Beat These Four Sleep Thieves and Sleep Better Tonight

Patient Expert
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No one would choose to have insomnia or interrupted sleep. Not only does it make you feel tired, it can damage your health, your work, and your relationships. Here is a list of four common sleep thieves and how you can keep them out of your bedroom forever.

Sleep Thief #1: Thinking too much at bedtime

If bedtime has become a time when your mind begins to obsess over every relationship or work project, then thinking too much is your sleep thief. A trick to overcome this is to get OUT of bed when the thoughts begin. Keep lights dim, go to another part of the house, and relax. When the thoughts stop, go back to bed. This process, called stimulus control, will help break the bad habit of associating bed with racing thoughts.

Sleep Thief #2: Sleeping in

It’s easy to sleep in on weekends, days off, and especially on vacations. But doing so can throw off your internal sleep clock, resulting in the inability to fall asleep at the normal time, as well as making you feel like a zombie during the day. To stop this thief, don’t sleep more than an hour longer than usual. If you feel tired later on, take a catnap, but no longer than 30 minutes.

Sleep Thief #3: Your pets

If Fido or Miss Kitty are considered family members, chances are high they sleep in your bed or in your room at night. This can cause difficulty falling asleep, as well as interrupted sleep. Animals have their own sleep/wake cycles and nightly habits that can disturb our sleep. Even though you love them, have your animals sleep in their own areas, in crates, the hall, or a separate room.

Sleep Thief #4: Light sensitivity

When all of the lights in your bedroom are turned off, does it still ‘glow?’ It may be hard to believe, but even small lights from DVD players, computers, clocks and street lamps can keep you awake. Retinas can detect light even when your eyes are closed, which signals the brain to stay awake. Shut off electronics or place small blankets over lights. For outside lights, invest in some blackout curtains, in necessary.

A final note

If any of these scenarios are robbing you of sleep, don't hesitate to address them. Do all you can to make sure your sleeping environment and nightly routine are as they should be. If insomnia persists, consider talking to a doctor or sleep professional. Life is too short to walk around sleep deprived.