Strategies for Sleepless Nights© Part IIFebruary 9, 2012
Last week I described the single most important action you can take to improve sleepless nights. Of course if that was the only requirement for a good night’s sleep, I wouldn’t be writing this blog and I would have plenty of free time. So let’s look at some of the other factors that can improve your chances for obtaining restful, uninterrupted sleep.
On the nightstand or somewhere near enough to reach without leaving your bed, have a bedside reading lamp (low wattage-no greater than 40 watts if possible). Even better would be an orange reading light, something about the color of my cat pumpkin seen in the picture above, sleeping peacefully in the bathroom sink. The reason for the color orange is that the latest circadian clock research suggests that the blue/green spectrum of light is what the body’s internal clock is most responsive to-and orange light is neutral. In fact, it has been suggested that people who are sensitive to circadian variations in their sleep/wake schedules should wear orange sunglasses after dusk and until bedtime. This allows the natural production of melatonin that is essential for sleep. It is also the reason for avoiding TV screens, smart phones, ipads, computers etc in the evening, especially near bedtime. This kind of blue light exposure is enough to tell your brain it’s still daytime, suppress melatonin production and delay sleep onset.
Along with the reading light you should have available a few “fluff” magazines, throwaway journals, local weekly papers with human interest stories, children’s reading books with interesting but not challenging stories —nothing that is too engaging or emotional. The idea is to have light reading material with enough interest to distract you from worrying about your being awake when you’d rather be sleeping, yet not engaging enough to further activate your brain or begin the worry about sleeping cycle. Now once your bedside area is prepared, you’ve set the alarm and turned away the clock, it is time to turn out the light and allow yourself to fall asleep.
If and when you first awaken or don’t fall asleep, adjust your body position and attempt to return to sleep-don’t just lie there not moving a muscle-it doesn’t work-and in fact works against you by reducing blood flow secondary to immobility. Even during sleep bodies need to move, to readjust throughout the night for a variety of physiologically important reasons, and do so approximately every twenty minutes. Forcing inactivity in hopes of allowing sleep is counter-productive.
After 2-3 body adjustments without sleep initiation (approximately 15’ or so, no need to look at the clock!), then sit up and read for a bit. Hopefully you will begin to yawn or feel sleepy enough to reattempt to sleep. If not, continue to read for another 15’ or so (gauge the time by how much you’ve read-do NOT look at the clock) and if still not feeling sleepy enough to return to sleep get up and move to another location.
Ideally this other location would be located in your bedroom. An armchair, recliner or some place to sit and read is all that is necessary. The area should be designed similarly to your bedside table-with different books or magazines to select. If you find yourself becoming more agitated then these reading materials need to be more interesting, more appealing so that you will likely be distracted from your sleep concerns. If necessary, or if you don’t have room in your bedroom for this station, leave the bedroom and go to somewhere else in your home that is conducive to sleep. Again, this new area needs to be previously prepared so that you are not looking for something to do which will be further activating and self-defeating. Finally, this area needs to be as close to the bedroom as possible to minimize fully awakening the body.
Once in this new location the plan is the same—read until drowsy, or yawning, or at least less “awake” than when you first awoke. Once this occurs return to your bed and allow sleep to emerge.
And yes, when I experience the occasional restless night I follow my own advice–I don’t look at the clock, I readjust body position and read as needed. On very rare occasions I will arise and move to another locale until drowsy, then return to bed. I also adhere to the last of my “Strategies for Sleepless Nights©” which you will see in Part III, next week.This entry was posted in Health, Sleep Apnea, Sleep Medicine, Sleep Problems, Uncategorized and tagged Insomnia, sleep, Sleep Disorders, sleepless. Bookmark the permalink. ← Strategies for Sleepless Nights© – Part I