Did you know that March is National Sleep Awareness Month? And this month is fun for several reasons. You have your choice of picking your March Madness basketball bracket, celebrating the luck o’ the Irish with green-tinted beer, or walking around wearily from a confused circadian rhythm… wait, that’s not fun! We need some healthy ideas to help insomnia.
Spring “officially” begins this month, so everyone is feeling happy to shake off our winter doldrums and see the light at the end of the tunnel. The good news: Hampton Roads is reveling in the brilliance of yellow daffodils (and we’ve had a few days that you could leave your coat behind!)
But then, the arrival of Daylight Savings Time has robbed us of a precious hour of rest, and our sleep cycles may be all out-of-whack at the moment.
And not only that, but sleep issues aren’t just a seasonal problem. The Cleveland Clinic estimates that over 70 million Americans suffer from short-term (a few days) or long-term (more than a month) patterns of insomnia.
Why can’t I get to sleep?
Most cases of chronic insomnia are secondary, which means they are resulting from some other problem, such as:
- Side effects from chemotherapy or other medication
- Restless legs syndrome
- Obstructive sleep apnea
Not to mention all the ways that the COVID pandemic has interfered with our sleep habits. The National Sleep Foundation has learned from their recent studies that “On one hand, Americans have been able to achieve longer sleep time, perhaps reflecting pandemic-related changes in schedule and lifestyle. On the other, sleep quality has worsened in what for many has been a challenging health, social, and economic environment.”
So, what can I do to help my insomnia?
You may be familiar with some common sleep hygiene tips: avoiding caffeine, using room-darkening shades, and going to bed at the same time every night. Here are a few other ideas to help your insomnia that aren’t as well known.
Taking a nap during the day can be great for productivity, give you some needed energy and help improve your mood, but you’ve got to plan naps carefully!
Here’s some napping advice from the folks at the Sleep Foundation: Aim for a power nap of 20 to 25 minutes. With that short timeframe, you will wake back up without entering into the deep, slow-wave sleep stage.
Otherwise, you might feel groggy (sleep inertia), and you risk not being able to fall asleep when it’s bedtime.
Be mindful of the temperature.
Try this: take a warm (not hot) shower or bath about an hour before bedtime, and keep your room cool at night. The Sleep Foundation recommends 60 to 67 degrees as the best sleeping environment. The drop in body temperature, from a warm bath to a cool room, is believed to be sleep-inducing.
Turn off the electronics.
OK, this is a challenging suggestion! But more and more, the sleep experts are recommending that we “unplug” before we retire for the night. Even with blue-light filters on our screens, our devices are interfering with our circadian rhythms.
Try this: get an old-fashioned alarm clock so you don’t need to use your phone. Turn off your phone, iPad, or Kindle, and put the devices in another room. Yes, a whole other room. (We may think that a phone on silent, hanging out on the nightstand, won’t disturb our rest, but it will. It’s far too tempting to reach over and just check a few emails if you wake up in the middle of the night.)
Get a massage.
Yeppers! Massage can help you if you’re having trouble sleeping. The American Massage Therapy Association has shared several studies that support the sleep-related benefits of massage. And health experts often cite massage therapy on their list of ideas to help insomnia.
Massage therapy can especially aid in a better night’s sleep if you’re dealing with issues like these:
- Side effects from cancer treatment
Massage appointments available to help you get more sleep!
Contact me today to schedule your next massage! Together we’ll make a plan that could help to mitigate your insomnia!