I have had trouble sleeping well for the longest while. What can I do?
It is important to figure out what is causing your trouble sleeping. Many factors can affect quality sleep such as stress, diet, activity level, use of medication (antidepressants, blood pressure pills and many other drugs) and hormonal imbalances.
Here are some general tips for getting a good night sleep:
- Set aside at least 7 to 8 hours for sleep. Leaving only 5 or 6 hours may make you feel stressed and impact your ability to fall asleep.
- Establish a regular bed and wake time and try to follow this routine even on the weekends.
- Do relaxing activities before bedtime – read a book, listen to relaxing music or have a warm bath.
- Reserve your bedroom for intimacy and sleep only; don’t work in your bedroom.
- Make your bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable. If you live near a busy street or have other noise to content with, problems dealing with any type of noise consider a white noise generator. No need to spend a lot of money on an electronic system, an old fan puts out great white noise. White noise masks disruptive noises.
- Avoid bright light around the house before bed. Using dimmer switches in living rooms and bathrooms for a few hours before bed can be helpful. Darkness helps the brain produce melatonin. (Dimmer switches can be set to maximum brightness for morning routines.)
- Exercise regularly early in the day. Vigorous activity in the evening can be stimulating and impair sleep.
- Don’t smoke or consume alcohol– nicotine is a stimulant and impairs your ability to fall asleep and have a restful sleep and alcohol may help you to get to sleep but it will cause you to wake up throughout the night.
- Stay away from stimulants like caffeine. This will help you get deep sleep which is most refreshing. If you take any caffeine, take it in the morning. Avoid all stimulants in the evening, including chocolate, caffeinated sodas, and caffeinated teas. They will delay sleep and increase arousals during the night.
- To avoid nighttime waking to use the bathroom reduce fluids after 6pm.
- Consider acupuncture, massage, yoga and meditation to promote relaxation
- If you can’t get to sleep for over 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing in dim light till you are sleepy.
- Prescription sedatives should only be used when all else fails as they are addictive and cause numerous side effects, including impairment in short term memory.
- Natural sleeping aids can help without the side effects that prescription sleeping pills can. Look for a product with the following ingredients:
5-HTP: 5-hydroxytryptophan increases serotonin and melatonin levels which promotes relaxation and better sleep
L-theanine: an amino acid found in green tea which reduces stress, promotes relaxation and improves sleep
Melatonin: a hormone naturally secreted by the brain that regulates our sleep/wake cycles. Supplements can help reduce the time needed to fall asleep, reduce nighttime wakening and improve sleep quality.
If poor sleep quality is an ongoing problem and you aren’t able to determine an underlying cause, then it is important to ask your doctor for a referral to a sleep disorders clinic.