By Dr. Michael Breus PhD, the sleep doctor, Dr. Oz.com
Having trouble sleeping at night? Here are a few common sleep problems with several solutions to get you through the night.
Sleep Problem: I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep.
Sleep-better Solution: I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this one from my patients. They fall asleep only to wake at some point deep in the night – often at the same time. One look at the clock sets in motion an anxious cycle. They immediately calculate how much sleep they can get if they fall back to sleep NOW. They roll over and try to fall asleep again, but they’re already worrying about the minutes ticking away on that clock over their shoulder. Before long, they’re rolling over to check the time and setting the whole anxious process in motion again.
Sound familiar? Here’s what I recommend instead:
Banish the alarm clock. There is no need for you to know what time it is in the middle of the night. Put your clock in a drawer or set it up to go off just outside the bedroom. Or if not having it nearby makes you too anxious, simply turn it around so you cannot see it during the night.
Try Magnolia bark supplement. This natural extract has been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Japanese traditional medicine. It has been shown to reduce anxiety, and to improve sleep and mood.
Sleep-better Solution: One common cause? Waking in the middle of a sleep cycle. Our sleep is cyclical, and interrupting that cycle can cause us to feel sluggish upon waking.
Here’s a quick overview of our sleep cycles:
- There are 5 stages of sleep in a cycle
- A complete cycle takes about 90 minutes to complete
- Deeper sleep – Stages 3 and 4 – and REM sleep occur later in the cycle
If you’ve ever woken from a nap and actually felt worse than before you fell asleep, this is because you awakened in the middle of Stage 3 or 4 sleep, or REM sleep. (I strongly recommend naps, but ones that are short and well timed.)
Here are some strategies for improving your cyclical sleep:
Limit caffeine. Caffeine stays in the body for 8-10 hours and can affect your ability to sleep long after it’s been consumed. To protect your sleep, don’t consume caffeine after 2 p.m.
Limit alcohol. Drinking alcohol in the evening may make you feel sleepy and relaxed, but it is disruptive to sleep, and makes the stages of deep sleep and REM sleep more difficult to achieve. Keep drinking moderate, and don’t consume alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime.
Cut the lights. Those gadgets we tote with us everywhere, even into the bedroom –tablets, smartphones, computers – are light-emitting, and this light can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. I encourage you to create an “Electronic Curfew,” where you power down all electronic devices – including the TV– one hour before sleep