Sleep is fundamental to our health and longevity. Unfortunately, one out of three adults in the U.S. doesn’t get enough (1).
Everybody knows the benefits of a good night’s sleep, but not everyone can remember what it feels like. If it’s impossible for us to get any quality sleep, then our bodies likely never get a chance to repair and reset. There are plenty of articles online which contend that sleep is even more important than nutrition, simply because we can go longer without food than we can go without sleep before we completely fall apart.
Better sleep is something that should be high on your priority list. Proper sleep implies rest without needing sedatives; however, if you’re already taking sleep aids, modern technology may yet provide you with alternative relief to reduce your dependency.
Nutrition, exercise and sleep
Proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep are all interrelated. Lack of sleep leads to poor diet choices, and poor diet choices can result in a lack of good rest. There’s a ruthless feedback loop between poor sleep and poor nutrition, and it’s easy to get sucked into a dwindling spiral of despair. But if you aren’t getting proper nutrition or enough exercise, a pill is not going to compensate for these things.
If you’re smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, taking large quantities of prescription drugs, and eating donuts or bagels with your coffee every morning, you might have a problem sleeping. If you’re drinking coffee and soda all day and don’t sufficiently hydrate yourself, you are likely contributing to poor sleeping habits. Lack of exercise, excessive worry, and a stressful lifestyle are significant contributors to insomnia.
If you’re not getting good rest, there are at least a dozen things you could try before resorting to pill-popping. Prescription sleep aids should be considered a last resort and as a sign of desperation indicating that other aspects of your life are out of balance. Using drugs to help you get to sleep should not be used as a permanent solution, but as a temporary stop-gap while you sort out your life to eliminate other factors contributing to your insomnia.
Surprise! Insomnia and Pain are related
About one-third of the U.S. population suffers from a lack of sleep in one form or another, and about half of the people over 60; this means more than 100 million folks are having a hard time sleeping every night in the U.S. alone. Similarly, the number of folks suffering from chronic pain is reported to be over 100 million as well. This is a fascinating correlation.
Poor rest and chronic pain have a relationship: Less sleep equals more pain. However, directly treating insomnia or chronic pain with prescriptions rarely addresses the underlying causes of either. Plenty of folks are taking prescriptions to manage pain and insomnia, but over the long-term, this can lead to chronic toxicity and actually worsen the problems.
Books on Sleep
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
Hardcover – October 3, 2017
by Matthew Walker PhD (Author)
Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success
Hardcover – March 15, 2016
by Shawn Stevenson (Author)
Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day: A Doctor’s Guide to Solving Your Sleep Problems
Paperback – June 12, 2014
by Robert Rosenberg DO FCCP (Author)
The Sleep Book: How to Sleep Well Every Night
Paperback – June 14, 2014
by Dr. Guy Meadows (Author)
The Effortless Sleep Method: The Incredible New Cure for Insomnia and Chronic Sleep Problems
Paperback – January 31, 2011
by Sasha Stephens (Author)
End the Insomnia Struggle: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Get to Sleep and Stay Asleep
Paperback – October 1, 2016
by Colleen Ehrnstrom PhD ABPP (Author), Alisha L. Brosse PhD (Author)
The Insomnia Solution: The Natural, Drug-Free Way to a Good Night’s Sleep
Paperback – August 23, 2005
by Michael Krugman (Author)
Sick and tired of being sick and tired
Everything in your life will run more smoothly if you can figure out how to get into dreamland with regularity. In today’s society, it may be more difficult than ever to achieve dream states without some assistance.
Regardless of your circumstances, the starting assumption is there are safe methods to help you get better sleep without needing to resort to alcohol or heavy sedatives. Let’s also assume you’re reading this because you are ready to make a change or improvement. Perhaps you are sick and tired of being sick and tired and are desperate to find alternatives.
Learning about the relationship between yourself and your bodymind will go a long way towards helping you find the answers you need to get a better night’s rest. But you can’t expect to change everything at once; you need to find just one thing you can gain control over in your life.
Sleep deprivation shortens your life
Believing you can get away with less sleep on a regular basis can shorten your lifespan (4).
Sleep deprivation prevents your immune system from building up its forces. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body may not be able to fend off invaders. It may also take you longer to recover from illness. Long-term sleep deprivation also increases your risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease (5).
Sleeplessness is a viscous circle
It’s a vicious circle, right? We can’t sleep if our pain is acting up, then we feel like crap and lack energy and focus when we miss having a good night’s sleep. Stress and worry about our life, our relationships, our health, and our job keep us up at night. The detrimental effects are cumulative.
If you can blame the stress of your job on fifty-percent of your sleep loss, and your bad habits and health choices can be blamed for the remaining fifty-percent of your sleepless nights, then you should be focused on lifestyle changes instead of prescription sleep aids to remedy the problems.
The Institute of Medicine estimates that hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually on medical costs that are directly related to sleep disorders.
Make progressive improvements
There are as many ways to work on getting better sleep as there are ways to screw it up. If you want to get serious about your health, then you should do everything in your power to reduce the number of things which detract from sleep and boost the things which help. Easy to say; not so easy to implement.
Biofeedback devices can monitor our sleep and provide recommendations for how to get more of it. Listening to audio designed for inducing sleep (sleep binaurals) can help shut down our brain and wind down the mind. Self-awareness will guide us towards improvement. With devoted persistence, you will eventually discover a combination of progressive improvements you can make to enhance your sleep patterns.
Resorting to pill-popping as part of your normal sleep routine could be considered as a form of defeat if it goes on for too long, especially if you haven’t tried alternatives to vanquish the underlying imbalances in your life. Taking some time to reduce your stress and figure out your personal values will provide you with intuition as to what kinds of changes will make the most impact.
Two steps forward, one step back – that’s okay!
Good sleep helps relieve chronic pain, anxiety, stress, fatigue, muscle tension, illness, and facilitates self-healing.
For people with fibromyalgia, the combination of pain and sleep disturbance is a double-edged sword: the pain makes sleep more difficult and sleep deprivation exacerbates pain. The good news is that a reduction in sleep disturbance is usually followed by an improvement in pain symptoms (7).
If you’re looking to get out of the vicious circle of sleep deprivation, you’re likely going to experience even more discomfort as you start changing your habits and routines. It seems no matter what direction we go to heal ourselves, we need to go through our pain to get to the other side. The fact things seem to get worse before they get better is a common phenomenon, especially when we’re struggling to get well.
Things which disturb sleep
Things on this list can contribute to your sleepless nights:
- Eating right before bed
- An irregular sleep schedule
- Watching the news before bed
- Eating a lot of sugary sweets in the hours before bed (ice cream, cookies)
- Drinking coffee, soda or tea high in caffeine after 5pm
- Not drinking enough water to stay hydrated during the day
- Watching TV or looking at your phone before sleep time
- Eating an overload of carbohydrates (which turn to sugars)
- Incessant worry and an inability to wind down your mind at night
- Going to bed mad at someone in your family
- Thinking about what you’re going to do tomorrow
- A poor sleeping environment without peace and quiet
- Drugs and alcohol (which prevent healing during sleep)
- Stress, anxiety, PTSD, and chronic pain (obviously)
How to sleep better at night naturally
- 15-20 minutes of meditation before bed
- 5-10 minutes stretching before bed
- 10-20 minutes of deep breathing & relaxation exercises
- Listen with earbuds to YouTube: binaural beats for sleep
- Fall asleep listening to podcasts (on Stitcher)
- Read yourself to sleep with a good book or magazine
- Try Flotation Therapy to release all your tension
- Exercise more often and break a sweat once in a while
- Give up smoking or chewing tobacco, for your heart
- Learn nutritional awareness and eat better food in tiny steps
- Take some natural melatonin about an hour before bed
- Try using a sleep wedge to elevate yourself
- Use a sleep mask to keep the light out in the mornings
- Get help from a clinical sleep disorder professional
- Read the “Learn More” section below…
Learn more about getting a good night’s rest
Learn How To Sleep Better With Sleep Standards
Your Guide to Better Sleep & Mental Health
The Link Between Depression and Sleep Disorders
Common Sleep Disorders Associated with Mental Illness
Dealing with Grief and Sleep Issues
Gear And Devices To Help With Sleep
The Sleep Institute | Latex Mattresses Explained
Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders
The National Sleep Foundation
American Sleep Association (ASA)
American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)
Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA)
Sleep Education, a Resource Provided by AASM
Sleep Health: Can We Define It? Does It Matter?
Learn the risks of sleep aids
Sleeping Pills – Do the Benefits Outweigh The Risks?
- Out of 3 Adults Don’t Get Enough Sleep | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- What Happens When You Sleep?
- 11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep
- If You Keep Staying Up Late Instead of Sleeping, It Can Shorten Your Lifespan, Expert Warns
- The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body
- Sleep Disturbance in Patients Taking Opioid Medication for Chronic Back Pain
- Fibromyalgia and Sleep
- Can’t Sleep? Neither Can 60 Million Other Americans