Rock-A-Bye-Baby, on the tree tops. When I go to bed my whole head seems to rock…
Recovery is a double edged sword when it comes to sleep; you have to basically re-learn how to do it properly. When we’re drunk we simply pass out, stay that way for several hours and tell ourselves we’ve had a decent night’s kip despite still feeling exhausted.
But it’s really not proper sleep. Not by any stretch.
As Drink Aware warns: ‘When you drink alcohol before bed you may fall into deep sleep quicker. … But as the night goes on you spend more time in this deep sleep and less time than usual in the more restful, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. This can leave you feeling tired the next day no matter how long you stay in bed.’
When we are sober, however, given time our REM cycles return to normal.
But if you’re anything like me it can take some time to get there. I lie in bed with things buzzing round my head, unable to switch off, knowing, just KNOWING, that a drink would temporarily solve my insomniac tenancies.
I’ve found that listening to what I would refer to as ‘plinky plonky’ music – otherwise known as meditation music – can help. (this one here is one of my favourites) I struggle with visualisation. And as hard as I try to keep the thoughts and worries out of my mind the just circle around, keeping me awake.
In rehab meditation sessions we would do a body scan, lingering our focus on one small part of the body at a time. ‘the big toe on your right foot… Your second toe…’ and so on. Usually by the time I reach close to the end I’m asleep.
But in the early days it’s broken sleep. The advice I’ve been given, and struggle to follow, is to refrain from checking the time. It only adds to the worries – I’ve only been asleep for X number of hours, I have to be up in X number of hours, why can’t I sleep???
Searching the Internet, I found some useful tips for restful sleep on sleepfoundation.org…
- Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
- If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
- Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
- Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner’s sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up during the night.
- Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
- Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
- If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.
- If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a sleep diary to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.
As luck would have it, as I’ve been writing this post I’ve been flipping through this month’s issue of In The Moment magazine and there’s a whole feature on how to sleep well. It talks about magnesium – something I take on prescription – which is often overlooked as a sleep aide. Ever put Epsom Salts in your bath? Packed full of the stuff, hence why a 20 minute soak can help you feel more relaxed.
According to The Sleep Council, as the magazine quotes, 70 per cent of people don’t get the recommended eight hours of sleep a night. When pissed you may enjoy 12 or 14 hours flat out but proper sleep – which is crucial for helping with concentration, coping with stress, productivity and positive thinking – it is not.
To anyone who suffers from poor sleep I’d really recommend reading the magazine because there are a whole host of tips on how to gently drift off, as well as expert advice and statistics. Better yet, there are first person extracts from people whose alcohol consumption has impacted on their sleep, backing up my original point.
I could go on but I feel as though I’m starting to ramble so I’ll leave it here and bonne nuit for tonight – I’d love to hear anyone’s feedback on what they do to help them get to sleep.