Improving Yourself


Sleeping problems


Sleeping problems are not only a problem during the night. If you don't sleep well, you are not at your best during the day. It could even be dangerous, like falling asleep while driving.

Not sleeping well, means you are less alert during the day, because your brain is trying to catch up. You cannot be relaxed if you don't sleep well. Or you are sleepy, or you are hyper in action and thinking (stress).

Some tips for a better bed rest. I only talk about the non harmful stuff. Medication can help, but it is not very healthy, so I leave this out. There is a reason for sleeping problems. Find the reason, solve it and you can sleep. Don't try to solve the falling asleep problem, but the reason for sleeping problems. Not able to sleep, has a reason.

Besides snoozing levels, one does sleep or one doesn't. There is nothing in between. It is like crossing a border. You can only be on one side. If you cross this border, depends on many things. A small problem can be enough for not crossing the sleeping border.

Activity levels in bed.

If you fall asleep depends on your activity level. If you are too active, you don't fall asleep. That is why children can't sleep after a scary movie. That is why you can't sleep if you had a big fight. The trick is, to avoid or lower activity levels. If you are hyper, cool down before you go to bed. If you don't, you go to a higher gear, because of frustration of not falling asleep.

Silence during sleep.

This is very important for a good nights sleep. Your brain can be in sleep mode, but they are hearing everything in your neighborhood. If your brain / ears hears too much or strange noises, they wake you up. This is a safety thing. It could mean danger. If you are awake, you can take action if needed (burglar downstairs). Your subconscious (hearing the sound) cannot make decisions, so it wakes you up. This is a good thing. Same thing for a burning smell.

If you wake up, depends on two things. The (strength of the) disturbance and the depth of your sleep. Some wakeup on everything, while others do not wakeup for anything. Light sleepers (who gets awake for everything), are most of the time nervous people. Alcohol and medication have an influence on this.

Three additional things.

  1. Waking up several times for noises, will make it harder in getting back to sleep.
  2. Because of waking up, one gets frustrated and because of this frustration, will make it harder to sleep.
  3. Noises at the same time (neighbor gets home), can have two effects. Or you wake up every time (or just before that), or you get used to it, and you don't wake up. It all depends if one gets annoyed or starts doing things, like drinking water or using the bathroom. Once you are used to waking up at 3.00 a.m. (for whatever reason), you wakeup by yourself. It is now an unwanted habit.

Earplugs could help if you wakeup because of noises. Yes, maybe you do not hear your alarm or other wanted noises (the burglar). You could try a vibrating alarm under your pillow. As soon as you have a regular sleep again, you could try to do without the earplugs.

The right temperature in your bedroom.

A cool and well ventilated bedroom, improves sleeping . If you are sleeping, your brain lowers your body temperature a bit. If the bedroom is too warm, you body cannot get rid of its heat. That is why you sleep better in cold compared to warm weather.

Too much light in the bedroom.

Light is an activating thing. That is why you have more energy with sunny days. Not saying too much light is a problem, but it could be a problem.

No plants in the bedroom.

Plants produce oxygen. It is good for your health, but too much in your bedroom, can cause sleeping problems.

A problematic partner in your bed.

Restless partners and snorers can ruin a good nights sleep. Does it wake you up, you get frustrated (again). If so, this frustration worsens your sleeping problem. Sleeping separated or using earplugs are very often the only solutions. But if you have your regular sleep back (not awakening anymore), you could try to share the same bed or bedroom without earplugs. If you have your sleeping rhythm back, you will not wakeup very easy anymore. So maybe you can get through the sleeping disturbances this time.

Regularity with sleeping.

Every living creature has some kind of inner clock (biorhythm) which influences your mental activity. That is why you can be little bit sleepy during the day. This clock is fairly accurate. Disruption can cause sleeping problems. Research has demonstrated that most people perform best in the morning hours. While other perform best at the evenings. This is partly because of being a day or night person and partly of habits.

Sleeping habits.

These are more important as you think. I am a night owl, but because of changed circumstances, this changed for a while to a morning person, because of my job (getting up very early). After a while you get used to that. Because you have to get up early, you're getting sleepy in the evening.

Habits can cause a (new) daily rhythm. It makes you wake up at specific times and makes you sleepy at other moments. If you keep your rhythm, you will sleep better. This is the reason you have problems getting up on Monday morning. Because getting up later and going to bed later, your rhythm has moved a bit. This is not a big problem. Just explaining why.

Changing a sleep rhythm, can cause problems. Working shifts and jet-lag is not easy for your body. Your clock says sleep, but have to stay awake and when you are going to sleep, your body is saying it is does want to sleep. Feeling confused or irritation can be caused by irregular sleep patterns.

Naps.

If you have sleeping problems during the night, do not take naps during the day! This can be the source of your sleeping problems. Because you take naps during the day, you need less sleep during the night. Or it takes a very long time to fall asleep, or you wake up (several times) during the night. Force yourself not to take naps during the day if you have sleeping problems during the night, and within a few days your regular sleep will improve. Even a nap of one or a few minutes can ruin your regular sleep.

Naps and problems with your regular night sleep can worsen. Because you do not sleep properly during the night, you need naps more and more. Your naps will last longer and maybe more often and your regular sleep worsens. Your awake / sleep rhythm shifts more and more to the wrong side.

If you take naps and do not have regular sleep problems, take them if you think you need them. But naps will makes you less alert. If you have concentration problems, stop taking naps. Do nothing, relax, but do not fall asleep. Wait till this dip is over. A mental dip could take up to half an hour. This is your biorhythm speaking. And somehow, naps can make you moody. No idea why.

Regular sleep times.

As said before, your body is used to regularity. Even small adjustments can cause sleeping problems. If you are used to go to bed at midnight, but at 10.p.m (or 22.00 hour) you are so tired or you have to get up very early, you decide to go to bed earlier. But once you are in bed, you cannot fall asleep. Not everybody has this problem, but many do (like me). Most of the time you will sleep worse if you try to sleep earlier. If you have this problem, go to bed at your regular time. Your brain will catch up the next night.

Changing your regular sleep pattern is possible, but it will take a while. Somewhere from a few days to a few weeks. Your brain needs a while to set the clock. But you have to stick to it. Trying two days, then two days your old habits, back to trying, is not going to work.

You can also change your sleep length.

But sleeping longer makes you more dull (this is good if you are too stressed). And sleeping shorter makes you more active (not good if you are too stressed). Your concentration will improve a lot with shorter sleep. But shorter sleep can make you hyper. Getting used to a different sleep length will take a while. Probably a few weeks, but the same here, you have to stick to it. Your brain is doing several things during your sleep. If you are sleeping shorter and once the brain knows it has less time to do its job, it will do it faster.

Drinking before sleeping.

Everything you drink at the hours before going to bed, has influence on your sleep. If you drink fluids with caffeine (coffee, cola, chocolate, thee), it could keep you awake. But not all respond the same. Some can drink a lot of coffee just before going to sleep, while others cannot drink one cup of coffee many hours before going to bed. If you fall asleep depends if you can cross the sleeping border. A little bit too much caffeine, can be a problem.

You need the right amount of fluid in your body during sleep. Too little makes you thirsty and could wake you up. If you get up in the morning and if there is no need at all for going to the bathroom, you can drink some more before going to bed.

Too much liquid makes you have to go to the bathroom during the night. This depends how much you drink before sleep and the temperature in your bedroom. Too much fluid in a cold bedroom, will wake you up (hopefully) for a visit to the bathroom. If you have to go to the bathroom during the night, drink less or earlier. So find your fluid balance.

Food and your sleep.

The amount of food in your body can also influence your sleep. But this varies a lot. Some cannot sleep if they eat in the evening or just before going to bed. They feel too active and too warm. While others (like me) have to eat. I eat all day long (healthy food only and not overweighted) and I have to eat something in the evening and just before going to bed. If I don't, I wake up in the middle of the night, because I am hungry. Whatever I do, I have to get out and eat something (bread in my case). So I eat before going to sleep. Problem solved.

And others are in between. They have to eat something during the evening. If you have a weight issue (too much compared to what you should have), don't make this an excuse for eating before sleeping.

So I cannot give you strict rules for eating before going to bed. You have to figure this out yourself. If you wake up in the middle of the night, because you are hungry, you should try eating some more before going to bed. If you don't have this problem, don't start eating before bedtime. Too much food before sleeping can keep you awake.

Stress before bedtime.

Avoid stress in the evening if you have sleeping problems. And I mean any kind of stress. This includes heavy arguments, worrying, scary movies, calling someone if you know it isn't going to be nice, and in many cases, exercises. If you go to the gym very late, could mean you could stay awake because of this. Stress causes high adrenaline levels and this is something you don't want if you have sleeping problems. It takes a while to lower high adrenaline levels (your body does that by itself). The more adrenaline, the more time it takes to break it down. So the more time between stress and bedtime, the better. If you are moody, eat something. Low blood sugar levels and stress are not a good combination. Being very tired because of exercises or hard work, does not always mean you sleep very well. Sometimes being very tired could keep you awake. No idea why.

Prepare for sleep.

You can do this by avoiding stress (see above) and create the right circumstances. Like the right amount of food and liquids, trying to relax, nice music, lower your lights and vent your heart by for instance talking to a friend about problems, write it down or send someone a mail or letter to get things of your chest.

Reading in bed.

As old fashioned this sounds, it still works. You have two options. One is reading relaxing novels. Exciting novels will keep you awake and you keep on reading. But even with relaxing novels, sleep doesn't always comes fast. Because reading novels is not very tiring and because you want to know what is going to happen, you will need to read a lot. That’s why option two is much better. Option two is reading non-fiction. In other words use study or learning books. It is not only better against sleeping problems, but you also learn something.

Reading non-fiction is harder for your brain, because besides reading, you have to understand. And you don't have the urge to know what is going to happen, like novels. So give it a try. Read a book about your hobby or interest. You will see, it won't take long before you start getting concentration problems. Very often this will start after about half an hour. If your brain starts having problems absorbing the stuff, you are ready for going to sleep.

If you don't have non-fiction books, buy them. There are plenty of them. Second hands are very cheap. But buy something of your interest.

A long hot bath or shower can make you get asleep.

At first it looks like it gives you a mental boost, but this won't last long. After a while you will get tired. Don't crawl into bed immediately because it will makes you sweaty. Cool down first. Put on very little clothing and get out of the bathroom. As soon as you are getting cold, it is bed time.

Relax before sleeping.

If you want to get less stressed in the evening, watch the most boring TV programs (there are many), put your remote out of reach and try to focus on your screen. As soon as it gets interesting, find something else. Politics for instance can be very sleep-promoting. Or watch something from a language you don't understand.

You could also try to turn of your TV the last hour and do nothing. Many programs use very fast image switches. Sometimes every few seconds, you see a camera switch. This can stress you, because you are trying to focus, but as soon as you are used to the new camera view, it jumps again. You cannot be relaxed with this.

Laying in bed.

Many sleep at their best, laying on their side. You could start in this position, or lay on your back first until you get a bit sleepy. Then turn into you favorite sleeping position. And stay in that position. Do not move at all. Pretend you are rock for instance. Turning and rotating does not improve things. If you can't fall asleep, turning every minute will worsen the situation. Stay in position one. Do not move at all. Unless it takes very long, you can turn to the other side, but very slowly. Turn in slow motion. If your body is relaxed, your mind will follow.

Don't get mad if you cannot fall asleep. Accept it. Frustration will keep you awake for sure.

Other things you could try.

  • Try keeping your eyes open while laying in the dark.
  • Think of something complicated. 2x2=4, 2x4=8, 2x8=16, etc. In other words, double the outcome every time. Yes, it will be complicated.
  • Start with for instance 500 and deduct 3 every time.
  • Think nonsense. dedfre guuvdd feebsnea
  • Lay on top of your bed it you are too hot.
  • Use a fan or air conditioning for the hot days. I have one in my bedroom.
  • Fantasize: "If I would be the president of ……………., I would ……………" Change the world in your thoughts. But in a positive way.

I would say, sleep well. If you can't, try to figure out why. There is a reason for this. This page should give you enough information (I hope).

Good night and sleep well. (Don't forget to set the alarm.)

Email: