Medicated No More: How to Sleep Without Sedatives
If you suffer from sleep deprivation, you know how badly a poor night of rest can affect your physical and mental well-being. But sleeping pills carry the potential for addiction, and you can’t get rid of the kids, even if they wake you up at 5AM by climbing into bed with you.
Despite long-term sleeplessness, there are ways to settle down and soothe yourself to sleep without medication.
Addressing environmental factors
Tossing, turning, sweating, and perking your ears up at every little noise are a few good signs that your inability to sleep has something to do with your environment. Discomfort, excessive sound, light, heat, and even dry air can leave you lying in bed with the lights off but your mind on.
Make a list of all the things that bother you throughout the night, and take steps to remedy them. For instance, barking dogs and too-loud music from next door may be eliminated with earplugs. If you find it hard to breathe or routinely wake to a dry mouth or irritated skin, add a humidifier to the bedroom. Sleeping with a humidifier is perfectly safe as long as you use the right kind of water, monitor humidity levels, and keep backup filters handy so your machine’s filter can be changed as needed.
Other factors to consider include your bedding, room temperature, and light infiltration. The vast majority of people sleep better in a room that is around 68° on a bed outfitted with moisture-wicking cotton sheets. Blackout curtains and light music or a noise machine can also eliminate outside disturbances.
Is snoring something more?
Snoring isn’t just an inconvenience to everyone within earshot. ResMed explains that even light snoring can contribute to poor sleep, fatigue, and issues concentrating. Snoring can sometimes be eased by shifting to your side and using a pillow that supports the neck and head. Losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing your alcohol intake are also known to lead to a silent night.
While snoring is often no cause for concern, snoring that regularly jolts you from sleep may be a sign of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that leaves you oxygen deprived overnight. Your airways become blocked and, as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine explains in this sleep apnea overview, you may awaken hundreds of times each night. Not only can sleep apnea have negative health consequences, such as depression and high blood pressure, but it can also be fatal. Talk to your doctor if you suspect sleep apnea. They can prescribe devices, such as a CPAP machine, that can keep your airways open through the night.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is sleeping with a partner who snores, which can leave you lingering in an unwelcome state of alertness. Failure to get enough sleep, especially if due to someone else’s action, can lead to a bad mood and a strained relationship. There is no shame in moving to a different bedroom if it means better sleep.
Dreams by routine
Your children have a bedtime routine that probably involves a warm bath, a story, snuggles, and 1,000 kisses good night. Adults, too, should have a predictable regimen. Your bedtime routine doesn’t have to be elaborate. Even just 15 minutes with a good book and a cup of hot tea in a dimly-lit room may be enough to ease you into the overnight hours. Whatever you can do to relieve stress and decompress will help you check your worries at the door and make better use of your bed. The occasional sleepless night is nothing to worry about, but when your sleep deficit begins to interfere with your daily life, it’s time to take steps to reclaim your nights. Before you resort to pharmaceutical intervention, try making changes to your environment. You may just find that something as simple as earplugs and a humidifier are all you need to improve the quality of your sleep… and life.