagnosis Life, providing resources, training and consulting on health and wellness. Dr. Feke’s writing can also be found on LIVESTRONG, Chron Health, Medical Economics and KevinMD.com.
TapGenes Take Away: You need sleep but…Big project due? Baby in the house? Snoozing next to a snorer? Here’s how to solve the problems that keep us wide awake at night.
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