I know you’re not a doctor, but I’m wondering if you have any suggestions on how to get a good night’s sleep. For me, it’s a luxury I rarely experience.
Dear Sleepy Head,
Your concern is warranted. The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are real. It drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at risk. Science has linked poor slumber with a number of health problems, from weight gain to a weakened immune system. I’m glad to know you’re giving your sleep issue serious consideration.
I’m wondering if you’re experiencing what experts call “Covid-somnia” or if you’ve always had difficulties sleeping? Last year, and continuing into this year, there has been a dramatic increase in sleep disorders spurred by the upheaval of the pandemic.
Whether your sleep dilemma is relatively recent or long-standing, here are a few hints that work for me and some suggestions from experts in the field.
My daughter, who has sleep issues due to anxiety, swears by the weighted blanket I gave to her for Christmas two years ago. The five–to-thirty-pound (based on your body weight) blankets create what occupational therapists call “deep-pressure stimulation”. This is thought to reduce stress by putting your focus on physical sensations instead of what may be swirling around in your head. As in the case of my daughter, the blanket may also help with insomnia related to depression and anxiety.
Whenever I’m plagued with wakefulness in the night, I take melatonin for a couple of nights just before bed. This gets me back into a normal sleep pattern. Experts suggest that melatonin signals the brain that it’s time to shut down for the night. The over-the-counter supplement is quite safe with minimal–to-no side effects for doses up to 10 milligrams. As always, check with your doctor before starting something new.
According to Samantha Cassetty, M.S, R.D, coauthor of Sugar Shock (Hearst Home, 2020), a diet high in fiber-rich foods including fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, and seeds, is tied to better sleep patterns. Cassetty also advises not eating within a couple of hours of bedtime. If you’re really hungry before bed, she suggests eating a banana and a handful of magnesium-rich pumpkin seeds as a bedtime snack.
Avoid what David Neubauer, MD, calls “doom-scrolling,” the aimless intake of headlines and social posts, before bedtime. Even if your Facebook feed doesn’t rile you up, staring at the blue glow can inhibit melatonin secretion. However, Dr. Bhanu Kolla at the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Sleep Medicine thinks that the content is much more detrimental than the light.
I hope these suggestions help you get to sleep and stay asleep and you’ll no longer be a Sleepy Head.