We Break Down Your Sleep Concern—And Explain How to Deal With It
Is it persistent back pain? Night sweats? Do you find yourself unable to relax and spend most evenings restless in bed? These are some of the most common sleep concerns, shared by many around the world. But don’t worry, there are ways to solve these problems, and some of them are very simple.
You're a sweaty sleeperOvernight, our body temperature shifts as we move through our sleep cycle. This is normal. But, outside of getting a little warmer (and a little cooler), some people may find that they are overheating in their sleep. Though it can be a sign of a serious health condition, usually it’s down to one simple thing: environment.
How warm is your bedroom? And how warm is your bed? Are you sleeping under a mountain of heavy blankets in cosy pyjamas? Do you sleep with a window open? Is your room getting enough ventilation? All of these things could be making your sleep environment overly warm, which could be causing you to sweat in your sleep.
An easy fix is to switch from heavy flannel bedding to something a little lighter, like linen. Thanks to linen’s moisture wicking qualities, it promotes air flow around your body and dries quickly, meaning that if you do sweat, it will help keep the air moving to cool you down. Problem solved.
Be sure to ensure your environment is also optimised for sleep—that means all tech devices put away (or at least turned off, as these create heat), a room temperature of around 18 degrees celcius (our bodies need to cool down to sleep, and if this isn't possible, crack open a window or invest an an inexpensive but hard-working fan) and shower or bath before bed, to let your body know it's now time to relax.
You're experiencing persistent back painIf you are suffering from persistent back pain, your bed itself could be part of the problem. You need to look at the quality of your mattress and pillows and think about investing in something sturdy and durable that will give you the support you need.
Beyond that it’s about positioning yourself in the most comfortable way to help you sleep well. If you have back pain, you are going to need to avoid lying on your front as it will put pressure on your spine. Lie on your back with a pillow underneath your knees or on your side with a pillow beneath your legs to help ease the strain on your back.
A sore back might also be linked to a sedentary lifestyle (hello office job) so make sure you're exercising regularly or at least moving throughout the course of your day. Of course, if back pain persists the best port of call is your GP, who will be able to give you a correct diagnosis and treatment plan.
You can’t relaxA lot of us get into bed in the evening only to find that we can’t switch off. It can be a combination of things, from big anxieties to the little stresses of the day, but they all add up, and the result is an evening spent in bed, tense and unable to sleep.
For some people, using a meditation app or listening to a calm podcast helps them unwind. A long, hot bath can do the same trick, especially after a tough day. But one of the best things you can do is to avoid screen time in the evening. If you’re getting into bed and unable to relax, and you’re doing it after a few hours spent streaming something on your laptop or scrolling mindlessly on your phone, it could be an indicator that you’re having too much screentime. Put your devices away and try reading a book to unwind instead.
You are battling light and noise pollutionLiving in a big city is fantastic: the coffee, the night life, the possibilities every single day. But it also means that you have to battle light and noise pollution in the evenings when you’re trying to sleep. In particular, noise will impede regularly sleeping patterns because it prevents our brains from fully switching off.
There are couple of practical things you can do to help. The first is to make sure that you have solid curtains or blinds that block out the light and help you to make a sleep environment that will help you get some rest. You can also look into purchasing a white noise machine, which will block out excessive noise by playing a continuous ambient sound, usually a humming or a whirring noise not unlike an airconditioning unit.
But, like Occam’s razor, the best solution is the simplest one. Get some earplugs and an eye mask. Nothing fancy, no bells and whistles, but both of these little things will go far to blocking out noise and light pollution so that you can sleep soundly.
You're constantly waking upThe worst thing you can do if you find yourself constantly waking up in the middle of the night is to look at your phone. Light of any kind of going to tell your body that you should be awake, and it will make it harder to fall back to sleep. Though it’s a natural impulse to check your phone and scroll for a bit, you need to resist it when you can.
Waking up in the middle of the night is usually a sign of light sleep and restless thoughts. If your brain is whirring, try keeping a pen and paper by your bed so that you can jot some of these thoughts down and get them out of your head. Now is also a great time to do some in-bed, lying-down deep breathing exercises that will help to calm you down and unwind.
The key thing is to make sure that this doesn’t become a habit. Waking up once or twice in the middle of the night is a common enough thing, but once it happens a few times in a row it can make a dint in your natural circadian rhythms and force you into a new sleep routine.
You're frequenting the bathroomOne of the ways our sleep patterns can be disrupted is by needing to go to the bathroom. It’s a natural thing but it can be completely avoided by making some very simple changes to your nighttime routine.
First things first: go to the bathroom before you go to bed. Sounds obvious, right? But so many of us skip this step, and wake up in the middle of the night needing to go to the bathroom. You should also rethink what you are eating and drinking before bed. Any foods with a high liquid content, like soups or fruit, and caffeine-high drinks like black tea - which you shouldn’t be drinking late at night anyway - will serve as diuretics.
Try to limit how much you’re drinking in the hour or so before bedtime, and always remember to go to the bathroom. Trust us, your bladder will thank you later.
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If you are concerned about your health, wellbeing or sleep, your first port of call should be your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan.