"I can’t fall asleep at night"
Over the past 1.5 months, our reality has completely shifted, and low sleep quality is a top complaint. Is COVID-19 news keeping you up? Are your kids challenging you? Or is school becoming overwhelming? I was jet-lagged for the first week I was back home, so my sleep debt kept accumulating. Whether it’s jet lag, stress, anxiety, or a poor environment, many factors affect our sleep patterns. Figuring out the root cause can help you determine your next steps for better sleep.
You’re thinking when you should be inducing a sleep state.
Do you feel super exhausted? But the moment your head hits your pillow, every thought imaginable pops up? It happens. Engaging in those thoughts rather than quieting your mind is a common trap. Counting sheep seems like an age-old joke, but it follows similar principles to meditation. The purpose is to maintain focus on something until you drift off into a deeper sleep state. Try focusing on your breath, counting numbers, or disengaging from thoughts that require mental energy. I meditate by focusing on any sensations in my body.
You might be deficient in this mineral.
Sleep problems are not uncommon. According to this study, up to 50% of the population struggles with insomnia (1a). Researchers introduced magnesium supplements to older adults and noticed an improvement in sleep efficiency (1b). My magnesium levels are low, according to my most recent blood test. I started taking 200 mg of magnesium glycinate (the brand I use) and immediately noticed deeper sleep. One side effect for me was vivid dreams, but this can dissipate over time. I recommend getting a blood test done in the next few months to see if you have any vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Before starting any supplement, research which form is best for you. For example, check out the differences between magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate.
You’re stressed or anxious or both.
The collective anxiety you might be feeling from COVID-19 is understandable. I remember being in the city and feeling this progressive unease. My sleep quality began to decline at the beginning of March. Finding ways to destress during the day and before you sleep is essential. Setting a night routine can be useful. One technique that I learned in my high school theater class is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). PMR involves “voluntary stretching and relaxation of large muscle groups in the human body from hands to feet” (1c). It helps to take your time while tensing your feet then relaxing them to your head.
Your mattress is the problem.
Over the past few years, I started sleeping on memory foam mattresses. You have to choose the right size, company, price range, depth, type (i.e. firm or soft), ensure it doesn’t have an excess of flame retardants, etc. Even though there are several small changes you can make to improve your sleep, investing in a suitable mattress is better for the long-term. This study discusses how new bedding improved sleep quality and reduced back discomfort (1d).
Your body is still running on caffeine.
Caffeine has a half-life of up to 5+ hours. If you consume 200 mg of caffeine at noon, then you’ll have 100 mg of caffeine in your system at 5 pm and 50 mg at 10 pm. Drink caffeine as early as possible, lessen your daily intake, and recognize your reactions. I'm jittery when I drink a small cup of coffee, so I stick to something that doesn’t create a steep rise in energy, followed by a quick crash. Green tea is my go-to if I need a caffeine fix.