Some people seem to be able to sleep anywhere, anytime – on a subway, on an airplane, sitting on a sofa. I have always been envious of these folk as I am a light sleeper. I often have spells where I either have trouble getting to sleep (not common) or spells where I wake up often and have trouble getting back to sleep (common). The slightest sound can wake me up. A motion sensor light outside turning on will wake me up. A bad dream will wake me up. Then there is pee. Not only am I old but I drink a lot of water so its not uncommon for me to have to pee four times during the night.
What this boils down to is that I will never, ever be a person who can lay down, close the eyes, and wake up refreshed 8 hours later. So what. The problem is when you stress about sleep which I used to do.
Everyone needs to find what works best for them but here are some things I do.
- The most important is not to stress about sleep. Dont ‘rate’ your sleep. It is what it is and be grateful for it.
- The second is to allow plenty of bed-time, best if its 9hrs so that I can get 7.5 hours of actual sleep. As you will see, often that 7.5hrs will be in many chunks. Is it better to sleep 8hrs at one time? Probably, but who cares because its not going to happen.
- Get a “white noise generator”, there are many free apps that do this. Masking urban sounds with white noise can go a long way in making you sleep better.
- Keep the phone in airplane mode the entire 9 hours – no email, no texts, no Facebook, no Instagram.
- Sleep medications
- Do NOT rely on prescription sleep medications. They are addictive and from experience, I can tell you from experience that the quality of sleep one gets with them is very poor. If your doctor decides you need them, then get off them as quickly as possible.
- Alcohol is what many turn to in order to fall to sleep, this is a bad idea. Not only is it empty calories but then you are sure to have to wake up to pee.
- “Tylenol PM” – avoid preparations like this. Dont take a pain reliever to fall to sleep because pain relievers DO have negative side effects so save them for when you actually need them. Look at the ingredient list for Tylenol PM, find the ingredient responsible for putting you to sleep and just buy that (diphenhydramine, aka Benadryl). If you do need take an over the counter sleep preparation, do so with extreme caution as it can easily become habit forming.
- When I wake up during the night, here is the approach that works for me.
- Try to get back to sleep using “following your breath” or other simple meditation techniques. Nothing makes you fall to sleep faster than trying to stay awake.
- If that does not work, read. If you are sleeping with someone, use your smart phone to read a book but remember, it stays in airplane mode – no exceptions. Choose your books carefully, suspense thrillers are probably not the best for getting back to sleep. My favorite is sci-fi.
- If none of the above work, just get up! If your mind was racing in bed with all your problems and things you have to do then write them down! Make a list! Its the middle of the night, dead quiet, perfect for doing work which requires total concentration. Get something really important done. The middle of the night is when I make incredible progress on engineering problems. BUT, do not have coffee or colas. When you are tired, go back to bed!
One Weird Trick To Sleep Better!
No social media in bed
One of the above sleep tips is in bold because its probably the single most important thing you can do to improve your sleep – no social media. That means airplane mode on your tablet, phone, and computer. I know you *like* social media because its designed to make you crave it – its brain-crack! I know you claim that it does not interfere with your sleep but I can tell you that you are wrong, dead wrong. Let me ask you this, why have you bothered to read this entire article if you do not have sleep issues? Got ya, didn’t I? Social media stimulates the brain in ways the books do not because they are two way interactions. Put the damn phone in airplane mode for 9 hours if you want to sleep! I can guarantee you that both your sleep quantity and quality will improve. No emails, no Facebook, no Snapchat, no Instagram, no TV, no news – all these things turn the neurons in your brain into a fireworks show. Read a book! Best if its paper but if not, a phone or tablet in airplane mode.