Trouble Sleeping? Have You Tried This?

May 23, 2018 Ali No comments exist

When I was a kid I slept GREAT, think: sleeping so hard you don’t notice there’s a tornado blowing by right outside or a massive thunderstorm thundering above the house. It used to be I could only tell that it had rained the night before, if when I woke up I noticed the ground was wet.

Fast forward to adulthood, my sleep has been quite terrible at times. Think: anyone whispers or talks near you, or someone rolls over in bed or the dog gets up to get a drink or it’s lightly raining on the window and I am WIDE AWAKE. How did I go from sleeping like a dead person to having the hardest time falling asleep and being perpetually awoken by any little thing?!

Has this happened to you?

I think partially for me it has been due to my head injuries because I know those can really mess with your sleep. Also, due to those head injuries I started to have very real feeling nightmares that would wake me up at night.

But I know I’m not the only adult that has sleeping issues. What is the source of this problem? There are many variables, and as it often is in life, it’s likely a combo. But I’ll describe a few here for you.

BLUE LIGHT

Something that is likely much more present in your life now than when you were a kid is blue light. Due to the large amount of time we spend on/around electronics, we are being exposed to a lot of blue light. Every time you turn on your tv or look at your smart phone or use your computer you’re being exposed to blue light. And when do many of us use these electronics? Right before we go to sleep.

So what’s the issue with blue light? Blue light tells your brain it’s daytime, so when you watch tv or use your phone right before bed, you’re telling your brain, it’s morning, time to start the day. You can see why that would make it hard to sleep. Your brain is used to using light and dark to set the circadian rhythm, your “body clock” that tells our bodies when to sleep, wake up, eat, and tells the organs how to function etc.

Blue light suppresses melatonin production more than twice the amount of other types of light, and it alters your circadian rhythm the most. Not only does this affect your sleep, it can create problems with the cardiovascular, metabolic and immune systems.

Action steps:

  1. Don’t use electronics for an hour before you go to bed. This will help significantly. If you are a reader before bed and can read a paper book or use a reading device that isn’t backlit, that will help too.
  2. Set your electronics to switch to yellow light at night (or another color if you prefer, i.e. red). If you have an iPhone, you can enable night shift. Go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift. You can also do this on your iPad. If that way doesn’t work for your device, just google Nigh Shift and you can find out how to set it on your phone.
  3. If you don’t have apple products, you can do some searching for an app that can change the light on your phone. There are several options out there, apparently, they all have some pluses and minuses, so try them out and find your favorite.

RACING THOUGHTS, TO DO LISTS ETC.

This one was a big deal for me, I could be so tired, would lay down on my pillow and suddenly my brain is thinking of all the things I must do, and beyond that just silly, unfounded worries that I would dismiss if they came up during the day. But at night, they suddenly seemed SO IMPORTANT.

Action steps/Options:

  • Headspace: a Guided meditation app
    • This one is personally my favorite way to combat these racing thoughts. There are both free and paid versions of the app. The free version is a great way to try it out and see if you like it. There are 10 free sessions I believe. Make sure you use the toggle for the time, and do 10 minutes, I think it defaults for 3 or 5 which isn’t enough time.
    • The paid version comes with endless guided meditations on every subject you could come up with: sleep, stress, relationships, health, depression, coping with cancer, grief, regret, happiness, appreciation, productivity etc. It goes on and on!
      • I use the 10-minute sleep one every night when I’m ready for bed. It used to take me 1-2 hours to fall asleep. Now I have hardly ever heard the end of the 10-min meditation because I’m already sleeping. Just so you know I’m actually doing this every night, it tracks how much time you’ve used the app, and I’m at 49 hours — and that’s doing 10 min per day… so yea I use it a lot, haha.
  • Journaling
    • This likely is not the journaling you’re picturing when I use that term. This is more like word vomit on paper. Whatever thoughts are circling around in your head, just write them out. Something about writing them out on paper helps to get them out of your head so you don’t have to constantly focus on them.
  • If you have something you need to remember in the morning…
    • Sometimes the thoughts that would keep me up were things I was trying to remember to do in the morning. If this is the case for you, here’s my favorite trick:
      • I use post-it’s a lot to remember short term things. If I have to remember to grab something from the house in the morning, (usually for me yoga mats to teach class), I just write “yoga mats” on a little post it and stick in on the back of my front door, at eye level.
        • Then when I leave in the morning I see it and remember. Even if I’m already in bed and think of something I need to remember tomorrow, I’ll get out of bed, write it on a post it and go back to bed. That makes it leave my brain because I know I won’t forget then.

ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH EXERCISE?

Think about a day when you either had a great workout so your muscles were tired or maybe you did a lot of physical work: i.e. a project around the house, or moving etc. Where your body was just exhausted. How well did you sleep that night? Some of my best sleep I clearly remember is after getting a great workout.

Here’s an example: I went skiing/snowboarding with my parents and my boyfriend in Colorado this winter. I really pushed myself out on the mountain. Every single night of that vacation, by 8:30 or 9:30 pm I was SO TIRED, I had to go to bed. And all those nights I slept 11 HOURS! Guys, I’m a night owl, to go to bed that early for me is almost unbelievable. But I had been not getting enough sleep the month previous and the combo of good workouts and the stress-relief of vacation just knocked me out.

So how much exercise should you get? Shoot for 30 minutes, 5 days per week.

What if that sounds overwhelming to you? maybe that’s WAY more than you’re doing currently.

Take it one step at a time, one workout at a time. Remember, do something you enjoy, exercise can be fun! My favorite type of exercise is when I’m just having fun, and happen to be getting exercise at the same time.

Some of the things I do:

Yoga: this one is easy for me to do consistently, I teach yoga 2-5 times/ week and have a membership at a yoga gym.

Walking my dog (especially at Minnehaha dog park, so fun!), wakeboarding, waterskiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, playing tennis, swimming, kayaking, hiking, dancing!

Obviously, some of these are easier to do on a consistent basis than others. But I enjoy variety.

Find out what your driver will be for exercise. For me it’s spending time with friends/family or community. I love to go to yoga class where I know the teachers and some of the students. Last Sunday, my boyfriend and I went to the dog park with our friends and their dog and afterwards went out for brunch with the dogs. Highly recommend that one!

This weekend my boyfriend and I are going camping at the boundary waters with some friends, there will be hiking and portaging canoes and paddling canoes involved. All in a fun environment with friends, and with the perk of being in nature.

Do some brainstorming and find out what sounds the most fun to you. Then just experiment and try some things out.

Happy Memorial Weekend! 

Comment: and tell me what’s helped you have good sleep!

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