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Can’t sleep? Here’s what to do.

Sleep is an important aspect of life. W. Chris Winter, a neurologist, sleep specialist and author of several books on sleep, including The Rested Child, says that sleep is the most important thing on the earth with the exception of food and sex. He has several reasons to explain when it comes to proving that sleep is an integral and inevitable part of a day. When you don’t get enough sleep, you put yourself at risk for a variety of problems, including type two diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression.

Even if you’re doing everything you can to promote a good night’s sleep, such as exercising regularly, sleeping on a schedule, avoiding alcohol at night, sleeping in lower temperatures and keeping your room dark and quiet, getting a good night’s sleep might be difficult.

It doesn’t matter if you miss a cupcake or a meal once in a while. It will be fatal if either becomes the standard. Sleep is the same way, Dr. Winter says, noting that the difference between insomnia and sleeplessness is the level of anxiety you choose to bring to the issue.

That doesn’t make the inability to snooze any less aggravating. If you’re experiencing problems, here are some things you should and shouldn’t do right now.

Just take it easy for the time being.

Even if sleep is eluding you, you may not believe that closing your eyes and lying in bed has any benefit, but relaxing is extremely beneficial from a physical and cognitive standpoint, according to Dr. Winter, who believes that people place far too much importance on sleeping techniques. Resting is a technique for allowing your body and mind to unwind.
‘If it’s difficult not to sleep, all we have to do is let ourselves off the hook and accept the fact that we’ll remain awake in bed,’ he says.

Dr. Winter adds that we should cross unconsciousness off our list of goals before going to bed. ‘I would recommend stay in bed if you don’t mind being awake, thinking, meditating, praying and thinking about your celebrity infatuation,’ Dr. Winter advises.

Keep your distance from the screens.

If you’ve been tossing and turning all night and still haven’t gotten any sleep, you might want to reach for the remote or pull out your phone for some mindless scrolling to pass the time. Don’t.

Kuljeet (Kelly) Gill, a sleep medicine specialist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, advises against using electronics or bright light devices because that glowing light, also known as blue light, can disrupt sleep even more by suppressing the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycles.

Use your bed only to sleep.

One of the most common sleep blunders is using the bed for purposes other than sleeping. (Alright, and sex, too.) ‘Go to bed exclusively to sleep,’ advises Alcibiades J. Rodriguez, FAASM, Medical Director of the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center-Sleep Center and Associate Professor of Neurology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

The trouble is, slipping between the blankets should signal that it’s time to sleep. If you do something else soon before bed, such as work on your laptop or eat a snack, your brain will start to associate your resting location with something other than what it was designed for.

Get up from your bed.

It can be beneficial to only be in bed for a certain amount of time if you’re having problems going off to sleep at the start of the night or getting back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night.
‘Get up and leave the bed and do something calming, low energy, and in dim light such as reading, meditation, or deep breathing,’ adds Dr. Gill, if sleep isn’t happening after around 20 minutes. Dr. Rodriguez adds, ‘Don’t look at the clock.’

Counting down the minutes and hours might increase your anxiety and lengthen the time it takes to transition from wakefulness to sleep.

When should you go to bed again?

Dr. Winter dislikes setting a time limit on a situation. He explains, that it simply adds to the tension. ‘If you’re tired, I’d recommend going back to bed. If not, don’t worry about it and stay up as late as you want.’

Being in bed and not falling asleep immediately away, or waking up in the middle of the night is not bad. It isn’t even a difficult task.
‘It’s just the way it is,’ Dr. Winter explains. ‘What is tough is the work that certain people must undertake to break free from this type of thinking.’ It is something that the majority of people do not wish to do.


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