I had a hard time going to sleep last night.
Unfortunately, this happens a lot more often than I care to admit. Some of the time, it’s outside of my control–I might be worried over something stressful, or I might be up late due to travel, like last weekend.
Sometimes, however, it’s my fault. For example, I’m a night owl, and so I often push the envelope on how much sleep I get, thinking that I will still be able to function properly the next day. While that may have worked just fine when I was in college, now that I’m in my mid-40s and the mother to two children, I can’t get away with it as easily. Yet it’s an annoying habit that I’m having a hard time breaking.
Thankfully, there are a number of things that we can each do to optimize our chances for a good night’s sleep. These include the following:
- Go to bed on a set schedule. This is where I get messed up–sometimes I stay up late, and then my internal clock gets messed up. This happened last night, because after spending the long weekend in Hoboken and staying up until after 1 a.m. every night, my brain was used to that schedule. It’s going to take a little time to readjust. Keeping to a set schedule means you don’t have to retrain your body
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine and alcohol after 4 p.m. If you take in caffeine or alcohol within the 4-6 hours before bedtime, your body is simply “too wired to be tired”. Although many people think of alcohol as a depressant or sleep aid (such as when they enjoy a “nightcap” before bed), since it tends to make a person sleepy, the problem occurs when your blood alcohol levels start to fall back to normal. The lack of depressant actually serves as a sort of stimulant, so you end up waking up far too soon, robbing yourself of a good night’s sleep.
- Get some exercise–but not right before you go to bed. Exercise is an excellent way to tone and strengthen your muscles, as well as improve your mood and reduce stress levels–both of which help when you’re trying to fall asleep (try sleeping when you’re stressed, and you’ll see what I mean). However, if you exercise right before bed, you will end up more stimulated instead of tired–your muscles may be tired, but your brain will be raring to go. Instead, you should exercise several hours before bed. Discovery Health reports that several hours after exercising, your body temperature starts to fall. This will happen right around the time you are ready to go to bed. That falling internal temperature is one of your body’s cues that it’s time to get some shuteye, and will help you get to sleep quicker and easier.
- Watch what you eat before bed. Some people sleep best after eating a light snack before bed; it all depends on your body’s levels of leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that regulate feelings of satiety and hunger. If you have too much ghrelin, the hunger hormone, those hunger signals will likely wake you at night. Those who suffer from insomnia, an inability to fall, or stay, asleep, may benefit from a light snack before bed, which stimulate the production of leptin and allow you to sleep. A light snack does not include anything heavy, greasy, spicy, or sugary, as those types of foods will either leave you too uncomfortable to sleep, or the food will serve as a stimulant, thereby keeping you awake. WebMD suggests a snack that includes a small amount protein (a dab of peanut butter, a bit of cheese, or a small amount of milk) and a come carbohydrate; for example, a small bowl of cereal might be just the ticket to a good night’s sleep.
Below is a short YouTube video from Dr. Phyllis Zee, Associate Director at the Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology at Northwestern University School of Medicine. She is also a Board Member of the National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping America sleep.
Dr. Zee provides information on insomnia, and strategies you can use to help yourself get a good night’s sleep.
I have to admit that there was one additional reason I couldn’t sleep last night: I was nervous, plain and simple. Today I had a second job interview for a teaching position for the 2012-2013 school year. The good news? I won’t have to be nervous anymore, as this morning I was hired to teach 6th grade Social Studies and Science, back “home” in my old district, working with some of my favorite teachers and staff. Yippee!
Of course, that having been said, there may be one new reason that I won’t be able to go to sleep tonight: sheer excitement over a new job.
Aloha! Have a great night’s sleep tonight!