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Falling asleep while lying in bed is the worst because you can’t sleep. This is a very common problem that board certified sleep doctors regularly help patients with.
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In addition to feeling frustrated, looking at the clock and worrying about getting enough sleep can be a self-fulfilling prophecy because it can actually raise your stress hormones, preventing you from getting more sleep, says Elaine Rosen, MD, a board-certified sleep physician. . At Penn Medicine. “It’s almost like a sleep performance alarm,” he explains.
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So, how can you stop the cycle and get those much-needed eyes? First, realize that it’s okay if it takes you more than five minutes to fall asleep. “Most people would be surprised to learn that 15 to 30 minutes is considered normal,” says Rosen. “You don’t just go to bed and then the sleep switch turns on.”
In fact, the likelihood that you’ll fall asleep at any given time depends on two factors: your circadian tendency to stay awake (aka your “internal clock”) and homeostatic sleep, Dr. Rosen explains. Your internal clock determines how awake you are, and all follow the same general pattern: alertness increases throughout the day, dips slightly in the afternoon, and returns again around 7 p.m. Then, around 10:00 p.m., it turned down again. or 11:00 p.m., when most people go to bed, and drops even more when we’re asleep.
But while the circadian drive to wake is the same every day, your homeostatic drive to sleep depends on how many ZZZs you’ve had recently. How does it make you feel?
If you’re moving as soon as your head hits the pillow, that’s a sign you’re sleep deprived, Rosen adds. On the other hand, if you regularly take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, you may meet the criteria for chronic insomnia (more on this below).
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Just as parents create a bedtime routine for children, adults can benefit from the same bedtime routine. Think: take a warm shower, brush your teeth and turn on the white noise machine. Consistent bedtimes and wake-up times are also important, as this will train your body to sleep better.
“In fact, if you spend the same eight hours each night, you’ll sleep more deeply,” Dr. Rosen explains. “If your body doesn’t know if it’s awake or asleep, it will go into a lighter stage of sleep and you’ll feel more agitated.”
This will train your brain to make the right mental associations. Bringing work or even a questionable page-turner to bed tells your brain it’s okay to stay under the covers and
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Fall asleep, says Dr. Rosen, which is why he recommends using the bedroom only for sleep and sex.
Likewise, if it takes you more than 15-30 minutes to fall asleep, get out of bed. “Go into another room and pick up a book that’s really, really boring and try to read it carefully until you fall asleep,” advises Pradeep Balu, MD, a board-certified sleep specialist and neurologist at MU Health Care. “Then close your book and go back to your bed and try to go back to sleep.” Your (monotonous) reading in another room will reinforce this subconscious connection between your bedroom and sleep.
) isn’t the only thing that revitalizes your body. “You’re stimulating your wake centers with blue light from your electronics,” says Dr. Rosen. Exposure to these specific wavelengths disrupts your body’s biological clock because it is like a clock set by the sun. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends putting away tablets, TVs, and phones at least 30 minutes before bedtime to minimize the effects.
Focusing on this time and focusing on how much sleep you get can make your anxiety and stress worse. Both Dr. Rosen and Dr. Ballou recommend not looking at your alarm clock while you’re trying to fall asleep. If you need to wake up, turn away so you don’t see it.
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Dr. Rosen prefers the sounds of nature or Zen music to turning on the TV or queuing up a podcast for background noise. (You’ll have to wait for the next episode of the series.) “The idea shouldn’t be that you’re actively doing something and hoping to fall asleep,” he says, which is why white noise is best. Alternatively, you can leave it overnight.
“Your daily desire to wake up is actually related to your body temperature,” says Dr. Rosen. When this warning system starts to shut down at night, your core temperature also drops a bit. Cooling your bedroom — below 70°F, she says — will cool your body and signal your brain that it’s time to sleep. If you don’t have air conditioning, place a fan near your bed.
If you’re physically stuck in bed, try a mental exercise to calm your mind. “Keeping your mind in check helps reduce the stress of trying to fall asleep,” says Dr. Ballou. She suggests thinking about such a pleasant experience as a walk on the beach. Immerse yourself in the idea – hearing the sounds, seeing the waves, smelling the salt, etc. until you fall asleep.
Another exercise you can try is start with 1000 and subtract 7 until it starts flowing. So you start with 993, 986, 979, etc… “It takes the hassle out of it and lets your systems do their job,” says Dr. Ballou.
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Dr. Rosen says the imagery and relaxation techniques taught in these programs work for two reasons, just like the techniques described above. First, they take your mind off ruminating, stressful thoughts, and second, they can help slow your heart rate and actively reduce stress hormone levels. He likes the CBT-i trainer as well as the popular Calm app.
Your habits during the day are just as important as your actions at night. Follow this tip to see payouts in P.M.:
These HIIT workouts aren’t just good for your heart, they can also help you sleep better. “Because you’ve expended more energy during the day, you’ll feel more tired at night,” says Dr. Rosen. In fact, a 2019 review of studies on insomnia and exercise in adults found that exercise was consistently associated with a reduction in sleep onset latency (the time it takes to fall asleep). Fair warning though: hitting the gym
Using the time of day to catch up on ZZZs can interfere with your sleep and how much sleep you get at night. If you can’t keep your eyes open during that afternoon slump, limit your naps to no more than 30 minutes, and if possible, do it earlier in the day, advises the Mayo Clinic.
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While the exact cutoff time can vary from person to person, if you’re really struggling, Dr. Rosen recommends cutting out caffeine entirely in the afternoon. Watch out for these stimulants in coffee, tea, soda, chocolate and pain relievers like Excedrin and Middle, notes the Cleveland Clinic.
You’ll want to eat a heavy meal at least three hours before bed for two reasons: “One, the body is working hard to digest the food, and two, you have reflux when you lie down on a full stomach.” says Dr. Rosen. “You want your body to do nothing when you go to sleep.”
Before you go to bed (but in another room), try writing a list of all the things on your mind, like what you have to do tomorrow or what happened at work today, Dr. Rosen suggests. That way, when you’re under the covers, those thoughts won’t start swirling around in your mind and holding you back.
If your sleep has been disturbed at least three nights a week for at least three months, you may meet the criteria for chronic insomnia. Check with your healthcare provider, who can connect you with a board-certified sleep physician. And don’t wait for treatment. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘I haven’t slept in 15 years,'” says Dr. Rosen. “They thought they had to live with it, but they didn’t have to live with insomnia.”
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Carolyn is a writer and editor with nearly ten years of experience. From 2015 to 2019, he held various editorial positions
, as health editor, covers nutrition, fitness, wellness and other lifestyle news. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism and dreams of Northwestern returning to the Rose Bowl.
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