Gray Matter


Do You Have Trouble Sleeping?

RT Cunningham | August 16, 2020 (UTC) | Health

trouble sleepingEvery person in the world has trouble sleeping at one time or another. The range of causes is wide and varied. To pinpoint exactly why you’re unable to fall asleep can range from a poor sleeping pattern to acute insomnia and everything in between.

Medical conditions aside, it’s still normal to sometimes have trouble sleeping. I’m going to mention some things that affect your sleeping patterns and hopefully, it’ll help you deal with your sleep problems.

Trouble Sleeping? Check Your Bed

Some people can only sleep on a certain kind of bed. That’s why some bedding companies have come up with sleep numbers to classify their beds and mattresses. Mostly, they’re talking about the softness or firmness of the mattresses, but they fail to discuss other factors.

There are more sleeping positions than I can shake a stick at, but here are a few to think about:

Some people like to lie on an arm when in a sideways position, with the arm tucked under a pillow. It often causes the arm to “go to sleep” and they end up having to readjust eventually. Some pillow makers have created pillows with arm slots designed specifically for people like this.

A contour pillow, another design, is for the person who likes to sleep on his or her back, with the lower part of the pillow higher than the upper part of the pillow to support the neck.

During my 20-year stint in the military, I learned to fall asleep anywhere at anytime. When you’re tired, worn out, and you haven’t had much sleep to begin with, you can sleep on the ground, on a cold cement floor, or even while sitting and resting against a wall.

Try Getting Some Exercise

A sedentary lifestyle can do one of two things when it comes to sleep. It can either cause you to sleep more or it can cause you to sleep less. It all depends on how much you use your brain.

If you’re not mentally active and you’re not physically active, it’s quite normal to sleep less than six hours per 24-hour period. If you think about it, it makes sense. When you’re in a “rest” position most of the day anyway, why would your body need much more during sleep?

If you are mentally active while not being physically active, the mental activity can take a toll in itself and you can still need eight plus hours of sleep per day. I don’t know many people who fit into this category, other than students with a lot of homework.

It doesn’t take a lot of exercise to make your body crave sleep. Twenty minutes to an hour a day is enough, depending on the intensity of the exercise.

Consider Your Age and Stress Levels

Your age and your lifestyle habits have a lot to do with how long or how well you sleep. It’s quite common for people in their middle-aged years and older to nap during the day for 2-4 hours and then to sleep for 4-6 hours at night. Of course, this also depends on work cycles. Older people who still have full-time jobs can end up sleeping as much or more than younger people.

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to sleeping.

The stress of living day-to-day is enough to cause problems sleeping. If you find yourself thinking about what you need to get done tomorrow, while trying to fall asleep tonight, your level of mental stress can keep you awake. If you find yourself doing this, learn to take notes and keep a notepad next to your bed.

Of course, there are other things you think about while trying to fall asleep and that’s part of the problem, trying to fall asleep. Sleep should come naturally and if it doesn’t, then you need to adjust your sleeping pattern. Perhaps you need to go to sleep earlier or later and it all depends on how long it’s been since you’ve done any activity, since you’ve eaten, and other factors.

Adjust Your Sleep Cycle

If you’re trying to normalize your sleep cycle, and your sleeping hours are out of sync with the rest of your life (like sleeping from 4 am to noon when you want to sleep from 10 pm to 6 am), delaying your sleep until the next night can correct the problem in short order.

That’s the method I use when I’m dealing with “jet lag”. The first couple of days following a change in time zone can seem like hell, but it’s worth it in getting back to a normal sleep cycle as quickly as possible.

Your sleeping environment could be an issue. Too much light, too much noise or even problems with frequent urination can cause unnecessary sleep interruptions. If light is an issue, you may want to invest in something that covers your eyes. If noise is an issue, you may want to invest in ear plugs.

It doesn’t matter what you do to make your sleeping environment conducive to sleep except that you need to get it done immediately.

Try the Pro-Active Approach

If you find it difficult to fall asleep often, you need to act instead of react. A prolonged lack of sleep can cause a whole range of mental conditions ranging from irritability to hallucinations.

If your sleeping environment isn’t a good environment, perhaps changing your environment is the answer. If your bed isn’t comfortable, do something about it. Exercise regularly if you can.

Don’t be afraid to see a doctor. Certain medical conditions can make it difficult, if not impossible, to fall asleep without medication.

Photo Attribution: Dieter Robbins from Pixabay
Edited and updated. Originally published at one of my other websites in January 2018.

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