Sleep problems can take many forms, from trouble falling asleep, to having your sleep disrupted in the middle of the night, to waking up fuzzy-headed. What these problems share in common is they really and truly stink. They impact your physical and mental health in countless negative ways and can make you feel more like a zombie than a real live human being.
Improve your sleep—and your life—with the following strategies for coping with the common sleep problems of insomnia, snoring, and waking up groggy.
How to Cope with Insomnia
Insomnia manifests as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping enough to feel rested. It plagues upwards of 40 percent of American adults. If you’re one of them, then you know how debilitating constant sleep deprivation can be. The good news is a variety of strategies can help you start sleeping better. Here are several proven ways to cope with insomnia:
- Don’t do anything but sleep in your bed. Banish late-night work sessions, screens, mail sorting, and laundry folding from the bed. When you use your bed for nothing but sleeping, your body will start to associate the bed with sleep time. There’s also evidence that dimming the lights in the hours leading up to bed can help your body gravitate toward sleep.
- Keep the bedroom cool and dark. Studies consistently find that people sleep best in rooms that are relatively cool—anywhere from 60 to 75 degrees—and dark. That means turning off the glow of screens, nightlights, and/or streetlights from your room (even if it means investing in blackout curtains).
- Ditch alcohol before bed. That nightcap is doing more harm than good. Drinking alcohol (whether it’s a beer or a glass of wine or spirits) before bed can make it harder for your body to fall asleep and increase your risk of waking up in the middle of the night. Abstain after 6 pm whenever possible.
- Reduce stress in your waking life. Chronic stress is a major contributor to insomnia, so you’ll sleep better if you can get your stress under control. Exercise regularly, practice meditation or breathing techniques, and pursue hobbies that help you release tension in your daily life. This will make it that much easier to drift off to dreamland when nighttime comes.
How to Cope with Snoring
Snoring might seem like little more than an annoyance for the snorer’s bed partner. But it’s actually more serious. Snoring disrupts sleep stages, which means it seriously reduces the quality of your sleep. Over the long haul, lack of good sleep can result in physical and mental health issues including memory loss, poor concentration, and a higher risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
If that sounds terrifying, don’t panic. Instead, implement these strategies for coping with snoring:
- Don’t drink before bed. Not only can nightcaps contribute to insomnia, they can also increase your risk of snoring during the night—thereby further degrading your sleep.
- Quit smoking. There’s a strong link between smoking cigarettes and snoring. So if you need yet another reason to ditch the dirty habit, here it is: You’ll snore less and sleep better if you stop smoking.
- Stay hydrated. There’s evidence dehydration can provoke snoring, because it makes nose and throat secretions more viscous and increases the potential for friction in these areas. (This is one of the sources of that “chainsaw” snoring sound.) In contrast, drinking plenty of water can reduce friction within and between your mucous membranes.
- Perform throat exercises. It sounds weird, but a loose throat palate can increase your risk of snoring. Firming up these tissues can reduce the odds of them rattling while you breathe in your sleep. Practice these mouth exercises on a regular basis to help reduce snoring caused by loose throat tissue.
How to Cope with Waking Up Groggy
The fancy term for morning grogginess is sleep inertia. Whatever you call it, you know it by the feeling that your mind just isn’t quite “there” for the first 30 minutes (or more) after you wake up. Here’s how to beat back the fog as quickly as possible:
- Expose yourself to sunlight ASAP. Sunlight triggers our bodies and minds to wake up—so the sooner you get some sun, the sooner you’ll banish the morning fog. At a minimum, open the curtains throughout your apartment or house as soon as you wake up. Even better? Head outside for a short stroll. The combination of physical activity and sunlight is a one-two punch in the fight against morning grogginess.
- Get a move on. Speaking of physical activity… When you’re feeling groggy in the morning, the thought of working out can seem like a mild form of torture, but it might be the best thing for you. Morning exercise helps boost circulation and increases energy levels, which can help you feel clear-headed faster. Even if you can’t muster up the energy for a high-intensity workout, consider doing a few jumping jacks or some dynamic stretching in the living room.
- Don’t hit “snooze”. Look, I know how tempting it is to hit that snooze button and live in blissful denial of your eventual wake-up for just a few more minutes. But research says those last few minutes of rest are doing more harm than good. Because you’re likely to fall back into a deep sleep (rather than a lighter sleep stage), you’ll feel that much worse when the alarm goes off again.
- Take a hot shower. The change in body temperature that’s elicited by a hot shower can help your body transition into alertness.
When you’re not sleeping well or you’re constantly waking up groggy, it can start to feel like you’ll never feel well-rested again. It’s important, however, not to lose hope. Instead, muster the energy to adopt these strategies. While it might take some time to turn them into habits, they’re all but guaranteed to help you feel more rested over the long haul.
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