Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess
How did you sleep last night? I would love to wake up some morning, have someone ask me that question and be able to answer, "Fantastic!" Unfortunately, it has been a long, long time since I have had a restful night's sleep.
I sometimes wondered if I really was as restless as I'd always felt and once I won a FitBit in a blog writing contest and started wearing it at night, my suspicions were confirmed. On average I am in bed eight hours a night and on average I am restless 21 times and am fully awake and out of bed two times. No wonder I am tired and listless on some days.
My sleep has never been particularly good, but when you add cancer medications and the fact that my surgeries pushed me into menopause and that means nightly hot flashes and it's become a, well, nightmare trying to get a good night's sleep. I've talked to many of my #babyboomer friends and discovered they are in the same boat.
What's a woman to do? I have a couple of tricks I have tried in my quest for a good night's sleep and maybe some of them will work for you:
- Are you anxious? Why? If you lay in bed and have worries dancing around in your brain, you won't be able to nod off. I suggest keeping a journal by your bed and when you've popped awake, take a few minutes to ponder what's on your mind. Worried about paying the bills? Write it down. Worried about an upcoming doctor's appointment or job review? Write down your worst case scenario. Too much on your to-do list? Spend some time writing down those items, get them out of your head and down on paper and you just might be able to forget them until the alarm clock goes off. The National Sleep Foundation has found that half of all people who experience insomnia say the cause is stress and worry. While writing it down won't eliminate it, it will get it in a tangible form and you can address it in the light of day.
- I'm awake, now what? For some people once they wake up they check out the clock and notice they've only got seven hours to sleep, then six, then five... and so on. Worrying about when you have to get up and the fact that you're not sleeping and will now likely have a bad day ahead will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For this, my only advice is to get up if you find yourself wide awake. Don't let your bed become the "enemy." Your bed should be a place of comfort and welcome. If I find myself this wide awake, I grab a book that isn't all that exciting and curl up into a chair and read for a while. When I start feeling tired I crawl back into bed and hope for the best -- most times it works and I only have to read for about a half an hour before tiredness takes over.
- Medical conditions, medications and alcohol can contribute to a restless night sleep. I know that one of my cancer meds leads to restlessness -- therefore I take it in the early afternoon. I used to take all my meds at bedtime but found it wasn't conducive to a good night's sleep. I talked with my oncologist and she confirmed that the one med can disrupt sleep so we changed my routine of when I take it and it solved many issues. Some medical conditions such as arthritis, hot flashes (been there, doing that!) and even sleep apnea will cause you to sleep poorly. I am on meds for the hot flashes, they don't completely eliminate them, but they have diminshed them somewhat. If you've been told you snore or stop breathing during sleep, perhaps you have sleep apnea and should have a sleep test? Remember, alcohol is not your friend when it comes to bedtime rituals. It may cause you to be drowsy at first, but eventually it will metabolize and lead to fragmented sleep patterns.
What's a person to do? Here are a few bedtime rituals that may help:
- Be consistent with your bedtime. If you go to bed at 9 pm during the week and get up at 5 am -- keep that schedule on the weekend, if possible. Train your body to be ready for sleeping and waking at the same times.
- Television watching in the bedroom is said to be bad for sleep patterns. I admit that I fall asleep to the television and then turn the radio on once the timer has turned the TV off. Personally, I cannot sleep in a quiet room -- I've tried but my thoughts get to whirling around and all bets are off for sleep. Even when I wake up and write down the thoughts in my head, I've found that a radio at low volume is just enough to engage my mind but not enough to keep it fully engaged so that I can't fall back to sleep.
- If you have a hard time sleeping at night, resist the urge to nap during the day. Napping will cut down on the sleep you need at night and you will be in a cycle of interrupted nighttime sleep.
- If you can't get back to sleep, get up and leave the bedroom. Don't watch television though as that could just add to your restlessness. Do a boring task like balancing your checkbook until you feel sleepy. Again, your bedroom should be a place of restful relaxation and if it's not, then go to another room.
- Write it down. A worry, in tangible form, is now taken from your thoughts and put on paper and this could truly help you stop worrying about it until the bright light of day.
Do you have trouble falling asleep? Has it gotten worse as you've gotten older? Have you ever tried to write down your thoughts, fears or whatever else is keeping you awake? Try it, you just might find you'll get a better night's sleep and be better able to face the workday ahead!