What to do when you can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep all night, or are not waking-up refreshed
This is adapted from a blog post from pzizz - see link at bottom to read full article
Keep to a sleep routine
Try to keep a good sleep routine, which means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, including weekends. Our bodies prefer regularity in our activities. While it might be difficult to achieve a perfect sleep routine with the varying activities, work schedules, and travel we have to do, try to incorporate as much sleep consistency as possible into your life for the best results!
Exercise has long been anecdotally associated with better sleep, but psychological studies and surveys have also provided results to back up that idea. A study at Stanford University demonstrated that 30 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise (like brisk walking) daily caused significant improvement in the amount of time it took to fall asleep, sleep quality, and sleep duration. Consistent physical activity, even for just half an hour each day, can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
It is no surprise that anxiety can keep us from falling asleep. Whether we are worried about stressful events (like work deadlines or an illness in the family) or are afflicted with a more long-term anxiety disorder, it can be frustratingly difficult to fall asleep at night. Simple things like breathing exercises, physical activity, meditation, yoga, and eating habits can have a major, positive impact on our mental health, allowing us to have the sleep we need each night (even when stressful situations come our way).
Studies have shown the efficacy of yoga practice on the reduction of stress, and subsequent improvement in sleep quality and immune system response. Yoga practice is comprised of body movement (including stretching, balance, and strength-building) called asana, controlled breathing called pranayama, and relaxation of the mind through meditation. By both calming the mind and releasing tension in the body, yoga can be a powerful tool for helping us sleep at night. It’s best to incorporate at least a hamstring stretch, a hip-opening stretch, and a back twist to release tension all over the body, as well as a final resting post like child’s pose or corpse pose to wind down. Try lots of yoga poses (at your yoga practice level) to determine which releases the most tension and provides the most relaxation for your body.
Deep breathing can have a very calming effect on the entire body. Deep, slow belly breathing using your diaphragm activates the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for “rest and digest” mode), which relaxes us. Yogis incorporate breathwork, or pranayama, into their practice to intentionally manipulate mood and energy levels. To relax and drift off to sleep, you can practice the three part breath. Yogis call it Dirga Pranayana: First, find a relaxed position, then inhale deeply and slowly, first into the belly, then the ribcage, then into the top of the chest. Exhale in the reverse order: first out of the top of the chest, then the ribcage, then the bottom of the belly. And repeat!
Create an ideal sleeping environment
Give yourself the best chance for a good night’s sleep by turning off lights, finding the right noise level (or sleep music), and keeping your sleeping space at the right temperature.
The Darker the Better
Any light, but especially blue light, will keep your brain from producing melatonin, which is its chemical signal for the body to sleep. Our televisions, computer screens, phones, and tablets emit light that is concentrated with the blue section of the visible light spectrum. All light, but especially blue light, prevents the release of our natural melatonin, the chemical that signals to our body that it is time for sleep. Turning off all screens at least an hour before bedtime will allow for the proper release of melatonin and keep our circadian clocks right on time. Many mobile devices have an automated blue-light filters built in, like Apple’s “night shift” for iPhones. If complete darkness is not possible, consider wearing a comfortable sleep mask over your eyes.
Sounds for Sleep
Nighttime noise seems to be a matter of personal preference: while one person might require complete silence to fall asleep, another person might prefer music or the sound of rain. Experiment to find what works best for you.
Optimal sleep temperature
Help your body drift off to sleep with the right room temperature. Sleep studies have shown that our bodies first go through an initial drop in core body temperature (2–3 degrees) before we drift off to sleep. That initial, rapid drop in body temperature, a natural part of our circadian rhythm, increases the chances of falling asleep and may help with the transition into deeper stages of sleep later on. If the room temperature is too high, our bodies may have trouble with that initial, natural body temperature drop-off. Alternatively, if room temperature is too low, it may cause you get cold and wake up in the night. Experts recommend an ambient room temperature between 60–67℉.
Sleep is a time to get really comfortable. You spend a good chunk of your life in bed, so it’s worth investing in a good, supportive mattress, good pillows, and comfortable bedding. Wear loose pajamas made from a soft, breathable fabric, or if you prefer, no pajamas at all. Find a good sleep position that allows every part of your body to relax.
Stop drinking caffeine at least 6 hours before bed
We all love a good cup of coffee or tea to get us going in the morning, but just remember to keep it a morning beverage! Caffeine is an effective stimulant that stays in your system for a long time: half of its potency diminishes after 3–5 hours, but the remainder of the stimulant remains in your system for 8–14 hours. To avoid nighttime alertness and sleeplessness, be sure to stop drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages at least six hours before bedtime.
Don’t drink alcohol too close to bedtime
And while we’re on the subject of beverages, to get the best sleep, it’s a good idea to avoid alcohol too close to bedtime as well. While alcohol initially acts as a depressant, allowing you to fall asleep more easily, it can also disrupt the later stages of sleep by cutting down on essential REM sleep time. Want a beer when you get home from work or a glass of wine with dinner? No problem. Just allow a few hours for your body to metabolize your drinks before bedtime.
According to Sleep.org Chiropractic helps you go to sleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up refreshed! I dedicated another post to the sleep benefits of chiropractic.
Read more here