How To Sleep Through The Night

How To Sleep Through The Night

In my personal life, talk of “sleeping through the night” is normally referring to my energetic two year old who likes to surprise us at odd hours of the night.  He used to sleep all the way through (and let us do the same), but for now, we are all sleeping a bit less!

In my practice, however, most discussions of sleep are not about the little ones.  Instead, it is the women I treat who are having the sleep issues.  Over 40 million Americans suffer from some type of insomnia – and most of them are women.

Many times, when we think about insomnia, we picture difficulty falling asleep.  However, there are many people who fall asleep just fine, but wake up in the middle of the night. When this happens chronically, the condition is referred to as “sleep maintenance insomnia” or the inability to stay asleep. This problem affects twice as many women as men, most of them moms and in their late 30’s or older.

Every once in a while, it is normal to wake up in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning. Travel, stressful events, changes in diet, and other life changes can certainly put a damper on your beauty sleep.

However, if you wake up in the middle of the night at least three times a week, and it’s been going on for at least three months, you may have sleep maintenance insomnia.

You can blame the disturbance on many factors, such as the need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, chronic pain, stress, and hot flashes.  If you’re waking up more than three nights a week for 30 minutes or more, it’s a good idea to dig a bit deeper.  Your doctor might prescribe sleep medication – which I do not recommend.  Instead, I recommend doing a lab work up, therapy, and other lifestyle and routine changes to get to the root of the problem.

Sleep medication works because they dull your frontal lobe, which causes you to relax. The downside is that these medications often reduce the amount of time you spend in the most restorative stages of sleep.  So, before you pop a pill, follow these tips for more solid sleep.

You have a much better chance of long restful bouts of sleep when you wake up at the same time each morning and go to bed at the same time each night. Expanding this even further – keep your dinner scheduled at least a few hours before bed, and try not to do anything super exciting in the hours close to hitting the hay.

Most fitness magazines, personal trainers, and health coaches might tell you to eat your carbs in the morning so that you burn them all day, but that is NOT the best advice for weight loss, energy, and improved sleep. Instead, forego the morning carbs and you will notice that you don’t get groggy midmorning. You also will not need a snack before lunch if you fuel with health proteins and fat.

Enjoy carbs at your evening meal and take advantage of their relaxing effort. And, just to put your mind at ease, you will not store these carbs as fat just because you ate them at night. As your total caloric intake is not excessive, night time carbs will be used to fuel the repair of your body while sleeping and you will burn any leftover in the morning.

To lessen the chance that you’ll be staring at the ceiling around 1:00am, steer clear of caffeinated drinks after 2:00pm and avoid alcohol within three hours of bedtime, since it interferes with deep sleep. Actually, if you are really have trouble with sleep, avoid alcohol if at all possible.

Exercise may help you sleep through the night, but aim to schedule your workout for the morning or afternoon, since a late evening sweat session can have the opposite effect and actually keep you up. The exception: Doing some gentle stretches or yoga before you hit the hay may increase the chance that you’ll sleep without waking in the middle of the night.

If you aren’t tired at bedtime, do something relaxing—like taking a warm bath with Epsom salts (the magnesium will aid in relaxation and help you sleep) or reading a book (not in a kindle or tablet because the blue light will confuse your body clock, use an actual paper book). Engaging in a relaxing night time routine will get you ready to power down before bed and can help relieve sleep maintenance insomnia.

P.S. Moms reading this may find this advice somewhat familiar.  Most of the same things that we learn help our children get better sleep also.  As adults, however, we have added stress, years of abuse on our body from cosmetics, fast foods, toxins, alcohol, antibiotics, etc.  So, while we are certainly more complicated, the basics remain the same.

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