Are you a nester?
You know, the sleeper who flips and flops for EVER trying to get everything JUST RIGHT so you can go to sleep. The sleeper who needs lots of blankets to feel weighted down, only to kick them off when you get hot and then wake up when there is not enough weight.
The sleeper who wonders if he turned the thermostat down (or up) and locked the back door, so just as you get comfortable you have to get up and go check the back door and the thermostat and the cat and… If this is you, there is good news. There are some techniques you may not have considered that can help you get to sleep – and stay that way.
First things first – re-visiting your mattress choice
Your mattress is the obvious place to start the “investigation”, especially if your insomnia is very specific in nature (like pains and aches in your spine, hips or shoulders).
You’ll to play the Goldilocks game with this one. Too firm? To soft?
Your “impression” of how the mattress feels is not the full story. There is a good chance that it might feel comfy and yet, trigger some of the culprits of a bad night’s sleep.
But how do you do it without investing in a new mattress?
An airbed might be a good idea.
Inflatable mattresses cost next to nothing but can give you the chance to experiment with the settings to find your sweet spot. If the support or firmness of the mattress is the issue, you are likely to see immediate change by sleeping on an air mattress for few nights.
It is just a temporary solution, but make sure that you get an airbed that won’t leak and will maintain firmness through the night. It’s the only way to precisely track the changes. You can read more on the options you have when choosing an airbed in this guide at TheSleepStudies.com.
Track the changes
Keep a journal of the firmness that made things better (or worse). In the ideal scenario, you’ll find the culprit within a few weeks. Getting a wristband to track how well you sleep and combining that with your subjective impression of how you feel the next day might just give you all the answers you’re looking for.
Once you know that your body responds to a firmer or softer sleep surface, you can pack away the air mattress and look into permanent beds that correspond to the firmness (from memory foam on the “soft” end of the spectrum, to latex as the option with most support.
Some people feel like they need a lot of weight on their legs in order to sleep well. It’s a nesting instinct that makes you feel secure both physically and emotionally. However, you can also get hot with all that weight. In addition, the blankets and quilts – and afghans – slide off, end up on the floor, and are hard to keep up with.
The good news is that you can now get a weighted blanket. The extra weight has been found to, in some people, trigger the “feel good” hormones of dopamine and serotonin. This decreases stress and pain.
Manufacturers recommend that a blanket is 5% to 10% of an adult’s body weight, and 10% of a child’s body weight plus a pound or two. A weighted blanket made of cotton won’t get as hot as one made of polyester.
You may be able to get a prescription for your weighted blanket, and it may be tax deductible.
Sometimes, pain keeps a person awake. Many of us attribute it to age, but even if it is, you can still do something about it. The weighted blanket may help. But some people suffer from restless leg syndrome. There may be a medication that can help your pain.
If not, consider your mattress. Depending on the way you sleep, a lot of your pain could be eliminated with the right mattress and pillow. This ties into the first point we made about choosing the firmness that works for your body by using a temporary air mattress.
Lighting plays a major role in your ability to sleep at night. The good news is that you can control your lighting without a lot of money.
First of all, you should know that blue light most resembles sunlight. Electronic devices emit blue light. If your body is exposed to blue light, it won’t start producing melatonin, which is what makes you relax and feel sleepy.
Now, experts are saying that you should eliminate electronic media at night so that your body can begin its shut-down process for sleep. However, there is no way you’re going to get my Kindle out of my hands at night.
You can use lighting to simulate sunset and sunrise, too. There are all kinds of lights on the market by Philips, Flux, Nature Bright, and more. These will gradually dim the light throughout the evening, signaling your body to start producing melatonin for sleep. Sunset is an important time for restless sleepers, and this false sunset will help you relax.
The same lights can usually be programmed to produce a faux sunrise. By gradually lighting the room, the light signals your body to stop producing melatonin. This allows you to wake up gradually rather than abruptly.
You’ve no doubt heard this before, but watch your diet before bedtime. Alcohol may put you to sleep, but you’ll wake up suddenly a couple of hours later and won’t be able to go back to sleep.
There is no rule of thumb, caffeine affects people differently. If you have ADD or ADHD, caffeine will actually put you to sleep. I have a friend who drinks coffee at night so that she will sleep 5 hours instead of only 3. I, on the other hand, can’t drink tea with dinner. It keeps me awake, while Dr. Pepper won’t.
The ideas are simple, implementing them… not so much
Re-evaluating your sleep habits in pursuit of the triggers that might be keeping you awake is all about making a concise plan and sticking with the process of elimination.
You know yourself…are you prone to giving up on plans because life gets in the way?
Don’t think about the process as a “have-to”, think in terms of “want-to”. Imagine a point in future when all your sleep problems are history and you’re waking up fresh ready to take on the world.
Think about how much your future self would be grateful.
Fellow nesters unite! Unless you’ll get on my side of the bed.