My sleep journey and some sleep tips

The importance of sleep is not talked about enough. Getting a good night’s sleep is greatly taken for granted.

Here is my sleep journey:

I’ve worked different shifts and have been on different schedules which have affected my circadian rhythm. Pain sometimes affects my sleep. I have restless leg syndrome. I have been diagnosed with a sleeping disorder that is a form of narcolepsy. I can work and function as I only fall asleep for a brief second at a time during the day. I normally don’t notice it and others never notice it. The only way I’ve ever noticed is that I might be in the middle of a sentence and momentarily not been able to remember the next word I was about to say. The way it affects me is that I cannot get a good night’s sleep and always feel tired when I’m awake. I wake up numerous times during the night. According to sleep studies I wake up 20-30 times per night. It takes a while for us to go into vital REM sleep. So for me, because I wake up every 20 minutes or so, it means when I fall asleep my brain has learned to skip the first few cycles of sleep and go straight into REM. (It is amazing what the body can do to survive, isn’t it?) It also means I have some crazy dreams.

So that’s it in a nutshell. I’ve read a lot about sleep and have tried A LOT of different tips and tricks to help me sleep. I’ve also been on several different medications too (some to help me sleep and others to keep me awake) but ultimately decided none of them really work for my sleep problems. It’s taken me many years to get where I am today. I can happily say that despite still not getting a “normal” night’s sleep, it’s the best it’s been to date.

Here is my list ideas to help you if you are having trouble sleeping:

  1. Stop drinking fluids several hours before bed to avoid getting up to go to the bathroom
  2. Try getting blackout curtains
  3. Avoid working swing shifts. It could take years for your circadian rhythm to readjust. It causes sleep disorders.
  4. Do not use your phone or watch TV at least an hour or two before bed (not only does it keep your mind from relaxing but the lights alter your circadian rhythm)
  5. Use a blue light on your phone or get blue light glasses and use them several hours before bed if you do watch TV or use your phone. Don’t do/watch anything that winds you up.
  6. Try guided meditations on YouTube. (Turn your light on the lowest setting and turn your phone face down so you don’t see any light. Avoid any meditations or soft music videos that have ads)
  7. Try listening to whole tones or binaural beats to relax before bed
  8. Get up and go to sleep around the same time, even on your days off.
  9. Try not to nap during the day if possible (sometimes I can’t help it and just need the rest).
  10. Use melatonin as a natural sleep aid.
  11. Avoid exercising before bed but be sure to have some exercise in your life (a healthy body sleeps better but exercising too late can keep you from being able to fully relax)
  12. Have the proper mattress and pillow for you. Only you will be able to say what’s right for you. You can’t always go by other’s recommendations.
  13. Keep the room cooler rather than warmer.
  14. Use a sleep mask and/or ear plugs if needed.
  15. If your partner snores, try to get them to look into ways to stop snoring.
  16. If you grind your teeth try getting a mouth guard.
  17. Wear cool, comfortable, lose pajamas or nothing at all.
  18. Try to eliminate caffeine from your diet completely. If you have to have caffeine, have it in the morning only.
    Have your hormones checked. Hormones can play a big role in sleep, especially for women.
    If you have night sweats, keep a towel nearby and maybe a baby wipe to wipe off. Keep a spare, lightweight nightgown or tee shirt to change into if needed. You want to avoid getting out of bed and fully waking up if possible.
    It is important to keep the room dark, however, you may want a small nightlight in the hall and bathroom. If you do need to use the bathroom, you don’t want to turn on lights unless you have to for your own safety.
    Same goes for making noise. Avoid flushing the toilet if you only urinated. Use hand sanitizer for your hands. You can wash them with soap and water in the morning.
    Use essential oils such as lavender on your body, as a pillow mist, etc.
    Have a bedtime routine. Read a book, have a cup of decaf tea (chamomile or sleepy time), take a bath, rub your shoulders then go to sleep, for example.
    Don’t keep your work space in your bedroom. Don’t pay bills in your bedroom or anything like that because it’s harder for your subconscious mind to think of it as a place to rest.
    I haven’t tried this yet but they have alarms that’s supposedly wake you up when you’re in a certain sleep cycle so waking up is more natural.
    White noise helps some people such as a fan or white noise machine.
    Try listening to ASMR videos an hour or two before going to bed. Certain sounds can be extremely relaxing.
    Try forest or nature sounds like rain. Experiment with many different sounds. Everyone is different but there is likely some sound that will help you relax.
    Use a satin or silk pillowcase and keep your hair free and as comfortable as possible for you. If you have a long hair, I suggest a loose high bun.
    Also remove earrings and necklaces if they will affect your sleep.
    Try letting your dog sleep with you. Conversely, if you know your dog prevents you from moving around freely in the bed or bothers you, be sure to keep him out of the bed.
    Have everything ready to go for the next day. Choose an outfit, make your lunch, set the coffee maker, write yourself little reminder notes, etc. This reduces anxiety and thoughts of what you have to do the next day.
    Feel free to experiment with holistic approaches such as acupuncture, regular massage to relieve muscle tension and keep yourself as pain free as possible. Even magnetic therapy or other unproven but safe therapies have helped certain people.
    Self massage your neck and shoulders with a little oil before bed.
    Get comfortable sheets. I find percale are best for me. Those are the cotton ones that feel crisp and cool. Make sure your linens aren’t crumpled and your blanket is nice and smooth and the right weight for you. Keep an extra at the the foot of the bed to quickly pull up if needed.
    Have sex before bed. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!
    If you’re a parent of a baby (or a puppy!) alternate nights with your partner so you aren’t up in the middle of the night every single night.
    Stay positive. Say to yourself (and believe) “I am relaxed and calm. I let go of the day and am ready to receive a full, peaceful night’s sleep.”
    Learn how to calm yourself on your own command. It’s helpful for times when your mind is stuck on something. This is a valuable tool in self-soothing to know. Experiment with tapping, deep breathing, affirmations, doing a body scan and meditation. Repeating a mantra could help. Even something as simple as “I’m ok” or “I am calm. All is well” over and over.
    Give yourself a signal to relax. In addition to affirmations, perhaps consciously placing your head on the pillow and enjoying the feel of the sheets and blanket can be your signal. Be in the moment and appreciate the bed, fully being aware that this is your time to rest and no one needs anything from you at this time.
    Tell others to not disturb you until your alarm does. If your partner gets up earlier they should not wake you up if possible. (Ideally you could wake up at the same time).
    Do not give up under any circumstances. Keep trying whatever you can to get a good, solid sleep. You deserve whatever it takes to rest properly and be able to recharge. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. You need this time to be well. You can do it.

Good luck!

Do you have chronic sleep problems like I do or has something happened recently that has affected your sleep?

What else have you tried that I haven’t listed here?

I’m curious to know what works for you!

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