Cleveland Clinic: How to get back to sleep and why it’s so important:

cleveland back to sleep

Your bed should be a place of relaxation and rejuvenation. But if you’re having trouble sleeping, that’s likely not the case.

Not only can not sleeping be frustrating, but getting a good night’s sleep is vital to maintaining your overall health and mental well-being. Seven or more hours of quality sleep each night recharges your body physically, but can also help flush toxins from your brain and allow your mind to fully rest — which assist in your mental alertness, decision-making, and overall clarity the next day.  And if you’re sick, your brain needs to be in tip-top shape to help you recover.

That’s why sleep expert Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer, DO, says you should do everything you can to address any sleep issues you’re experiencing.

Different ways your sleep can be interrupted

Besides external influences like recurring noises (from a crying infant to a snoring partner) or travel-related time changes that keep you up at night, sleep deprivation may come in many other forms.

“For example, some people experience chronic insomnia — a sleep disorder in which you have trouble falling and/or staying asleep,” Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer says. “Others may experience cycles of waking up but not being able to get back to sleep.“

And sometimes, even if you’re able to fall asleep but were focused on unresolved issues or worries right before you closed your eyes — this may affect the quality of sleep you actually achieve. “You may find yourself groggy in the morning or feeling tired, cranky or unproductive,” Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer says. “Also, a lack of sleep can affect your judgement and emotional response to otherwise normal daily activities.”

How stress can affect your sleep

Many of us tend to bring our daily stress to bed with us — which is exactly the place it doesn’t belong. It’s not easy to leave stress at the end of your day. But keeping these stressful thoughts in focus right before sleep can definitely prevent you from getting some good shuteye.

“This is something you should try to avoid whenever possible, as it can cause a variety of sleep problems,” Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer notes. “It may take practice, but committing to stress-reduction behaviors at the end of your day is very important. The more active you are in kicking stress out of bed each night, the more likely your overall sleep quality will improve.”

How to de-stress before bed

You may not be aware that bringing stress to bed could be causing a negative cycle to form. If you have trouble falling asleep, the longer you lie awake, the more aggravated you may become. Soon you may unknowingly associate your bed as a place of discomfort, rather than one of comfort. The key is to remove any negative association with your sleep space by forming healthy pre-sleep habits. Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer offers these tips for developing better pre-sleep practices:

  • Plan for tomorrow earlier in the evening — Carve out time each night before or after dinner to “wrap up” your thoughts about the last 24 hours. Plotting out your next day well before bedtime can help you check that “planning box” early enough to give yourself time to transition and quiet your mind before bed.
  • Get up if you’re not asleep after 20 minutes — It may be a good idea to take your frustrations to a different room and leave them there — literally. A short walk will get your brain actively focused on motor coordination, rather than worrying. Write down what’s on your mind on a piece of paper and revisit it in the morning. You’ll return to bed anticipating a fresh perspective in the morning (a best practice, anyway) — and leave your bedroom as your special place to rest and relax.
  • Develop your pre-sleep ritual — Take a walk after dinner to catch a sunset, take a long bath or enjoy a nightly cup of caffeine-free herbal tea.
  • Avoid overstimulation — Avoid not eating, working, or browsing a screen of any kind in bed. Reading a book off-screen may help, or enjoying a relaxing playlist to give your mind something to connect with, but not be overstimulated by.
  • Practice yoga or meditation — Closing your eyes, practice simple mindfulness, awareness or concentrated focus on your breathing for five minutes. This can help your body and mind relax — and transition  you to a more restful sleep.

If trying some of the strategies above to reduce or manage your stress aren’t helping your insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT-i) might be a good option.

“CBTi is a structured program that helps you identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause (or worsen) sleep problems with new habits and thought patterns that promote healthy sleep,” explains sleep expert Michelle Drerup, PsyD.

“CBTi is offered by trained specialists nationwide, including at many larger hospitals or academic medical centers,” Dr. Drerup adds. “There are also several online programs, such as Cleveland Clinic’s Go! to Sleep program.”

Illness may be the reason you can’t sleep

A lack of sleep may also indicate a variety of sleep disorders or other health concerns that need to be addressed with proper medical diagnosis and treatment. Once your medical conditions are treated, you may eventually see your sleep improve.

Underlying medical conditions that may prevent you from sleeping include:

  •  Chronic pain.
  •  Acid reflux.
  •  Restless legs syndrome (RLS).
  •  Sleep apnea (in both men and women).
  •  Hormonal changes caused by menopause.
  •  Narcolepsy.
  •  Diabetes.
  •  Night terrors.
  •  Sleepwalking.
  •  Depression.
  •  Common issues related to aging.

“If any of these are the case, you likely won’t sleep comfortably through the night until the problem is identified and properly treated by a knowledgeable primary care physician or specialist,” Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer says.

Make sure you keep track of symptoms you are experiencing, and tell your doctor about them as soon as possible. Your primary care physician may explore your sleep history and/or give you a physical examination. This could include examining your upper airway muscles, for example. If sleep apnea is suspected, you may be referred to a sleep disorders center for a comprehensive sleep study. Or you may be suffering from other conditions that could result in treatments like short-term hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants or other kinds of medicines — all which depend upon proper diagnosis.

Be aware and stay proactive 

Overall, the key to getting better sleep comes from first identifying your sleepless activity, reducing your stress before you hit your bed, and talking with your doctor if you notice other symptoms — so you can get back on track to a good night’s sleep.

If You’re Having Trouble Sleeping, Here’s What To Do

A Gentle Yoga Sequence to Target Your Nerves

yoga journal therapeutic tool

A Gentle Yoga Sequence to Target Your Nerves
Your yoga practice can be a therapeutic tool for pain management and prevention. Try this gentle sequence to target your nerves and protect their signaling powers.
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Join Tiffany Cruikshank at Yoga Journal’s upcoming event in January at 1440 Multiversity. Learn more at yogajournal.com/thepractice.

Jenny Jimenez

With all of the new and emerging information on pain science, yoga students and teachers have the opportunity to apply modern research to their practices and help alleviate and prevent pain.

Preliminary research suggests that gentle movement of your nerves is vital to both managing pain and supporting the general health of your nervous system. The idea is that healthy nerves should be able to gently slide, elongate, and angulate within neural tissues (some nerves can move as much as ¾ inch) in order to adapt to different loads and minimize pressure that can worsen existing pain, alter sensation, or lead to new pain patterns. Sometimes, tone and tension around neural tissues can be a problem. These tissues are bloodthirsty and rely on an important pressure gradient around them to maintain adequate blood flow. So even small changes in tissue tension around a nerve can be enough to block nerve mobility and lead to compression that disrupts blood flow and nerve signaling back to the brain, contributing to pain.

See also Low Back Pain 101: 3 Sequences to Ease Your Pain

To help you keep your nerves adaptable and protected, try the asana technique on the following pages based on an understanding of neurodynamics (the study of nerve movement through its surrounding tissues) and nerve pathways. We have the ability to alternately put tension on different ends of the nerve to create a movement of the nerve through the tissues, often referred to as nerve gliding. As you floss the nerve, you potentially allow it to move more freely so that it can communicate more efficiently with your brain. For example, the sciatic nerve runs through the back of your leg, so in Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose) if you bend your knee (raised leg) and flex your foot, you’ll put tension on one end of the nerve (by your foot) and slack the other end (by your knee). This action draws the sciatic nerve and its branches toward your foot. Then, as you extend your knee and point your toes, you’ll reverse the areas of tension and slack. This action draws the branches of the sciatic nerve toward your knee. When you put these movements together you can encourage the sciatic nerve to move back and forth through its tissues more effortlessly. You also may down-regulate local inflammatory responses, restore healthy blood flow to the hard-working nerve, and encourage more efficient communication between your brain and body. Optimal signaling is crucial if you want your immune and nervous systems to function at their best, which is another reason to add nerve gliding to your repertoire.

The key to nerve gliding is to move gently within an easy range of motion. Since your target is the pain-free movement of your nerves, not of your muscles and fascia, you want very little sensation or stretch. It’s a great reminder that even in the physical body there’s clearly more to what we do than just sensations or the feel-good endorphins associated with them. Another thing I love about this approach is that, in addition to being a safe way to work with pain, it’s very accessible since it’s about simple, gentle movements.

See also Reduce Pain and Discomfort with These Poses for the Pelvis

Sequence – Neurodynamic Movement

To begin, pick a nerve you want to focus on and find a range of motion that’s accessible, pain-free, and with very little (if any) stretching sensation. Do 5–10 repetitions of the pose or this sequence once or twice a day. If you’re using these moves more preventatively, try rotating a few of them into your regular practice a couple times a week, and remember that in group classes there’s more than just stretch and sensation affecting the tissues. Happy flossing!

What Science Tells Us About Preventing Nerve Pain With Yoga