Is Your Body Keeping you Awake? Sleep Better!

Sleeping badly ruins the next day. Today, I am writing about how your body interferes with your night’s rest.

It is the rare adult who does not have occasional back, neck, or joint pain. Some of us wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Some of us wake up bloated in the middle of the night. Many adults get up to pee, when they should be sleeping. We humans are not designed to do many of the activities that we do all day. We were not designed to eat three meals a day.

Daily practices that help sleep:

         Daytime stress reductionThere are millions of pages written about how to keep your mind clear. Having a routine for clearing the mind helps sleep, too.

Exercise: Some people sleep better if they exercise first thing in the morning; some do better exercising at the end of the day. This is another place where experimenting will help. Make one change and stick with it for a month before judging how it affects your sleep.

        Meditation or meditative practice: Try one of the many, many apps on the phone to regulate your breathing and get you meditating. My favorite is Breathe+. Another popular one is Calm. Give it five minutes a day for a month. If you like it, go up to twenty minutes once or twice a day. Remember to set all  your devices to switch to night settings.

Some people can’t do a sitting meditation, because being in silence or quiet makes them anxious. If you are like that, start with something that requires movement, like Tai Chi, or Qi Gong, or yoga. You can get access to these practices by video, so they are available to try on the cheap. Then, get better guidance for something that clicks for you.

You won’t feel a difference for at least a month, and maybe more. Stick with a practice for a whole season before judging if it affects your sleep.

Feel good to sleep well

Here are some general pointers on nutrition and pain management. (Many of us need professional care from a doctor or other practitioner to address specific nutritional needs and our own particular physical pain.)

       When do you eat? This affects many people, but your mileage may vary.

Personally, I don’t sleep well unless I ate a full dinner within about five hours of bedtime. A heavy lunch with a light dinner doesn’t do it for me. Other people find they sleep poorly if their dinner is too heavy. Figure out the relationship between dinner and your sleep quality.

I drink clear fluids with until about two hours before bed, then stop. I generally don’t eat after dinner, but if I do, I avoid white sugars, chocolate, or caffeine.

       Pain management: Pain and tension are personal. Some people have chronic pain or chronic areas where pain comes and goes. Every adult needs a bag of tricks to control pain. At very least, every adult needs to control it long enough to get a night’s rest.

Any sudden change in pain is a medical issue. Today, I am addressing the normal wear and tear kind of pain that many people experience. If something hurts a lot or differently, it is time to talk to a professional.

Daily tension can be made better with one or more of these:

hot shower

  1. Heat: By the end of the day, most people have tense muscles. A nightly hot shower or going to bed and/or a heated pad will reduce the tension most of us have in our upper backs and necks.
  2. Cold: If you have muscle pain, you may have swelling. Twenty minutes of resting on ice reduces swelling. However, if you are then going to sleep, apply heat after icing. It will not undo the benefit from the ice.
    • Here’s a link about how to make your own hot or cold packs. You can also purchase these items.
  3. Stretching: Stretching regularly reduces pain from normal wear and tear on your soft tissues. Locate a set of stretches that address the places where you hold tension all day. You can find them online. They can be from yoga practice or from physical therapy. You can strengthen your neck in a few minutes a day, too. You only need three to five of them and they will only take five minutes to do. There are thousands of these videos on line, so poke around until you find the ones that fit you.
    • Get in the habit of stretching every day at the same point in the day. That may be when you get home from work, before dinner, after dinner, when you stop using the computer or television for the night, as soon as the kids are in bed, or whatever is a point where you want to signal your body that busy time is over. Some people want to stretch every morning to get started. Other people find it hard to stretch at that time of day. Try one time of day for a week, then switch if it isn’t helping.
  4. Using creams and ointments: There are many different ointments and creams to treat tight muscles and pain. Here’s how to choose:
      1. Smell. I suggest you start with smell. Some people are annoyed by the active ingredient of pain relief creams. The ones designed to provide heat have strong smells from eucalyptus, tiger balm, menthol, or wintergreen. If the active ingredient smells bad to you, move on. Look for the smallest size tube of a cream if you can’t find samples where you shop.
      2. Effectiveness for pain. Try one type of pain cream at a time. There are so many choices!

Some popular cream ingredients:

Arnica, which promotes healing and is good for injuries and bruises.

CBD, which acts as a pain reliever and reduces inflammation.

Menthol, mints, and other heat rubs, which relax muscles and supports healing. Follow directions about using these when you are also using ice or heating pads.

Magnesium, which relaxes muscles and will also induce sleep. This is great for pain that keeps you up at night.

4. Texture and comfort. Once you find the active ingredient that works for you, then find the cream texture and scent that pleases you.

Once you land on a cream or ointment that settles your pain, apply it as needed, during the day and before you go to sleep.

Leave a Reply