Even though we spend at least one third of our life asleep, most of us have problems getting enough quality sleep.
From binge-watching videos on Netflix to chatting on Facebook, and experiencing body aches and pains, many of us have things interfering with our sleep – but might be clueless about what those things are or how exactly to deal with the issues.
Fortunately, studies focusing on the problems that interfere with our sleep have given scientists insight on solutions to many of our sleeping problems. These recommendations will not only guide you on how to fix sleep problems with science, but improve your overall health.
1. Not Getting Enough Sleep
One of the most common reasons why most people are fatigued is because they do not get enough sleep. There are a few ways that you can get more shut-eye, but it depends on your lifestyle…
Make Sleep A Priority
There are so many things that we try to squeeze into our day. We have jobs, friends and family that take up a lot of our time, leading many of us to sacrifice sleep just to fit everything in. But making sleep a priority is the most effective way of getting more sleep- even if that means you have to say no to things you really want to do.
Structure Your Sleep Schedule
By structuring your sleep schedule so that you create a consistent bed time routine, your body will fall into the rhythm of knowing when to sleep and when to be awake. While the change in your schedule might mean no more binge watching Netflix, it also means that you will get adequate rest during the week, and have more energy to do more on the weekends.
Schedule Time For Catch-Up Sleep
If there is no way to change your schedule to consistently get the sleep you need, the next best way to get adequate rest is to plan time for catching up on rest. That could include taking naps or sleeping in on your days off.
You are not required to get 3 or 4 hours of sleep at a time in order to fully catch up on your rest. A 20-minute power nap is just as rejuvenating as an hour long nap. The goal is to get more shut-eye where you can by setting aside time to catch up on your rest.
Put Away Your Smartphone
Additionally, putting away your smartphone before bed is important. But because of how long it takes for your mind to calm down after using your phone, you have to put it away hours before bed – not minutes.
Most people check their phone immediately before falling asleep. Surprisingly, this is the main factor that keeps us from falling asleep. The problem with smartphones that takes away from your sleep is the blue light emitted from the screen, and how that affects your brain.
Melatonin production regulates our 24-hour sleep schedule, and it uses the light that comes through the eye's retina to maintain that schedule. The hue and brightness of the light coming from your smartphone confuses your brain because the illumination is processed as daytime light.
When your eyes take in bright lights too close to bed time, the brain will stop secreting melatonin because it thinks you are supposed to be awake. Since this hormone is needed in order to relax the body enough to fall asleep, it takes a while for the brain to readjust and start producing melatonin again. In the meantime, you will be wide awake and unable to fall asleep.
2. Difficulty Falling Asleep
Falling asleep is another common reason why people are struggling to get enough rest. In fact, 40% of us get less than seven hours of sleep per night. It is not that they do not have the time to get adequate rest, the problem is not being able to drift into the slumber. An active mind and a restless body could be the culprit, and science has the solutions.
Develop A Pre-Bed Relaxation Routine
Developing a relaxation routine is great for signaling our mind and body that it is time to go to sleep. Your routine could involve a warm bath, a cup of herbal tea or anything else that is calming, soothing and relaxing.
Avoid doing things that require mental or physical energy like talking on the phone, watching action movies or balancing your budget. These activities will only make it harder for you to wind down afterwards. But activities that allow you to slow down the pace of your thoughts will lead to your body releasing tension, and you will find it much easier to fall asleep – and stay sleep.
Make A Sleep Plan
Making a sleep plan may also be necessary in order to develop consistency in your sleep patterns. Drifting in and out of deep sleep could be caused by a sporadic schedule that causes you to go to bed a varying times. While it may be hard to do, the most effective way to work around your sleeping inconsistencies is to make a plan that works with your schedule. Including sleep-in days, early nights and naps can all be a part of your plan to get adequate rest.
Quiet Household Noises
Reducing or diffusing noise in the house is another way of removing obstacles that may be interfering with your ability to fall asleep. Running air conditioners, televisions and other household noises can interrupt your sleep – especially if you are sensitive to noise. The sounds make our brains active, making it hard to fall asleep, so turn them off or close your bedroom door so that the sound is muted.
3. Back Pain
Back pain can keep you from finding a comfortable position in bed, making it hard to fall and stay asleep. There are a few ways that science suggests can help relieve you of sleep-disturbing back pain.
Take A Soothing Bath Before Bed
Back pain can cause you to toss and turn throughout the night while you try to find a conformable spot. Taking salt baths or using heating pads before you go to bed can relax your back muscles so that you can get more comfortable.
Practice Muscle Relaxation Techniques
Progressive muscle relaxation is another way to alleviate back pain so that it is easier to sleep through the night. This simple exercise involves the tensing of your muscles then releasing the tension through relaxation. All the while, the mental attention to the tense and relaxing rhythm will not only soothe back pain, it will improve the quality of your sleep.
Change The Position You Sleep In
If all else fails, changing your sleeping position can be very effective for reducing back pain while sleeping. Sleeping on your stomach should be avoided if possible because that position makes it difficult for your spinal column to align correctly.
That is why sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees can help – especially if the pain you are experiencing is located in the lower curve of your back. Sleeping on your side can help as well – as long as you use pillows between your legs or under your sides to keep your spinal column leveled.
4. Neck Pain
Pain in your neck can really disrupt your sleep because it makes you extremely uncomfortable which makes your body tense. That tension makes it hard to relax enough to get quality sleep. Science suggests that you need to evaluate your sleeping conditions that could be contributing to your neck pain.
Check Your Mattresses
Check the cushion of your mattresses in order to determine if it is contributing to how your body is aligned while you are asleep. Any slumps or sunken areas of the mattress that come from laying in the same spot can cause your body to rest at different elevations.
These variations in alignment can cause muscle cramps in your neck that you will notice the moment you rise out of bed. So if your mattress cushioning has indentations or is slumping in the middle where you lay most often, then it might be time to consider a new mattress.
Make Sure Your Pillow Is The Right Fit For You
If your pillow is too thin, thick or old, that may also be a reason you are experiencing neck pain. First and foremost, your pillow should be replaced every two years – at the minimum. Secondly, the size of your pillow depends on your size and the way you sleep. Your pillow should be the same width of your shoulders, and not more than six inches thick.
If you sleep on your back, choose a firm pillow that will provide steady support for your head and shoulders and keep them level. For those that sleep on their side, you want a softer pillow that will act more like a cushion between your knees – but not too soft. If you are currently using the wrong pillows, consider replacing them with pillows that are better suited to your needs, to feel a noticeable difference right away.
5. Leg Cramps
Leg cramps can wake you out of your sleep, and the numbing feeling afterwards can keep you awake throughout the night. Addressing leg cramps is easy because in most cases it is a sign of dehydration. But leg cramps that persist could be a way your body is communicating with you that it needs something else.
Drink More Water
Consuming enough water during the day is very effective for alleviating leg cramps, because dehydration is one of the main factors that contributes to the formation of leg cramps. The lack of hydration causes the muscles to contract, which is the painful cramps that sometimes come during sleep.
Those contractions are signs that your muscles are not being replenished with water and electrolytes. Getting enough water during the day allows the leg muscles to stay refreshed, and drinking hydrating fluids designed to replenish your body's electrolytes can stop the leg cramps in a matter of days.
Listen To Your Body
Cramps in your body, whether they are in your legs, arms or torso, can be signs that your body is in need of additional care. Maybe your muscles are fatigued. Perhaps you're taking certain medications which are leading the side effect of cramps. Or you may have other conditions. Don't try to diagnose yourself if you do not know the cause – see a doctor. That way, if you have do structural disorders, metabolic problems or your medications are causing problems, this can be properly diagnosed and treated.
Figuring out how to fix your sleep problems with science may take a few adjustments if it requires you to develop new habits, but it will be well appreciated by your mind and body.
Our rest is important for our health, learning abilities, emotional balance and how we feel about ourselves. A few changes to your routine can make all the difference, and any of these tips can be a great starting point for those changes.