The classic shut-eye struggle. You either know someone or are that person who struggles to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Below are five strategies from Moffitt Cancer Center nurse researcher Tina Mason to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
1. Become aware of age-related sleep changes - When you get older your body will naturally want to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. You don’t get that same deep sleep in the middle of the night that you would have when you were younger. To make up for the lower quality of sleep, you will want to take naps in the middle of the day. Suggested naptime ranges from 15-45 minutes because after that you start to affect the sleep you get at night. Lifestyle changes such as retirement can slow your schedule and your body down. People will sleep more when they are more social during the day because clubs or activities help with social wellbeing.
2. Avoid caffeine after 4 p.m. and food at least two hours before bed - When you get older your body can become more sensitive to caffeine. Alcohol, chocolate and some teas are often common nighttime cravings that can have stimulant effects. Feelings of fullness and lack of digestion can also keep you awake.
3. Write down your reoccurring thoughts - Many patients can get anxiety the day before surgery and have trouble falling asleep. If your mind wanders at night and your thoughts keep racing for what needs to get done the next day, write down those thoughts so that your brain can release it and it’ll be easier to fall back asleep.
4. Meditation apps – Apps such as Mysleepbutton will help distract you from your anxieties and help your mind stop wandering at night. Use apps that provide soothing sounds such as ocean waves or rain sounds to relax the mind and provide a calming white noise in the background. There are also apps that will walk you through a relaxation period to provide progressive muscle relaxation.
5. Do not sleep with the TV on all night - Flashing lights and noise will affect your brain and you won’t be able to get the best possible sleep. Reading for 10-15 minutes will make you drowsier and help you fall asleep. Try to eliminate electronic screen time right before bed as well.
If you have more serious issues such as anxiety or insomnia, contact the Supportive Care Medicine department at Moffitt. For more information or to request to schedule an appointment or consultation, call 1-888-663-3488.
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