Strategies For A Better Sleep – by Jessie Dalton, PT
Have you ever experienced those nights when you just can’t fall sleep? Or maybe you never feel rested after long night of sleep or you just end up tossing and turning?
Having troubles with your sleep can be incredibly frustrating and negatively impact your personal, work and social interactions and relationships. Anxiety, depression and other mood disorders have been linked to poor sleeping patterns. In order to help regulate our bodies and our emotions, we need to get a better night’s sleep.
Improving our bedtime routine and sleeping habits can help us improve memory formation and storage in that long-term memory bank. It can also improve our life expectancy and help our bodies be better suited to fighting off illness.
The key to improving these habits and routines is to not get frustrated. You may need to try multiple strategies to find the best one that fits you and your lifestyle. You also need to make sure you don’t change everything all at once – our bodies really dislike drastic and sudden change!
The National Sleep Foundation and Anxiety BC suggest a few options you can try to help improve your sleeping patterns.
- Make sure your bedroom environment is welcoming and comforting – keep it dark and a cool temperature to help to calm the mind and limit distractions
- Properly relax before trying to sleep – use this time to practice breathing techniques, meditation or mindfulness to help calm your mind.
- Pick a routine and stick to it! This includes bedtimes that are the same on both weekdays and weekends
- Your bed should only be used for sleeping – don’t relax here on your downtime as the mind and body will get confused and make it more difficult to fall asleep
- Get your sun exposure (safely and with proper SPF protection of course!) – natural light helps decrease our stress and anxiety responses and improve overall well-being
- Avoid the following approximately 4 hours before your bedtime – caffeine, alcohol, smoking, napping, heavy/rich foods
- Avoid sleep medication if possible – this may be required for a medical reason, but make sure you are being followed by your physician
- Avoid using your phone/tablet and watching TV in bed – a combination of the light and the increased mental activity can decrease your ability to easily fall asleep
These are only a few of the many options available to you for working on your sleep routine and habits!
Do you often wake up sore or in pain after what you think is a full night of rest?
When we are sleeping, if we sleep in awkward positions or on bad mattresses which don’t allow the spine and the rest of the body to be aligned and well supported, we can develop aches and pains.
Your mattress should be comfortable but needs to have a supportive element for your spine and body. In an ideal situation, your spine should stay in a neutral aligned position throughout the night to help minimize pain upon waking.
A great option (among many) is to sleep on your side and use pillows to support yourself in the position.
- The pillow under your head should be thick and firm enough that your head stays in line with the rest of your spine. In terms of your hips/legs, back and shoulders/arms – they should stay in line with one another as well. Using a pillow between the knees and around the body to prop you up, along with having one in front to drape your arm over works well!
- If side-sleeping just isn’t for you, try to keep your spine in neutral and use pillows to provide support and alignment.
The most important thing is to use a position which is comfortable for you! If you aren’t comfortable, you won’t be able to fall asleep!