Whether you have insomnia after addiction treatment, sleep issues because of chronic pain, or a busy life with many people to care for and other responsibilities, trying to rest well is often a challenge. Making progressive life changes will help you improve sleep.
Why Is Sleep Often Elusive?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that many adults suffer from insufficient sleep syndrome, which is often defined as less than the recommended average of seven-to-nine hours each night. If left unchecked for a long period of time, sleep insufficiency often leads to actual deprivation.
If you rolled your eyes at “seven-to-nine hours” because you can’t remember the last time you slept that long, you’re not alone. The American Sleep Association (ASA) cites numerous statistics involving sleep issues:
- More than 35 percent of adults in the U.S. get fewer than seven hours of rest each night.
- Between 50–70 million Americans have some sort of sleep disorder, including:
- Chronic or situational insomnia—when someone has trouble falling or staying asleep.
- Sleep apnea—which causes “repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep,” among other issues.
- Snoring—affecting more than 50 percent of people and frequently, their partners.
- Restless leg syndrome—a neurological, often hereditary, condition that interrupts sleep due to excessive sensations in the legs and feet.
- Circadian rhythm disorders—which are disruptions in your natural body clock due to travel, shift work, a new baby, and a lack of exposure to sunlight.
- People with chronic pain have “an average 42-minute sleep debt” compared to other individuals.
- Women often have hormonal fluctuations during menses, pregnancy, and menopause that result in sleeplessness, and men suffering from low testosterone might also experience sleep issues.
- Medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, hypertension, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and obesity may be underlying causes for sleep troubles.
For people in recovery, insomnia is a common complaint. The ASA reports that 30 percent of adults, on average, have short-term insomnia; 10 percent experience it long-term. However, 25–70 percent of newly sober individuals might have insomnia for up to two years as their physiology adjusts to being chemical-free.
Ways to Improve Your Sleep
If you received addiction treatment through an inpatient rehabilitation facility or outpatient services program, you learned the importance of sleep hygiene. To make certain you get quality shut eye, it’s critical to establish structural routines and affirming rituals.
Get to bed earlier
Picking up clutter, doing one more chore, finalizing another report, answering email, and other tasks eat into your rest time. Plan to stop all “doing” a couple of hours before bed so you can relax more quickly and get to sleep faster. You may have a long to-do list, but being more rested will actually boost your productivity the next day.
Shut off the TV
Doing this at least one hour before bedtime prompts your mind and body to recognize the downshift to calm and can improve sleep. And under no circumstances should you fall asleep with the TV on! If you like a little atmosphere, set a timer to listen to quiet music or a sound machine.
Keep the same sleep schedule
Waking up and going to sleep at the same times every day, even on weekends, is important. This routine, which usually takes about a month to establish, resets your natural body clock and helps you understand just how much sleep you really need to thrive.
Put away devices
The Sleep Foundation reports that “90 percent of people in the U.S. admit to using a technological device during the hour before turning in.” A person’s circadian rhythm and REM sleep is disrupted by blue light emittance from smartphones, tablets, TVs, and other screen-based electronics.
Choose instead to read a paper book or magazine, write in a gratitude journal, practice devotionals or meditation, or do some other quiet activity that signals your brain that it’s time for bed. Think of this as valuable, ritualistic “me” time that creates a positive path for the next day.
Create a restful space
Make your bedroom a place to retreat for rejuvenation. Declutter it; invest in a quality mattress as well as good pillows and linens; and allow for darkness while you’re sleeping.
Adjusting Daily Habits
Also think about adjusting some of your daily habits to enable better sleep, such as:
- Exercise. It’s always good for you, but Johns Hopkins Medicine indicates it promotes more effective sleep for various reasons.
- Avoid caffeine. Some people need at least one cup of coffee when they wake up to function, and that’s fine. But it’s recommended to stop consuming caffeine products such as coffee, black tea, and chocolate at least six hours before bedtime.
- Only take short naps. Sometimes a 20-minute power nap is exactly what you need to feel refreshed, and that’s good. Any longer, though, and your nighttime routine will be off-kilter.
- Be mindful of what you eat for dinner. First, the amount matters—a heavy meal strains your digestive system, which might keep you awake. Second, many foods cause digestive distress, heartburn, or acid reflux that you don’t want to deal with in the middle of the night. They include spicy dishes, citrus, nightshades such as peppers and eggplant, sugary or smoked foods, and refined carbohydrates.
- Reduce nicotine. Medical News Today reports that nicotine is primarily a stimulant, and some people might be unaware that their night restlessness or bad dreams are caused by it. So if you must have a nightly smoke, do it at least two hours before bedtime.
- Get outside. Sunlight helps calibrate your body clock, too. If you’re a shift worker, try to wake up and get into the sun as soon as you can, even if it’s simply sitting by a window.