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Many of you responded to my last blog post about sleep and said,
"It's not falling asleep, but staying asleep is my problem."
For many people, falling asleep isn’t the problem, but it’s staying asleep. And what to do about it?
James Findley, Ph.D., CBSM, clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania says that sleep is cyclical and that we come in and out of sleep regularly. However, when we have an awakening (and not the zen kind we are searching for in our yoga and meditation practice), and can’t get back to bed for 30 minutes or more and it happens 3 times a week or more, then there’s most likely a deeper problem.
Some potential causes for waking up could be the following:
Sleep Apnea. Perhaps you’re not getting enough air as you sleep, causing you to wake up. If you sleep with someone else, they might be better at noticing if this is the case. CPAP machines restore this in a jiff.
Indigestion. Maybe you’re eating too much before bed or the wrong kinds of food for your stomach and it’s not allowing you to rest.
Active Bladder. Unfortunately, as you age, getting up in the night to use the bathroom becomes more frequent. Also, some medications for high blood pressure can act as diuretics and can make you need to get up and use the bathroom. It’s nice to hydrate before bed but notice how much you’re drinking if nocturnal bathroom visits become too frequent.
Environment. Dr. Findley (above) recommends you make your bedroom into a sleep cave, similar to what I describe in an exciting new product which launches on Friday, in a section called Pre-Sleep General Guidelines. Perhaps use an eye mask, blackout shades, and turn your alarm clock away from your face.
Noise. If you’re very sensitive to noise, what works better than trying to soundproof your bedroom is to listen to white noise. Through a process called habituation your brain stops listening to noise when it’s a repetitive and consistent noise. Nature sounds are irregular and don’t work as well as white noise.
Alcohol. Alcohol disrupts sleep and doesn’t allow you to pass through all the stages of sleep. You spend more time in Deep Sleep and less in R. E. M. and disrupts sleep in this stage.
Caffeine. Caffeine disturbs sleep, specifically your ability to access the deeper stages of sleep, R.E.M and Deep Sleep, the stages where your mind and body rest and repair. Even if you feel you’re relatively unaffected by caffeine, especially in your ability to fall asleep, caffeine can stay in your system for up to 48 hours and might be inhibiting you from getting the really good sleep.
Stress. Dr. Findley emphasizes this as a big factor for disrupted sleep. In part, this is why Guided Meditations for Sleep is so effective because it not only helps you get to sleep but perhaps more importantly trains you to weed out stress and arrive and peaceful and prolonged sleep.
So, what do I do when I wake up in the night?
First of all, don’t stress about it and make it worse. I discuss this deeper in the Pre-Sleep General Guidelines in what's coming on Friday, (hold tight). Try listening to a guided meditations or lead yourself through the Countdown Meditation I mentioned in my last post.
If after 30 minutes you’re still awake, don’t stay in bed. Get up and go to a different room to do the Pre-Sleep Yoga Postures and Pre-Sleep Breathing Techniques (wait for it, wait for it). This could also be a good opportunity to do the Sanctuary Practice (you guessed it). Also, reading is helpful.
Avoid technology. It’s very stimulating for many reasons but mostly because of the blue light which most devices emit which makes your brain think that it’s daytime and ready to get up.
We spend a third of our entire life sleeping. The difference between good sleep, mediocre sleep, or no sleep can be a game changer for your fulfillment of the waking two-thirds of life. Much is riding on our ability for and quality of sleep so let’s learn how to do it well.
I’ve been teaching yoga and meditation for more than 15 years and one of the things I hear most from my students is the need for better sleep. I hear that need literally by the many snores in savasana.
As a culture that values productivity above almost everything else, the one thing we seem to sacrifice most is our need for good sleep. Therefore, we are chronically under rested. Better sleep means a better life. It promotes wellness in body, mind, and spirit, and helps you to be alert, productive, and fulfill your purpose for being on the planet.
I'm so excited for what I'll be unveiling on Friday. It's going to revolutionize the way you sleep. Stay tuned . . .