7 Common Sleeping Problems and How To Fix Them
Did you know that on average human beings spend a total of 1/3 of their lives asleep? Given the amount of time that this constitutes, suffering from any of these common sleep problems can be detrimental to your mental and physical well-being.
For this reason, it is essential that you, at least, try to give yourself the best quality sleep you can. At least in theory - for any parents reading you're doomed to many more years of sleep deprivation - sorry!
For the rest of you, here are some common sleep problems and potential 'tricks' to help alleviate them.
1. Not being able to fall asleep is a huge issue
First and foremost, you can't get a good night's sleep if you can't fall asleep in the first place. Obviously.
Sleep problems like insomnia can have very serious implications for your physical and mental health. It is one of the quickest ways to seriously affect your quality of life.
If you do have some real concerns about a potential mental or physical underlying issue, you should always consult a medical professional first.
That aside, the Journal of Applied Physiology advises some simple things to help you drop off at night. Most of them are common sense really.
The first is to avoid consuming any caffeine at least several hours before bedtime. This shouldn't need any explanation.
Another good way to make sure you get some shut-eye is to try to get into the habit of doing some exercise in the morning or afternoon. This will physically and mentally tire you, and you'll 'sleep like the dead' afterward.
And last, but by no means least, put your mobile phone away at least an hour before bedtime. Blue light from the screens has been shown to disrupt your REM sleep cycle.
2. Avoid consuming alcohol to an absolute minimum
Reducing the amount of alcohol you consume is always a good idea. Apart from other serious health risks associated with alcohol abuse, it also wreaks havoc with your sleep patterns.
Alcohol tends to disrupt the body's natural REM sleep cycle and is one of the reasons your grumpy the morning after, especially if you're not as young as you used to be.
Whilst alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, even a couple of drinks can seriously affect your night's sleep. If you consume more than the recommended 14 units a week, you will find you wake up feeling you didn't get any rest at all.
Alcohol tends to cause you to spend more in a deep sleep stage rather than the more restful REM stage of sleep. You should aim to have at least a few alcohol-free days in the week.
This will help you sleep better and feel rested the next morning.
If you must drink something at night, you might be better off drinking a hot, milky or herbal drink at night instead of your favorite tipple.
3. Get into a sleep regime
Another common sleep problem is having trouble waking up. This tends to be linked to some of the other issues detailed above, but can be rectified by being disciplined.
You should try to wake up around the same time every day. This includes weekends - but do treat yourself on occasion, of course.
By setting an alarm, alarms, or hiring someone to kick you out of bed, you will be able to build a useful habit to help you get up. By doing this, your body will get used to waking up at a certain time.
Eventually, you might find you don't need an alarm clock at all.
Other advice includes getting up and out of bed immediately after you wake up. This will prevent you from drifting back off into the land of Nod.
Some will also advise getting straight into the shower - but this is entirely up to you.
4. It might be time to change your pillow
If you suffer from neck pain, it might be because of your pillow. It is generally advisable for you to change them once every two years, or so.
Pillows are intended to support the head and neck in a neutral position to minimize biomechanical stresses on your neck whilst sleeping.
This study, for example, investigated whether different pillow types produce different types and frequencies of waking symptoms in asymptomatic subjects. What they found is quite revealing, and interesting.
Once a pillow loses the ability to hold its shape, that's an indication to get rid of it. In various sleep studies, people have reported that the firm, latex pillow, is usually the most comfortable for a good night's sleep.
This is especially true if you are suffering from neck pain. Good to know. Now, to get some shares in a pillow company.
5. Got shoulder pain? Sleep on your back
If you suffer from shoulder pain, try not to sleep on your side. This might sound obvious, but most of us tend to be habitual in our sleeping positions.
In fact, it is estimated that over 74% of sleepers are side-sleepers. Whilst most professionals will advise you that back sleeping is the best for spinal support, side sleeping is the next best thing.
Side sleeping has also been shown to alleviate snoring and some symptoms of sleep apnea too. For a pregnant woman, side sleeping tends to be the most comfortable - as nature intended.
If you really can't sleep on your back, it might be advisable to take the pressure off and sleep on your non-injured shoulder side.
Other advice includes hugging a pillow too which has been shown to help some sufferers.
6. Use more pillows if you have acid reflux
For those how to suffer from acid reflux, going to be can be a daunting prospect. Not only can you wake up unexpectantly from "heartburn," but sometimes you might not be able to drop off altogether.
Whilst it is always a good idea to consult your doctor or pharmacist for some medical options, you do have some simple options in bed. But you really should consider proton-pump inhibitors as an option.
One of the simplest and best options is to elevate your head by adding two or more pillows. This will physically reduce some of the symptoms of acid reflux.
You can also consider sleeping on your left side which has been shown to also alleviate some of the symptoms.
Other than that you might want to consider reducing the amount of stress in your life (which has been shown to trigger events), and take a good long look at your diet.
7. Snoring may see you partner smothering you to death
For any partner of a night-time snorer, the temptation to 'put them out of their misery' is a common, if fleeting, emotion. But it also interrupts the snorer's quality of sleep too.
It can also be a symptom of a more serious medical issue like sleep apnea.
Whilst there are certain devices that can be used to help with snoring, there are also some simple tricks you try for free. The first, and most effective, one is to avoid sleeping on your back.
By adopting a side sleeping position the problems associated with snoring are alleviated. You might also want to try elevating your head a little bit more too.
It is also advisable to clear out your sinuses with saline solution before going to bed. And avoid alcohol is at all possible.
Else you might want to lose a little bit of puppy fat. Extra fat in the neck or throat can narrow the airways and lead to snoring problems.
Smokers are also at a higher risk of developing a snoring problem so cut that out. Easier said than done we know.
Failing all that you can explore medical interventions with your doctor or pharmacist.
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