Can’t fall asleep|? Can’t Stay Asleep|? Sleep Expert and Reformed Insomniac Teaches You|: Top Ten Reasons People Can’t Sleep|: & How to Sleep| & How to Stay Asleep
I am a sleep expert by necessity. I wear my sleep expert hat proudly since I now have figured out how to conquer insomnia. The way I became an expert in this field is the way I suppose most people become experts in their field — by interest and necessity.
What Qualifies Me as a Sleep Expert
What life experiences do I have that have caused me sleepless nights in the past that have allowed me to become a sleep expert? We might even share a few. I am a breast cancer survivor. Just when you need sleep the most to help you heal and recover, your mind and body as it enters uncharted territories seem to sabotage you. Your body and definitely your mind seem to have agendas of their own, as they are exploring new areas you never thought you would have to delve into. New levels of pain and discomfort, as well as fear, anxiety and serious decision making that definitely interfere with your ability to sleep at a time when you need it the most. I am now a 52 year old female and am experiencing perimenopausal symptoms including hot flashes which right after the breast cancer scare intensified — timing had more to do with it than anything else.
In addition to that I have experience in many other changes that affect your ability to sleep: marital changes — both becoming married and divorced, becoming a new parent, surviving and supporting children from babies to youth to adolescence and then through the years of teenage angst and finally preparing and sending the first child off to college, immediate family members chronic health issues, career changes, losing a job, down sizing my beautiful home to renting an apartment, watching the deterioration of aging parents, losing your Mom is very difficult even when she has been ill for several years. It is still a difficult loss.
I have spent many sleepless nights, groggy days, and tried so many things and this is what I have come up with that works for me. I am now able to sleep most nights straight through. When I do wake up (and it is normal and ok to wake up during the night) I am able to go back to sleep.
I know from experience when you don’t get a good night’s sleep you don’t feel good, you feel yucky. You aren’t able to think as clearly. You aren’t able to deal with people and it’s much harder to meet deadlines and make decisions. Sometimes it is even difficult to complete a thought or a sentence. You don’t really care about what you eat or drink. You just kind of stuff food in your face without really tasting it. Sometimes it’s hard not to say what you’re really thinking because let’s face it your are fussy, grouchy, grumpy, whatever cute word you use for feeling impatient, feeling short-tempered and generally not feeling like you and not functioning at your best. For me I get headaches and might even feel nauseated if I am really sleep deprived. You definitely shouldn’t be driving. You fall asleep pretty much every time you sit down and are still for more than 2 or 3 minutes. On the up side everything seems really funny to you.
For all these reasons, I have done a lot of research on the top ten reasons why people can’t sleep. I have often thought that it is so ironic that the ability to get a good night’s sleep is so wasted on the young and falls in the “youth is wasted on the young” category. I remember when I was a child how I dreaded the bedtime routine, but it turns out that’s an integral part of what makes for good sleep. Before I digress . . . Let’s start with:
Top Ten Reasons People Can’t Sleep
Intro: The Science of Sleep 101:
Your pineal gland is crucial in your ability to sleep. You need to give it what it wants and it in turn will give you what you want and deserve: the ability to get restful sleep. The pineal gland produces the hormone melatonin. Too much light inhibits the production of melatonin which is needed for sleep. You also need temperature control — steady, cool room; and sound control; consistent sound — not too loud.
Shortcut — 3 Key things for sleep:
1. Just remember turn the lights off so you can get to sleep.
2. Cool, comfortable environment.
3. Be kind to your mind,
Slow down and unwind; and
Smile all the while
Most Common Reasons For Not Being Able To Sleep:
1) Stress: Stress related job worries, people worries, health worries — replaying negative dooms day thoughts in your mind. You finally have slowed down. You now have some time alone with yourself with no outside distraction so NOW is the best time to think about all those worries you didn’t have time to think about during the day because you were too busy. Right? WRONG! In my experience there is never a good time to beat yourself up with a hammer, undermine yourself, or torture yourself by creating negative mind states, losing sleep and undermining your health.
What am I talking about? This could be replaying the events of the day in your mind and questioning yourself with shoulda, woulda, coulda statements that if you had said this, or if you had done that, then he/she would have said this and then you would have said that and on and on. Do you really think you can get inside someone’s head and control their behavior. (If you do then you probably haven’t experienced parenting.) I used to lose many sleepless nights beating myself up wondering what I shoulda, woulda or coulda done differently to create a different outcome. Bottom line: It already happened. Stop reliving it. It doesn’t help in anyway. It only makes you feel worse. Let it go, breathe and smile, and get some sleep.
Or, incessantly worrying about future events that may never happen any way. Now what am I talking about? It’s something you think is going to happen but hasn’t even come up yet. I definitely don’t see the point in losing sleep over it since there is a good chance it may never even come up in the first place. However, if it does come up a good night’s sleep will help you access your inner wisdom, weigh your options and deal with whatever it is at the time it comes up so you can help provide the tools to get the best possible outcome for you and everyone else involved. You know I’m right. Now let’s help you get some sleep.
If it is something that has already come up and is upsetting to you, if you can’t do anything about it. Remember this: Life is impermanent. People, times, and things come and go in our lives all the time. You will get through it. You will be ok. Keep in mind “As long as you are breathing that’s all that really matters.” A good night sleep will give you a clearer mind to access your inner wisdom and help you get through this whatever it is.
If you know you can fix it, it is very upsetting to you and you want to start at it right away while you are lying in bed. Bad plan. Don’t think about it now. You need to be rested to take care of whatever it is. It’s okay. Remember although It isn’t what you wanted to happen, you will get through it. Again, life is impermanent. People, times, and things come and go in our lives all the time. Keep it in perspective and focus on what you can do to make the situation better. Keep in mind “As long as you are breathing that’s all that really matters.” A good night sleep will give you a clearer mind to access your inner wisdom. So don’t think about it now, and get some sleep and deal with it in the morning.
Stimulants: Fall into Two Categories: Stimulants You Ingest and Stimulants You Don’t Ingest
Stimulants You Ingest
If caffeine is a stimulant for you, avoid caffeine late in the day. Read labels of over the counter drugs, and processed foods and look for caffeine (you should do this anyway, except I would recommend weaning away from processed foods altogether.)
My Mom always said, “If you can’t say anything nice about someone don’t say anything at all.” Well in this case, although alcohol isn’t a someone it falls into that category for me. With that said, it is a known stimulant and has the reputation of interfering with your sleep.
Eating Too Much:
Again, Mom’s rule, “If you can’t say anything nice about someone don’t say anything at all.” Of course we all know you shouldn’t eat too much, but sometimes we get carried away. I would recommend always being mindful of what you eat anyway, but especially don’t over eat at dinner or eat things that aren’t going to agree with you and keep you up at night.
Stimulants You Don’t Ingest
I never understood why you weren’t supposed to watch tv, and play on the computer at night and so at first I didn’t follow this sage advice. That’s why I gave you the brief science lesson.
Lights, TVs, Computers, Alarm Clocks
Too much light is anything that gives off light that is brighter than an old fashioned limiting night light that is not in your bathroom or hallway and is directly in your line of vision. Sleep disrupters include:
If street lights are a problem for you buy an eye cover.
The lights in the hallway or bathroom get a night light.
Electronic Devices: Computers, Laptops, iPhones, iPads, etc.
Why? Definitely these electronic devices will interfere with your pineal glands production of melatonin. It is recommended to shut them down 1-2 hrs before bedtime when you start your bedtime routine (coming up soon.)
The television. I know I fall asleep in front of the tv all the time, but then I wake up and fall asleep and wake up and . . . so if you want to fall asleep to the tv set it to a sleep timer. I also noticed if I watched the night time news it was unsettling and not conducive to relaxation. And whatever I fell asleep to often became a subject of my dreams, not necessarily a good thing.
Clocks with Lights:
Clocks with blinking blue lights, or any illuminating lights are sleep disrupters. Including alarm clocks. Turn them away from you and avoid looking at them. You did set it. It will wake you up when it is time to get up. You don’t need to know what time it is. You don’t need to calculate how much sleep you’ve already missed so you can worry about the ramifications of it all.
Mother Nature — Hotflashes in General: PMS, Periods, Perimenopause to Menopause & Andropause
Did you know your homone levels change during the night while you’re sleeping and that is what causes the hot flash.
Hormone replacement therapy — From what I’ve read and seen from the women in my life that have used it, hormone replacement therapy has resulted in cancer and should not be considered an option, but that’s just me.
In addition to what I’m going to recommend to everyone:
How about wearing as little as you can get away with at bedtime depending on who shares your residence with you. If you live in a family environment choose light weight clothing and look for light weight material that wicks moisture even better. A sheet, a very light weight blanket is all you need. Fan close to your bed so you can feel the cool air on you all night long.
How to Fall Asleep 101: Creating Your Sleep Environment
1. Create a Sleep Routine (Just Like Mom did When You Were a Kid)
This story just might make you fall asleep . . . when I was little I never wanted to go to bed. My Mom would tell me it was time for bed and I had a bedtime routine. I-w-o-u-l-d s-t-r-e-t-c-h i-t o-u-t as much as possible. Putting on my jammies and slippers, brushing my teeth. Then my Mom would read to me at my bedside. And finally my Mom would tell me it was time to go to sleep and I would list all the reasons I could quickly come up with always leading and ending with ” . . . but I’m not tired.” In later years My Mom would smile and recount the story with fondness and say that as soon as my head would hit the pillow, I would say one last time, “but I’m not –” and I would be out like a light. How many sleepless nights did I think of that! How many times while I was lying awake tossing and turning, staring at the clock every 5 minutes wondering how I was going to get up to make that presentation the next morning did I think what happened to the days when I could turn sleep on and off like you turn on and off a light with a light switch.
How to Schedule Time For Sleep (Like You do With Other Important Things You Don’t Want to Miss!)
1) Count backwards. Plan for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Count backwards from the time you normally get up and add 2 hours. Two hours will be spent to do nothing but put yourself in the mood for sleep (further discussed in 2.) Do this 7 days a week. It’s so much easier for your body to stick to a sleep schedule. I know the idea of a sleep schedule can take awhile to get used to. And for those of you that don’t want to adhere to this practical advice: on weekends when you want to stay up later than usual, just don’t over sleep. Try to get up no later than an hour or two past your regular wake up time and sleep no more than the usual 7-8 hours.
So if you get up at 6:00 a.m. and you want to get 8 hours of sleep you need to be asleep by 10:00 p.m. By 8:00 p.m. you should start with:
2. Happy Up Yourself ; or Be kind to your mind
Slow down and unwind
While you smile all the while
In my experience the best start to a good night’s sleep is to happy up yourself. This means — use your mind as the powerful tool and ally it is and think thoughts that make you feel good. So you can relax and unwind. Start with smiling. You should be smiling 24/7. You know you’re smiling enough when people that you’re closest to start to ask you, “Why are you always smiling?”
Smiling always has so many health benefits for you and is so relaxing that is why you should include it as part of your bedtime routine. It will also improve your relationship with your self and create peace and harmony with your family and as an extra bonus brings out your natural beauty.
Shut down all electronic devices and avoid creating negative mind states for yourself and your family. If that means staying off the phone, then stay off the phone. You don’t have to return phone calls at the end of the day when you need to wind down. In addition to what I’ve listed above, no confrontational conversations and avoid doing anything that would in any major way be considered a major life decision or life altering experience.
Here are some tips on how to destress:
Visualize Your Troubles Away
1. Visualize while standing by your front door you’re putting all your troubles away in a box, “what’er be ailin’ you mate” said in my best pirate’s voice. Now close the box. It’s automatically tightly securing the contents of all your troubles. You now open the door and throw the box as far away as you can so that the troubles can’t work their way back to you before morning. Now close the front door. Smile and walk away to your bed.
I have various articles posted on my blog with visualizations and meditations. If you have never meditated. I have recently posted an article on How to Follow the Breath. Click on the following link to learn how: (copy and paste this link in your browser if it doesn’t come up)
To learn more about Mindfulness and why you might want to incorporate a practice of mindfulness in your life to reduce stress, click on this link. If it doesn’t come up copy and paste in your browser:
Mindfulness is Home Sweet Home; and
I invite you to watch my video How to Meditate and various videos on mindfulness and meditation I’ve posted on Youtube:
4. I invite you to use my video Full Body Relaxation Meditation to help you fall asleep, fall back asleep or any time you want to relax.
How to Stay Asleep Once You Do Fall Asleep –Make Your Environment as Inviting to Sleep as Possible
Sound — Doing What You Can About Sound:
We’ve already talked about lights out with the exception night lights out of your line of vision. How about sound. An alpha, theta, beta sound wave machine would be a good investment. You should be able to find one for around $100. If you live in a noisy suburb or urban environment you could use ear plugs. You can also listen to whatever sounds are in your environment and just watch them in a non-judgmental, non-reactive way and they will seem to disappear on their own and you will eventually be able to fall asleep; and
Your body doesn’t like to sleep when it is hot. So, sleep with a fan blowing on you. Sleep in lightweight, loose comfortable clothing that wicks away moisture if you have it available to you. Layer your bed like you do your clothing. Sheet next to you, light weight blanket, light weight cover, or no cover.
What About When You Wake Up and Can’t Go Back to Sleep
I have much too much experience in this area as well. Night time can be so dark in many ways. As soon as I notice I’m awake I fill my mind with soothing thoughts so I can get back to sleep. Some examples of this are:
I am happy.
I am ok.
I am Peace; or I am safe.
Everything is good.
I repeat that over and over in my mind until I fall back asleep. Remember: Do not look at the clock.
Unless You Want To Catch Up on Your Ironing — Relax Your Mind to Catch More ZZZZs
Some experts say get up and do chores until you get sleepy again. My grandmother used to get up and do her ironing. As a result, she never did get back to sleep. So if you want to get up and do something. Just make sure it doesn’t involve alcohol, electronic devices or lights. If you aren’t going to take my advice and want to watch tv make sure you set your sleep timer. Because commercials are very loud and if you are lucky enough to fall asleep even though the bright lights are flickering in the background the change in sound probably will wake you up.
Just remember, it’s okay as long as you do it in the dark.
I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you are already on the path to a healthy life style. You eat right and exercise. I like to recommend walk & meditate for health. A combo of at least 30/5 every day.
I hope this helps. Share it with your friends and family. I wish you success in your career and great happiness and peace in your personal life. Cindi Silva
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