7 Ways to Sleep Better Tonight

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By: , – Jeannette Moninger, Family Circle
5/21/2013 6:00 AM   :  12 comments   :  20,293 Views

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I'm a married woman, but there's a guy I've been chasing after for months: the Sandman. I want him desperately some nights -- and then other evenings I push him away. It's completely my fault that he's turned his back on me in bed. Our always-too-short encounters are rarely satisfying because I'm constantly thinking about an errand I forgot to run or a form I need to fill out for my son's school. (Even Overstock.com and Candy Crush Saga come between us.) Yes, in terms of sleep time, I could -- and should -- do better.

And I'm not alone. More than 91 million women don't get the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night. Those missed zzz's can pack on pounds, steal your good looks, and make you just plain grouchy. That's why Family Circle went to its Facebook page in search of readers so heavy-eyed that they agreed to let sleep experts take a peek into their bedrooms to see what's really robbing them of 40 winks. Here they share what all moms should (and shouldn't) be doing for sounder sleep. 

Sleep Stealer #1: You Don't Listen to Your Body

Karen Malley never knows what to expect when she calls it a night. "I'm woken up either by hip pain, a backache, or hot flashes," says the 49-year-old mom of three in Souderton, Pennsylvania. Chronic pain disrupts the slumber of an estimated 42 million Americans. Ironically, a recent study suggests that getting more sleep than usual may help curb sensitivity to pain. Adding to the tossing and turning, insomnia, hot flashes, and other sleep problems go hand in hand for 61% of menopausal women.

Sleep Salvation: Respond to Your Body's Calls for Help

For hot flashes, place a cloth-covered chilled ice pack under your pillow. "When you wake up sweating, flip the pillow over and find the cool spot," says Tracey Marks, MD, author of Master Your Sleep: Proven Methods Simplified. Lying next to the pack will also lower your body temperature, and moisture-wicking sleepwear and sheets can help keep you dry (drinights.com, from $55 and $100, respectively). Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, which may make you sweat more, especially close to lights-out.

Note: Spicy or acidic foods fire up sweat glands as well.

Deep abdominal breathing may reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes or pain. With one hand on your belly and the other on your chest, slowly inhale through your nose and hold while counting to seven. Next, exhale through your mouth while counting to eight. Repeat for five deep breaths. Malley tried a variation suggested by Ana Krieger, MD, medical director of the Weill Cornell Center for Sleep Medicine at New York–Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. "Once I'm under the covers, I lay my hand on my stomach to feel my breathing, start at 50 and count backward," she says. "It actually distracts me from my hip pain. And I never remember counting below 30."

Sleep Stealer #2: You're Hijacking Your Internal Clock

By the time Friday night rolls around, Kathie Gibson is spent. "I never get a solid night's rest, so I make up for it on the weekends," says the 52-year-old resident of Clearwater, Florida. Her youngest is a high school freshman, and they're both adjusting to her new academic schedule. Trying to catch up on missed zzz's on the weekend and napping are tempting. But not only is there no way to truly make up a rest deficit, doing so throws off your body's sleep-wake cycle.

Sleep Salvation: Stick to a Schedule

Instead of sleeping in, get up within an hour of your usual wake-up time on the weekend and go to bed a few minutes earlier during the week, says Dr. Krieger. Sleeping late creates a jet-lag effect that makes it harder to drift off the following night. An early rise isn't easy but can have its benefits: "I got up at 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday," says Gibson. "I did chores that I would have pushed off to the evening, and I'm now sleeping through the night."

Tracking the details of your sleep patterns for a week or two -- hours slept, awakenings, bedtime rituals -- can also help pinpoint saboteurs like late-night exercise, a stressful workday, and caffeine or alcohol consumption. Download a free log at: markspsychiatry.com/sleepcharts.

Click here for more sleep tips to help you get a better night’s sleep from Family Circle.

 
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Comments

  • 12
    I have had chronic pain and other issues mentioned in the article, but my biggest problem is I don't go to bed. Once I am in bed I fall asleep. I am thinking about setting a bed time like I do with my kids. I want at least one hour while they are asleep. - 6/12/2013   12:28:52 AM
  • I_CAN_DO-IT
    11
    Dr. put me on thyroid meds (after 1/2 my thyroid was removed). Now I can barely sleep and I'm exhausted all the time, but my heart is always racing. They won't cut back on meds. I'm lucky if I get 3-4 hours sleep a night, and I try to squeeze a nap in during the day. Not working well. - 5/29/2013   6:14:31 PM
  • 10
    I agree with LABGIRL8, I get up at 4:30 a.m. for work and sorry, but I am not getting up that early on the weekends! I definitely need more sleep. - 5/22/2013   10:03:14 PM
  • 9
    I get up at 4:15 AM when I work. There is NO WAY I'm getting up before 6 am on my off days! - 5/22/2013   4:58:36 PM
  • 8
    Suggestions like these are great for dayshift workers, but not so much for nightshifters. If I have nothing planned for my days off, I can stick to the night schedule (gotta love the 24 stores!). Unfortunately, my doctors, dentist, massage therapist, and others insist that I see them on days. - 5/22/2013   12:32:24 PM
  • SANDRALUVSLON
    7
    I think I'll keep track of my sleep pattern and what I ate drank that day. Sometimes I sleep well other times I don't and I think alot of it has to do with what's on my mind. - 5/22/2013   5:32:12 AM
  • PRUSSIANETTE
    6
    I know that they say not to have a TV in your bedroom, but it has been a godsend for me. If I can't fall asleep due to something on my mind, I pop in a less-than-half-hour sitcom that I like. I close my eyes and listen. It is enough to take my mind off whatever it is troubling me, and I invariably fall asleep before it is over. - 5/21/2013   10:04:42 PM
  • JRRING
    5
    ice pack under my pillow...what a great idea! - 5/21/2013   5:35:24 PM
  • 4
    Yes, I agree, JIBBIE49, having the grown kids out of the house does help my sleeping, too! On nights when my mind won't quiet down, I use a CD of storms or ocean waves to listen to. It really seems to help me settle down and go to sleep faster. - 5/21/2013   10:23:51 AM
  • 3
    I can't remember the last time I slept all through the night without waking up for one reason or another :( - 5/21/2013   9:14:26 AM
  • DELLMEL
    2
    I sleep good at night even though I have really bad pain in my left hip. - 5/21/2013   8:12:21 AM
  • 1
    Having five children I had years where I never slept at night, but now that they are grown, I sleep fine. - 5/21/2013   6:58:26 AM

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