The passage from wakefulness to slumber can be a labored one for some people. Whether you’re having trouble unwinding from a particularly active day or a you have a partner with a tendency to snore, disordered sleep patterns and occasional bouts of insomnia happen to the best of us.
Sanam Hafeez, a New York City-based neuropsychologist and director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, told HuffPost that it’s important to not only recognize when disrupted sleep becomes habitual, but also assess what may be causing it. Otherwise, larger physical and behavioral issues can arise, such as a weakened immune system, depression or irritability, weight gain and increased blood pressure.
Dr. Abhinav Singh, a faculty director for Indiana Sleep Center and sleep expert at the Sleep Foundation, added that “chronic poor sleep is like pot holes on a road. One or two won’t hurt your car, but if you hit several every day of your drive home, you will eventually need servicing.”
So what exactly constitutes chronic poor sleep? According to Hafeez, anything that extends longer than a week.
“People can tell their quality of sleep is being compromised by considering whether they take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep once in bed, falling asleep too quickly, waking up too often during the night, and chronic fatigue during the day,” Hafeez said.
Singh said that more often than not, these sleep struggles are exacerbated by our bedtime environment.
“Things like temperature, brightness, a disruptive sleeping partner, ambient noises and pets can all play a role in a person’s ability to fall asleep and remain asleep throughout the night,” Singh said.
He added that other factors such as medications, pain, stress management, increased alcohol consumption and anxiety can also impact sleep quality.
In addition to creating an ideal environment for sleep, Singh said that you can help yourself combat insomnia by developing good behaviors surrounding sleep ― namely, retraining yourself not to worry about it.
“No one sleeps better by trying harder,” he said. “When you are sleepy, you don’t need to look for sleep.”
Singh also suggested stepping away from electronics and sources of blue light earlier in the evening, along with reading, stretching or meditating before bed.
Keep in mind that for chronic sleep problems that last for an extended period of time, seeking help from a sleep specialist is a must for addressing the core issue of your disordered sleep, rather than relying on independent temporary solutions.
If you feel like your sleep space is the problem, there may be a few fixes available. Below, we’ve rounded up mattress toppers, blue light-dimming stickers, temperature-controlled bedding and other items recommended by sleep experts. Transform your bedroom with ease.
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