A lot of times I go to bed and nothing happens. I sleep. I wake up. A new day starts.
Other times, I find myself gasping for air and screaming my lungs out, scaring my husband, cats and neighbors. As it turns out, my father used to suffer from the same sleep interruptions. Is it genetic? Is it psychological? Is there a mythological Old Hag sitting on my chest and tormenting me at nighttime? I’m pretty sure it’s that last one, though I went to Sleepnet to find some useful information:
* Sleep is as important as food and air. Quantity and quality are very important. Most adults need between 7.5 to 8.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If you press the snooze button on the alarm in the morning you are not getting enough sleep. This could be due to not enough time in bed, external disturbances, or a sleep disorder.
* Keep regular hours. Try to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day. Getting up at the same time is most important. Getting bright light, like the sun, when you get up will also help. Try to go to bed only when you are sleepy. Bright light in the morning at a regular time should help you feel sleepy at the same time every 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 arousal during the night.
* Use the bed for sleeping. Avoid watching TV or using laptop computers. Know that reading in bed can be a problem if the material is very stimulating and you read with a bright light. If it helps to read before sleep make sure you use a very small wattage bulb to read. A 15 watt bulb should be enough. Bright light from these activities may inhibit sleep.
* Avoid bright light around the house before bed. Using dimmer switches in living rooms and bathrooms before bed can be helpful. (Dimmer switches can be set to maximum brightness for morning routines.)
* Don’t stress if you feel you are not getting enough sleep. It will just make matters worse. Know you will sleep eventually.
* Avoid exercise near bedtime. No exercise at least 3 hours before bed.
* Don’t go to bed hungry. Have a light snack, avoid a heavy meal before bed.
* Bedtime routines are helpful for good sleep. Keep routines on your normal schedule. A cup of herbal tea an hour before bed can begin a routine.
* Avoid looking at the clock if you wake up in the middle of the night. It can cause anxiety. This is very difficult for most of us, so turn the clock away from your eyes so you would have to turn it to see the time. You may decide not to make the effort and go right back to sleep.
* If you can’t get to sleep for over 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring in dim light till you are sleepy.
* Keep your bedroom at comfortable temperature. Not too warm and not too cold. Cooler is better than warmer.
* If you have problems with noise in your environment you can use a white noise generator. A old fan will work or you can buy noise machines from many sources.
* Know that the “night cap” has a price. Alcohol may help you to get to sleep but it will cause you to wake up throughout the night. You may not notice it. (It is worse if you have sleep apnea because the alcohol makes the apnea worse.) Sometimes people snore only if they have had some alcohol or may snore worse if they already snore.)
* If you have a sleeping partner, ask them if they notice any snoring, leg movements and/or pauses in breathing . Take this information and try the sleep test. You may have a sleep disorder or you may just need to increase your awareness about your own sleep need. If you have any concerns see your doctor.
Recap of what I learned:
- No caffeine (at least a couple of hours before going to bed).
- Use a tall pillow (or several).
- If the crazies continue at night, take a sleep test.