Change your light bulbs, go to bed earlier, do myofunctional therapy exercises every day, buy a fan, buy a humidifier, and voila! Sleep fixed.
But, it’s not that simple. You have to work until 8 pm, drive 30 minutes home, cook dinner, eat, shower, get ready for tomorrow, and then it’s 11 pm and you still haven’t taken any time for yourself so you sit down and watch an episode of your favorite show on Netflix and then exhausted you crawl in to bed and then you’re wide awake. And that’s just one scenario. Maybe you work night shifts just to pay the bills. Or you’re a nurse working the night shift at the hospital. Or you’re a grad student juggling clinicals and homework. Maybe you literally don’t have the money to buy red lights, a fan, and a humidifier. Maybe you don’t have enough money or resources to see a myofunctional therapist. Maybe you have 4 kids. Maybe you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Making these “simple” changes sound easy when you just say them, but actually having the resources and ability to make the changes is a totally different story.
Circumstance is not a choice.
Where you’re born, how you develop, the shape of your jaw, doing what you need to pay the bills, etc. are things you can’t choose and things you can’t necessarily change. You do what you need to. Sometimes these changes to our sleep are just not possible or rather not a priority and that’s okay, but understand that you may be unsuccessful with your goals of weight loss or having more energy if you’re unable or unwilling to change your priorities.
Here are some things that you can try if all of the changes from last week’s article seem impossible:
Naps are free. They’re small windows of time to allow your brain to recharge and potentially help you refocus and wake up feeling better. While this may not always be the case, it can be a positive addition if you find other areas of your sleep too difficult to change. However, napping is not a way to supplement sleep, rather a way to try and help with your symptoms that may be due to lack of sleep.
There are many different ways to refer to this, but basically you just write down all of your thoughts before you go to bed. Plan out your day, write down the conversation you’re having in your head, write down all of the things you have to study, whatever is keeping you up write it down and then leave it. This is a simple way for you not to be cycling through things over and over in your head. Anxiety and restlessness are common with Invisible Illness so finding ways to cope and help reduce those symptoms can help you fall asleep faster.
Try this simple exercise taken from the Buteyko Method. Lay on your right side, close your mouth, and breathe through your nose. Then you will take a breath in and out (all through the nose) and then pinch your nose. This will force you to hold your breath. Do this until it starts to feel slightly uncomfortable and again breathe through your nose, but this time you want a smaller inhalation than before. This can be very challenging and you don’t want to be gasping for air so be mindful of how long you hold your breath. Repeat this several times. For more details about this watch this video here. I say lay on your right side to start with because that will be a little easier to begin with than your left.
Stop Sleeping on your Belly
Try sleeping on your side. You can add pillows between your knees to support your hips and knees. You can try sleeping with your knees elevated while on your back. Find a comfortable position that doesn’t compress your lungs and extend your spine.
There are many different ways to meditate and this may not be for everyone, but it is a way for you to unwind at the end of the day. Go for a walk. Sit in quiet. Clear your mind. Try breathing and just focusing on your body, starting with your toes and your fingers and work slowly up your arms and legs paying attention to how they feel.
Take even just 10 minutes and go for a walk during the day, preferably outside or in the closest thing you can find to nature (i.e. park if you live in a city). This can help center your mind and get it to relax.
Make a Choice
Some things are non-negotiable: your work, your family, your sanity…your health. You may not be ready to make certain sacrifices in order to improve your sleep quality. Decide what’s most important to you and make the necessary adjustments.