Ads for over-the-counter products and prescription medications to help you fall asleep and stay asleep are in all the media including TV, radio, online, and on the backs of buses. Most of us, however, prefer to find a way in which we do not have to take any more medications even if they just come from the drugstore shelf. We would be much happier if we could figure out how to deal with our sleeping problems more naturally.
One of the problems is that as we age we tend to have more medical problems, many of which are chronic. In general, people with poor health or chronic medical conditions do have more sleep problems. For instance, hypertension is associated with snoring, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and heart failure because OSA is associated with heart failure.
Then there is menopause and all the hot flashes that go with it plus the changes in breathing. Of course the decreasing hormone levels are also a factor for many sleepless nights. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or what we commonly call acid reflux is another common cause of sleep problems because the pain makes it difficult to sleep. Diabetes and asthma are other sources of sleep problems.
Here are a few changes you can make to help you get a good night’s sleep:
Exercise in the afternoon.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine for at least 4 hours before bed.
Establish a schedule for your sleep going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time.
Use your bedroom for sleep and sex only.
Avoid alcohol later in the evening because it increases your chances of waking up in the middle of the night.
Try taking naps but remember that sleep during the day affects sleep at night. For instance, a 30-minute nap may give you more energy in the afternoon but it may take you longer to fall asleep at night.
If you are still experiencing difficulty sleeping, first think whether a particular event or problem may be the cause of your sleep problem.If so,sleeping well will return when the problem is resolved or managed.
There are many causes to sleep problems. One of the first questions to ask yourself is whether stress and anxiety is preventing you from sleeping or is your lack of sleep causing you more stress. The right answer may be in front of your nose. If not, then it is time to talk to your doctor. You may want to keep a record of your sleep and fatigue levels during the day and a list of any other symptoms to give to your doctor to help with the diagnosis.
In the meantime if you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, do as the National Sleep Foundation suggests: Get out of bed and do something quiet and relaxing like reading a book or listening to music. Do not turn on old war movie on TV. When you feel sleepy, get back in bed and try again. If not successful in 20 minutes, repeat.