You don’t need volumes of research to tell you that the quality and amount of sleep you get can impact just about every aspect of life and functioning. Rest assured those volumes of research do exist and they clearly prove that chronic poor sleep can impact you physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially. Importantly, the quality of your sleep is very sensitive to life changes like pain, illness, stress, and routine (or lack thereof).
There are two primary types of sleep. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep. NREM is often called quiet sleep because it is associated with a minimal amount of brain activity. REM is often call paradoxical or active sleep because it is associated with increased brain activity and “YES” rapid movements of the eyes. REM is the portion of sleep most associated with dreaming. Both REM and NREM portions of sleep are structured and stagged (aka sleep architecture) and when this architecture is disrupted the quality and quantity of sleep goes down.
Various things can disrupt your sleep. Stress is the most common cause of period insomnia, but other things can negatively impact your sleep as well. Other factors can include health, use of various substances like alcohol and caffeine, as well as the environment itself (too much light, noise, poor mattress, or temperature control).
In these troubled times it may seem harder to get a good night’s sleep more than ever, but here are some tips to help when you are having trouble getting a good night’s rest.
- Manage your Stress
- Avoid late afternoon caffeine and other stimulants
- Do not use alcohol as a sleep aid
- If you cannot fall asleep within 30 minutes or so, get up and do something quietly until you feel you can fall asleep
- Do not use the bed for anything but sleep and sex
- Develop and maintain a relaxing bedtime routine
- Drown out disturbing noises with a white noise and natural sounds generator
- Block excessive light
- Keep your bedroom cool but comfortable
- Avoid late exercise
- Try a round of melatonin
- Avoid daytime napping
- Try a calming or comfortable scent
- Avoid late meals
- Unplug and put aside the electronics
- Learn a relaxation method like guided imagery
If putting a combination of these behavior changes in place does not address your problems of insomnia, then it may be time to seek some professional help.
Author: Steven Schwartz, PhD, LP
Morin CM, (1993). Insomnia: Psychological Assessment and Management. Guilford Press: New York