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Sleeping problems

Okay everyone, I'm hoping one of you wise wise ladies might have some good input.

I notoriously sleep poorly. I can sleep 5 hours or I can sleep 10 and I will still almost always wake up tired. Add to this the fact that I'm a light sleeper and it makes it a lot more difficult.

My husband started snoring about 2 years ago, and it got to the point where I just started wearing ear plugs every night. Well the ear plugs don't even work all that well, so eventually I also started taking a sleep aid...and then I started taking the sleep aids every.single.night.

I just recently decided to forgo taking the sleep aids (over the counter generic pills usually or melatonin, though I do have a prescription for Ambien as well which has always been reserved for desperate nights due to the addictive nature of it)...however, I'm still sleeping very lightly and being woken up most nights by DH.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to sleep better? Or at least not be so sensitive when sleeping? I don't want to keep putting chemicals into my body - sleeping pills aren't supposed to be a permanent solution!

Further information: I have already talked to my doctor about the issue, she told me I have "insomnia" and gave me the prescription to Ambien. I don't generally have trouble getting to sleep, I just have trouble staying asleep or getting back to sleep if I'm disturbed.

Re: Sleeping problems

  • edited March 2013
    That sucks, entropic. I'm the opposite - sometimes it takes me a while to fall asleep but once I do I sleep like a log. DH is a very light sleeper, on the other hand, and I feel for him. I would suggest:

    - supplement with magnesium (esp. before bed);
    - no electronics 1-2 hours before bed (I know it's hard, but the blue light emission stimulates your brain and interferes with production of melatonin);
    - sleep in a dark room free of artificial lights;
    - find something (a relaxing song or a mantra or something) that you can say to yourself while you try to go back to sleep. When I can't fall asleep I imagine I'm doing the hip track from the latest BodyFlow release (to "Born to die"). I sing the song in my head and imagine I'm relaxing in swan pose and it works. :-)
  • @Kwith - I'd like to blame it all on DH, but if ANYTHING wakes me up, I'm sort of...up? I don't fall back asleep easily and even if I do it's restless sleep.

    @Unchaten - I've never heard of magnesium being used for this? What exactly does it do/promote? I'm already trying the no electronics before bed thing (I've thankfully started reading before bed again, which I've missed!), and the room I sleep in is definitely dark - we have heavy curtains over the window and I even put a blanket in front of the door so no light will leak in under it. Love the mantra idea!
  • First of all, ask your H to see his doctor about the snoring, and in the meantime, to wear a snore strip at night.

    Secondly, your pillow or bed could be to blame as well.  If your body isn't properly aligned when you sleep, you will toss and turn to avoid sore spots, numb limbs, etc. 

    Everything the light touches is my kingdom.
  • Oh and bedtime routines sound dumb, but they work.  Even if you just listen to a specific song before bed, or whatever, it primes your brain to start turning off.

    Also, a lot of times, waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep can be blamed on stressed.  Doing something to de-stress in the evenings (making a list for tomorrow so you don't have to think about it all night, journaling about the day, taking a warm bath, etc) can be helpful.

    Everything the light touches is my kingdom.
  • edited March 2013
    Haha what doesn't magnesium do? It reduces stress, inflammation, blood pressure, insulin resistance, alleviates migraines, constipation and muscle soreness, and helps the body access stored fat for energy. It's basically mother nature's valium, and it helps with sleep. My dance teacher has pretty bad insomnia and swears by spackling himself with magnesium gel or epsom salts (which contain magnesium) mixed with body lotion - it's absorbed more quickly topically through the skin rather than orally. I'm ordinarily a very high-strung person but feel a greater sense of inner calm since I've started supplementing with magnesium. Unlike melatonin ("a natrual sleep aid" that you can still get reliant on), magnesium is safe to supplement with for a long time - it's just like any other vitamin or mineral supplement. It's pretty much impossible to overdose on it - and if you do you'll just be going to the bathroom a lot.

  • Hmmm ... all great ideas. I'm a fan of the journaling one - sometimes I can't 'turn off my brain', and keeping a journal has been wonderful for that.

    Have you been tested for sleep apnea?

    My only other thought is: do you have allergies? When my allergies are at their worst, I can't get a good night's sleep, no matter how hard I try. A friend suggested that I take my OTC allergy meds before bed instead of first thing in the morning, and that does seem to help.

    There's nothing worse than not sleeping well. Hopefully you find a solution fast! Fingers crossed for you!
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  • If I can't sleep or can't fall back asleep, I usually end up tossing and turning because I can't quite get comfortable.  What I do now is lay down in the position I usually sleep in and very slowly count to 100.  If I am still awake when I reach 100, then I move around and start the process over again.  I very rarely make it to 100, so it definitely works well for me. 

    I also have a nightly routine that is pretty much set in stone.  FI and I both start facing one direction and after about 5-10 minutes roll over to face the other direction (we are both side sleepers).  I use the first section to relax my mind/calm down from the day and once I roll over, my body knows it is time to fall right asleep.  I'll do this if I wake up in the middle of the night as well. 
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  • Oh and another thing, entropic - eat your carbs before bed. It helps with sleep as well. Conventional wisdom says to eat your carbs early in the day for fuel or whatever and that if you eat them at night you get fat, or some other nonsense. This is not true. Eating carbs later in the day will help you sleep (and your stomach will keep digesting them whether you're asleep or not).
  • I would say ditto to Jenny- my first thought was sleep apnea.  It leaves you in the lighter/earlier stages of sleep with difficulty getting REM sleep, leaving you easier to be woken, and feeling tired a lot more often than usual. 
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  • All great suggestisons guys!

    I know I should probalby just go get a sleep study done, but I don't have the time or money for it right now. I don't THINK I have sleep apnea (I don't snore or startle awake and DH has never heard me stop breathing).

    I can definitely start implementing the magnesium right away, the other things I will keep in mind.

  • Sorry for the long post, but since I have the same exact problems as you and I have lots of clients with the problem as well this is the handout I give and go over with them. Also, binaural beats. I use them and they work for me. When I wake up I put my headphones on and play the delta waves free binaural beats I find online (through my iphone). It puts my brain in a sleep pattern.

    Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

    Do you want to be productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy all day long? The way you feel during your waking hours hinges on how well you sleep at night. The cure to sleep difficulties and daytime fatigue can often be found in your daily routine. Your sleep schedule, bedtime habits, and day–to–day lifestyle choices make an enormous difference in the quality of your nightly rest. The following sleep tips will help you optimize your nightly rest, minimize insomnia, and lay the foundation for all–day energy and peak performance.

     The secret to getting good sleep every night

    Good sleep strategies are essential to deep, restorative sleep you can count on, night after night. By learning to avoid common enemies of sleep and trying out a variety of healthy sleep-promoting techniques, you can discover your personal prescription to a good night’s rest.


    The key is to experiment. What works for some might not work as well for others. It’s important to find the sleep strategies that work best for you.


    The first step to improving the quality of your rest is finding out how much sleep you need. How much sleep is enough? While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need at least 8 hours of sleep each night to function at their best.

     How to sleep better tip 1: Keep a regular sleep schedule

    Getting back in sync with your body’s natural sleep–wake cycle—your circadian rhythm—is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep. If you keep a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, you will feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times. This holds true even if you alter your sleep schedule by only an hour or two. Consistency is important.


    Set a regular bedtime. Go to bed at the same time every night. Choose a time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn. Try not to break this routine on weekends when it may be tempting to stay up late. If you want to change your bedtime, help your body adjust by making the change in small daily increments, such as 15 minutes earlier or later each day.

    Wake up at the same time every day. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock to wake up on time, you may need to set an earlier bedtime. As with your bedtime, try to maintain your regular wake–time even on weekends.

    Nap to make up for lost sleep. If you need to make up for a few lost hours, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping late. This strategy allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep–wake rhythm, which often backfires in insomnia and throws you off for days.

    Be smart about napping. While taking a nap can be a great way to recharge, especially for older adults, it can make insomnia worse. If insomnia is a problem for you, consider eliminating napping. If you must nap, do it in the early afternoon, and limit it to thirty minutes.

    Fight after–dinner drowsiness. If you find yourself getting sleepy way before your bedtime, get off the couch and do something mildly stimulating to avoid falling asleep, such as washing the dishes, calling a friend, or getting clothes ready for the next day. If you give in to the drowsiness, you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.

     Discovering your optimal sleep schedule

    Find a period of time (a week or two should do) when you are free to experiment with different sleep and wake times. Go to bed at the same time every night and allow yourself to sleep until you wake up naturally. No alarm clocks! If you’re sleep deprived, it may take a few weeks to fully recover. But as you go to bed and get up at the same time, you’ll eventually land on the natural sleep schedule that works best for you.

     How to sleep better tip 2: Naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle

    Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin production is controlled by light exposure. Your brain should secrete more in the evening, when it’s dark, to make you sleepy, and less during the day when it’s light and you want to stay awake and alert. However, many aspects of modern life can disrupt your body’s natural production of melatonin and with it your sleep-wake cycle.


    Spending long days in an office away from natural light, for example, can impact your daytime wakefulness and make your brain sleepy. Then bright lights at night—especially from hours spent in front of the TV or computer screen—can suppress your body’s production of melatonin and make it harder to sleep. However, there are ways for you to naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle, boost your body’s production of melatonin, and keep your brain on a healthy schedule.

    Increase light exposure during the day


    Remove your sunglasses in the morning and let light onto your face.

    Spend more time outside during daylight. Try to take your work breaks outside in sunlight, exercise outside, or walk your dog during the day instead of at night.

    Let as much light into your home/workspace as possible. Keep curtains and blinds open during the day, move your desk closer to the window.

    If necessary, use a light therapy box. A light therapy box can simulate sunshine and can be especially useful during short winter days when there’s limited daylight.

    Boost melatonin production at night

    Turn off your television and computer. Many people use the television to fall asleep or relax at the end of the day. Not only does the light suppress melatonin production, but television can actually stimulate the mind, rather than relaxing it. Try listening to music or audio books instead, or practicing relaxation exercises. If your favorite TV show is on late at night, record it for viewing earlier in the day.

    Don’t read from a backlit device at night (such as an iPad). If you use a portable electronic device to read, use an eReader that is not backlit, i.e. one that requires an additional light source such as a bedside lamp.

    Change your light bulbs. Avoid bright lights before bed, use low-wattage bulbs instead.

    When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. The darker it is, the better you’ll sleep. Cover electrical displays, use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows, or try an eye mask to cover your eyes.

    Use a flashlight to go to the bathroom at night. As long as it’s safe to do so, keep the light to a minimum so it will be easier to go back to sleep.

      How to sleep better tip 3: Create a relaxing bedtime routine

    If you make a consistent effort to relax and unwind before bed, you will sleep easier and more deeply. A peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses.

     Make your bedroom more sleep friendly

    Keep noise down. If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from barking dogs, loud neighbors, city traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan, recordings of soothing sounds, or white noise. You can buy a special sound machine or generate your own white noise by setting your radio between stations. Earplugs may also help.

    Keep your room cool. The temperature of your bedroom also affects sleep. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 65° F or 18° C) with adequate ventilation. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep.

    Make sure your bed is comfortable. You should have enough room to stretch and turn comfortably. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to invest in a new mattress or a try a different pillow.  Experiment with different levels of mattress firmness, foam or egg crate toppers, and pillows that provide more support.

    Reserve your bed for sleeping and sex

    If you associate your bed with events like work or errands, it will be harder to wind down at night. Use your bed only for sleep and sex. That way, when you go to bed, your body gets a powerful cue: it’s time to nod off.

     Relaxing bedtime rituals to try

    Read a book or magazine by a soft light

    Take a warm bath

    Listen to soft music

    Do some easy stretches

    Wind down with a favorite hobby

    Listen to books on tape

    Make simple preparations for the next day

     How to sleep better tip 4: Eat right and get regular exercise

    Your daytime eating and exercise habits play a role in how well you sleep. It’s particularly important to watch what you put in your body in the hours leading up to your bedtime.


    Stay away from big meals at night. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Fatty foods take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and may keep you up. Also be cautious when it comes to spicy or acidic foods in the evening, as they can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.

    Cut down on caffeine. You might be surprised to know that caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it! Consider eliminating caffeine after lunch or cutting back your overall intake.

    Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. Drinking lots of water, juice, tea, or other fluids may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night. Caffeinated drinks, which act as diuretics, only make things worse.

    Quit smoking. Smoking causes sleep troubles in numerous ways. Nicotine is a stimulant, which disrupts sleep. Additionally, smokers actually experience nicotine withdrawal as the night progresses, making it hard to sleep.

    If you’re hungry at bedtime

    For some people, a light snack before bed can help promote sleep. When you pair tryptophan–containing foods with carbohydrates, it may help calm the brain and allow you to sleep better. For others, eating before bed can lead to indigestion and make sleeping more difficult. Experiment with your food habits to determine your optimum evening meals and snacks. If you need a bedtime snack, try:

    Half a turkey sandwich

    A small bowl of whole–grain, low–sugar cereal

    Granola with low–fat milk or yogurt

    A banana


    You’ll also sleep more deeply if you exercise regularly. You don’t have to be a star athlete to reap the benefits—as little as twenty to thirty minutes of daily activity helps. And you don’t need to do all thirty minutes in one session. You can break it up into five minutes here, ten minutes there, and still get the benefits. Try a brisk walk, a bicycle ride, or even gardening or housework.


    Some people prefer to schedule exercise in the morning or early afternoon as exercising too late in the day can stimulate the body, raising its temperature. Even if you prefer not to exercise vigorously at night, don’t feel glued to the couch, though. Relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.

     How to sleep better tip 5: Get anxiety and stress in check

    Do you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. When you wake up or can’t get to sleep, take note of what seems to be the recurring theme. That will help you figure out what you need to do to get your stress and anger under control during the day:


    If you can’t stop yourself from worrying, especially about things outside your control, you need to learn how to manage your thoughts. For example, you can learn to evaluate your worries to see if they’re truly realistic and learn to replace irrational fears with more productive thoughts. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying at bedtime.


    If the stress of managing work, family, or school is keeping you awake, you need help with stress management. By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better at night.

     Relaxation techniques for better sleep

    Relaxation is beneficial for everyone, but especially for those struggling with sleep. Practicing relaxation techniques before bed is a great way to wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep.

    Some simple relaxation techniques include:

    Deep breathing. Close your eyes—and try taking deep, slow breaths—making each breath even deeper than the last.

    Progressive muscle relaxation. Starting at your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up from your feet to the top of your head.

    Visualizing a peaceful, restful place. Close your eyes and imagine a place or activity that is calming and peaceful for you. Concentrate on how relaxed this place or activity makes you feel.

    How to sleep better tip 6: Ways to get back to sleep

    It’s normal to wake briefly during the night. In fact, a good sleeper won’t even remember it. But if you’re waking up during the night and having trouble falling back asleep, the following tips may help.

    Stay out of your head. The key to getting back to sleep is continuing to cue your body for sleep, so remain in bed in a relaxed position. Hard as it may be, try not to stress over the fact that you’re awake or your inability to fall asleep again, because that very stress and anxiety encourages your body to stay awake. A good way to stay out of your head is to focus on the feelings and sensations in your body.

    Make relaxation your goal, not sleep. If you are finding it hard to fall back asleep, try a relaxation technique such as visualization, deep breathing, or meditation, which can be done without even getting out of bed. Remind yourself that although they’re not a replacement for sleep, rest and relaxation still help rejuvenate your body.

    Do a quiet, non-stimulating activity. If you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, try getting out of bed and doing a quiet, non-stimulating activity, such as reading a book. Keep the lights dim so as not to cue your body clock that it’s time to wake up. Also avoid screens of any kind—computers, TV, cell phones, iPads—as the type of light they emit is stimulating to the brain. A light snack or herbal tea might help relax you, but be careful not to eat so much that your body begins to expect a meal at that time of the day.

    Postpone worrying and brainstorming. If you wake during the night feeling anxious about something, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone worrying about it until the next day when you are fresh and it will be easier to resolve. Similarly, if a brainstorm or great idea is keeping you awake, make a note of it on paper and fall back to sleep knowing you’ll be much more productive and creative after a good night’s rest.

     How to sleep better tip 7: Know when to see a sleep doctor

    If you’ve tried the tips above, but are still struggling with sleep problems, you may have a sleep disorder that requires professional treatment. Consider scheduling a visit with a sleep doctor if, despite your best efforts at self–help, you are still troubled by any of the following symptoms:


    Persistent daytime sleepiness or fatigue

    Loud snoring accompanied by pauses in breathing

    Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

    Unrefreshing sleep

    Frequent morning headaches

    Crawling sensations in your legs or arms at night

    Inability to move while falling asleep or waking up

    Physically acting out dreams during sleep

    Falling asleep at inappropriate times

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  • KatWAGKatWAG Chicago member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Has your H been fitted for a mouth guard? My H was snoring badly and it was waking me up every night. I just couldnt get a good nights rest. He went to the dentist and was fitted for a month guard. Now he doesnt snore and we both sleep better.
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