Sleeping is not just one of my favorite hobbies; it’s a life necessity, and it should be that way for everyone. When you sleep, your body and mind works miracles, not to mention dreaming can be pretty cool. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH) says that getting enough sleep is essential in boosting your immune system, healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels, and reducing the risk of obesity and diabetes. Of course, getting enough sleep also helps you learn better and makes you less likely to make rash decisions.
It’s understandable that so many people don’t get enough sleep in this day and age. We work, we have to take care of living spaces, we might have children and/or pets to take care of, and we have social lives and relationships we need to tend to. Smartphones don’t really help us with sleep either—some of us HAVE to get our Facebook/Twitter/other social media fixes right before bed, and it can be damn addicting.
Though I still struggle with getting enough sleep all. the. time., my diagnosis with sleep apnea in the spring of 2014 made me realize how much I’ve taken the necessity of sleep for granted. If it wasn’t for my boyfriend complaining about my snoring, I would’ve never gone to the doctor to get it checked out. After going to a specialist and taking a sleep test, I received my diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is diagnosed by the number of times you wake up per hour to breathe (pAHI). 5-15 apneas means your sleep apnea is mild, 15-30 is moderate, and anything above 30 is severe.
My pAHI measured at 53.7.
Pretty scary, right? I have experienced the times where I’ve woken up gasping for air. Sleep apnea is characterized by the failure of muscles in the back of the throat to open up to let air in and out, and tissues block that passageway instead. There are quite a few sleep disorders out there, but sleep apnea is actually a rather common one. Sleepdex says that 1 in 15 Americans suffer from sleep apnea, or 18 million Americans.
If you think you have sleep apnea, even a mild case of it, please don’t hesitate to see your doctor. If you do have it, please have no shame in it as it is very common. We all deserve a good night’s sleep to help us get through our daily lives. Whether you have a sleep disorder or not and need some suggestions on getting some better sleep, I’m sharing some of my personal tips on how I get some shuteye. Of course, feel free to share some of your own in the comments!
Here’s to sweet dreams, friends.
[If you have sleep apnea, particularly moderate to severe] Use your CPAP machine.
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines are the most common treatment for sleep apnea. You put on a mask over your nose, and a tube connects from the mask to a machine that delivers a constant stream of pressurized air to help you breathe better as you sleep. It will feel weird at first and it will take some getting used to, but I know I definitely feel so much better in the morning after I use it (Even though I wake up a drooling mess for some reason). Hopefully your health insurance will cover a portion of the device. If not, you can purchase through an online outlet like CPAP.com. Be sure to replace parts every six months or so for optimal performance and your most well-rested self.
[If your sleep apnea is mild] Sleep on your side.
When you sleep on your back, gravity pulls the tongue and other tissue into the breathing passage, causing snoring and apnea. If you can, sleep on your side instead. One suggestion is to make a sleep shirt by placing a tennis ball into a pocket sewn on the lower back of a t-shirt. It should make you uncomfortable sleeping on it and prompt you to sleep on your side. (Okay, I actually never tried this myself, but it was in the handout the sleep specialist gave me. Go figure!)
Drink some tea.
A mix of hot water and soothing herbs before bed is a classic remedy to send you off into a good night. You don’t have to go into a fancy tea shop to get your sleepy potion. Your local drugstore or grocery store will have some specialized teas. Be on the lookout for ones containing chamomile, valerian root, and/or lavender. My personal favorite is Tone It Up’s Perfect Fit Tea. The Unwind nighttime blend contains sweet notes of vanilla and coconut in a blend of chamomile and chicory. You’ll also get the Awaken green tea blend to drink the next morning!
Avoid the caffeine.
This should be a no-duh when it comes to getting good sleep, but it can be overlooked when you have a Coke at dinner time (Don’t worry, I’m totally guilty). Switch the Coke or Starbucks for that nighttime tea, a glass of juice, or some water. A good rule of thumb is to avoid any caffeinated beverages after 6PM, perhaps even earlier if you are caffeine sensitive.
Take a sleep aid.
There are over-the-counter remedies you can take if you find it hard to catch some zzz’s. Influenster sent me a complimentary sample of ZzzQuil liquid caplets, which I found to be helpful one night. After I took it, I literally blinked once to fall asleep and woke up early the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to go about my day. Another great thing about ZzzQuil is that it’s non-habit forming. That is one quality you’d want to look for in any over-the-counter medication, as dependency can be dangerous.
Listen to some relaxing music.
Create a playlist of the tunes that relax you and play it on your phone or laptop to help you doze off. If it’s too much work to create your own playlist, search for a Pandora or Apple Music station to be your DJ. My favorite method is using the Spotify app and browsing the Sleep, Mood, and Focus sections for already-made playlists of atmospheric music.
One of my new favorite smartphone apps is the Calm app. With this app, you can switch between different relaxing scenes (Such as beaches, lakes, and fields) and guided meditations for any situation. There are a few meditations available specifically to help relax and release you for sleep. Bonus: You can even download a few scenes containing serene music to put you to sleep!
Use a sleep tracker.
I received the Up by Jawbone fitness and sleep tracker in my special edition POPSUGAR Fit New Year box and it is truly a miracle worker. I put it on before I go to bed and when I wake up, the corresponding app tells me how long I’ve slept, how many times I’ve woken up, and how many hours of light and deep sleep I’ve gotten. It’s easy to track my progress (Or lack thereof sometimes) and the Smart Coach offers doable suggestions for me to get back on track or build on my goals. Up gives me a simple and lovely visual representation of my sleep patterns, and it makes me even more motivated to do better for the next evening.
(Featured image source: Pexels | All other images: Karen Datangel)