This time of year with the busy holiday season, you might find yourself having trouble sleeping. It may be difficult to fall asleep due to your mind busy thinking about all the things you have to do the next day, or you might awaken during the night and have trouble falling back to sleep. Most people need 8 hours of sleep each night for our body’s cells to recover and rejuvenate. If you have pain or other health issues, then it is especially important to get a full night of sleep. Here are some tips to help you fall asleep easily so you can be refreshed and alert the next day. If you have children then these tips could come in handy on Christmas Eve to calm those anxious little minds!
1. Start dimming your lights 45-60 minutes prior to your bedtime. A good way to automatically dim your computer screen every night is to download the f.lux free software which gradually modifies your monitor throughout the 24 hour daily cycle. It changes your monitor’s light level from its normal cool brightness in the afternoon to a warm dimmer level at night. The warmer level is also comfortable for your eyes when using your computer at night.
2. Turn off all lights except a red or orange light 30 minutes before bedtime. Your body needs darkness to increase melatonin, which is a hormone needed to help you fall asleep. Most lighting can prohibit melatonin production but warm hues of orange, yellow, and especially red allow more melatonin production than other colors. Cooler colors, on the other hand, are more blocking of melatonin, and blue is the worst offender. It is best to avoid blue light at night. There are several ways to achieve warm-colored light. Incandescent bulbs and candlelight are warm-hued lights. Avoid the newer lighting technology of LED and compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs because they emit much blue light. If you must use the cooler bulbs, then cover them with a red or orange lampshade or scarf in the evenings. The best use of lighting to help ensure a good night’s sleep is exposure to bright cool (blue) lighting during the day and dim warm (red) lighting at night. [Please note: This is a correction to how this paragraph was previously worded. I previously stated here that all light except blue light should be avoided at night, which is quite the opposite of what you should do!] More info here.
3. Start dimming all screens — computer, smartphone, TV, tablets — 2-3 hours before bedtime. These items stimulate your mind and keep you awake and alert. New research has shown that exposure to computers, iPads, e-Readers, and smartphones before bedtime can adversely affect your alertness and wakefulness the next day. Even if you are able to sleep 8 hours after using these types of screens, your sleep would most likely be of poor quality. Insufficiency of good quality sleep has been linked to greater health problems including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. More info here.
4. Read a book at bedtime or during the night if you wake up and can’t fall easily back to sleep. Reading is calming and can promote sleep, as long as the words you read are printed on paper.
5. Massage your ears. This is a Chinese medicine technique to calm your mind, relieve stress, and promote sleep. Place your thumbs on the “front” of your ears and your index and middle fingers on the “back” of your ears. Gently rub both ears in a circular motion for 1-2 minutes, moving your fingers and thumbs to massage all surfaces of the ears, including deep inside and along the edges. This will stimulate hundreds of acupuncture points on the ears to put your body and mind into better balance. Your ears will become warm, and your brain waves will change from the beta waves of wakefulness and activity to the alpha waves of relaxation and sleep. Ear massage is also a quick way to relieve stress during the day.
Acupuncture can resolve many types of insomnia. It is one of the most common conditions we treat. Click here to read about how acupuncture can help you sleep better and to see more tips for a better night’s sleep.