Having Trouble Sleeping? 12 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep
Are you having trouble sleeping? Sleep is crucial for your health and wellbeing. Whether you’re looking for more energy, seeking a brighter mood, or hoping to increase your mental and physical stamina, better sleep is often the answer.
But if you’re having trouble sleeping, you may be missing out on all the benefits the Sandman can bring. Poor sleep can make you feel run down and impede your path to wellness. Unfortunately, many factors out of your control can impact your rest, such as pain, stress, medication, and environmental issues, but focusing on the matters you can control will help.
At the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we know sleep is an essential part of your orthopedic health. Whether you’re recovering from surgery, healing from an injury, or working on an issue with your physical therapist, sleep should be a top priority. If you’re having trouble sleeping, here are 12 ways to get a more restful night.
1. Follow a Schedule
Having a regular sleep schedule is one of the most important ways to get a more restful slumber. You should aim to go to bed at around the same time each night and wake up at consistent times in the morning (yes, even on the weekends). For most folks, 8 hours is the sweet spot, although you should listen to your body—some people need more sleep, while others feel comfortable getting by on less.
If your sleep schedule needs an adjustment, attempt to make changes in 10-15-minute increments. After a week or two of earlier bedtimes (or earlier wakeups), your body will get used to the new healthy sleep schedule. Even if your schedule changes, try to keep your sleep times consistent.
2. Minimize Naps
Some people love a daily nap, while others feel it makes them groggy or cranky. Again, napping is an area where you should listen to your body but keep it short. For most nappers, 20-30 minutes of shut-eye is enough to reap the benefits without losing the day. Even 10-minute power naps are enough in some cases. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, your long afternoon nap might be interfering with your sleep cycle. Scale it back and see if it helps.
Of course, your body may need extra sleep if you’re in the process of healing. If you’ve gotten into a longer-napping habit, try finding quiet activities like reading, crafting, or drawing that can give you a brain break and let your body rest. You can still have “downtime” even if you’re not napping.
3. Try Meditation
Meditation and mindfulness practices like gentle yoga are great options for quieting your mind. When you practice guided meditation during the day, you’re actually training your brain to slow down and better focus on the activity at hand throughout your day. That activity can include better sleep.
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, there are also guided meditations for sleep that can help you learn to shut down your mind and relax your body before bed. Several guided meditation apps can help you better understand the practice to reap the benefits any time of day, especially if you’re having trouble sleeping.
4. Move More
Another way to help your body look, feel, and even sleep better is to prioritize movement and exercise. It’s important to get exercise often—aiming for daily activity for optimal health. Now, if you’re having trouble sleeping, you may want to avoid exercising a few hours before bedtime, as it can interfere with sleep.
Regular exercisers report better sleep. With exercise, they sleep more soundly and are less prone to waking up at night. As an added benefit, exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, which can help you avoid sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and other issues that can also interfere with sleep.
5. Commune with Nature
If you’re having trouble sleeping, it can help to mimic the rhythms of the day. Within reason, go to bed when the sun goes down and awake with the sunrise. Our bodies are naturally attuned to nature with what’s called the circadian rhythm. This rhythm affects hormone release, body temperature, and digestion, among other factors.
While some job schedules and other factors may change your sleep patterns, “early to bed, early to rise” is the best optimum health goal. If your lifestyle doesn’t allow for an early bedtime, make an effort to get outside, and enjoy sunshine and nature whenever possible. Getting outdoors in the sun helps our vitamin D levels (but it’s crucial to get a vitamin-rich diet, too), which may also benefit our sleep.
6. Avoid Late-Day Caffeine and Alcohol
Many people love waking up with a good ol’ cup of Joe. If your caffeine habits stretch into the afternoon, you may be inadvertently impacting your sleep. Sleep experts recommend cutting off caffeine after 2pm or 3pm at the latest. Watch for hidden sources of caffeine like tea, soda, and chocolate as well.
Similarly, alcohol can have an adverse effect on sleep. While a glass of wine at dinner can be healthy, exceeding two drinks per day for men or one for women can lead to restless sleep. Take a pass on the nightcap and opt for a soothing cup of herbal tea instead.
7. Become an Early Bird Eater
Eating a late-night meal can lead to indigestion, heartburn, and an upset stomach that may cause you to have trouble sleeping. If you find that heartburn, gas, or stomach discomfort is an issue, you may want to shift your mealtime to an earlier hour.
If you feel hungry before bed, try a small, light snack to keep you satiated. Something simple like berries, a few crackers, or a small handful of almonds can stave off hunger pangs while keeping you comfortable as you drift off.
8. Scale Back Screen Time
Many of us are very attached to our phones, but the artificial light emitted from screens can interfere with our sleep patterns and leave us feeling overstimulated. Even television can disturb our sleep and make it hard to drift off. Not only are you giving your brain a lot to ponder right before bed, but light and noise can make it tough to stay sound asleep.
If you have a TV in the bedroom, consider moving it elsewhere in your house. Implement a “phone curfew” to help you remember to put down your devices a few hours before your head hits the pillow. There are also blue light blocking glasses and phone settings that can reduce your exposure and ease the strain on your eyes.
9. Prepare a Dark, Cool, Quiet, and Comfortable Room
What is the perfect environment for sleep? People drift away the best in a room that’s between 60-67 degrees. Your bedroom should be dark, especially if you find that you’re sensitive to light during slumber. Consider blackout curtains or shades and white noise, such as a fan, especially if you live in a loud building.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure your mattress is comfortable. Clean sheets and cozy, comfortable bedding can go a long way toward helping you feel relaxed and ready for slumber. For those who are looking for an extra layer of comfort, a weighted blanket may help some sleepers unwind.
10. Create Calm Before Bed
If your sleep struggles come from a racing mind, do what you can to address issues long before bedtime. Make a list at the end of your workday; one Baylor study found that participants fell asleep 10 minutes faster if they made a list. Set up a rule to stop checking your email (turn off your alerts) after a particular hour and consider other activities that leave you feeling stressed, like watching too much nightly news.
Instead of scrolling or watching TV, create a calming nighttime routine. Your bedtime ritual or routine may include a warm bath, putting on moisturizer, donning cozy socks, or listening to soft music. Reading a book or a magazine can help you unwind and feel peaceful.
11. Follow Doctor’s Orders
If your sleep problems are related to any medical concern, it’s crucial to follow your doctor’s instructions. For example, some pain medication can disrupt sleep or make it hard to get your rest on track. Let your physician know, so they can help you find the appropriate adjustment.
All medical professionals know that sleep is an integral part of the body’s healing process. When we get sleep, we repair cells damaged throughout our daily activities, whether through exercise, injury, or just general wear and tear. Sleep is even more crucial after an injury or surgical procedure, so don’t skimp on your slumber!
12. Don’t Ignore Pain
Many times, pain and discomfort can interfere with our sleep, making it hard to fall asleep and difficult to stay that way. If you’re trying to fight through painful joints, an injury, or another orthopedic issue, don’t suffer in silence. Many people ignore a problem hoping that it will get better, and sometimes it won’t happen without medical intervention.
If you’ve been experiencing discomfort that’s disrupting your sleep for more than a few days, reach out to a specialist to help. Many times, the right care regimen can help you feel better quickly. Contact the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin today if you’ve been struggling with joint pain or strain. Let’s address your concerns so you can get a better night’s rest!