All About Creating Healthier Sleeping Habits

Ask an Expert: All About Creating Healthier Sleeping Habits

There is rarely any instant fix when you're having trouble sleeping, and if you're a light sleeper, it can be especially important to foster healthy sleeping habits. How do you stop checking your phone at 2AM and start making sleep a priority?

Here to help answer that question is founder Firas Kittaneh from Amerisleep, which advocates incorporating good sleeping habits into a healthy lifestyle; the Amerisleep team often discuss how to do so on their blog. We're addressing some common reader question around sleep.


My partner snores like a lawn mower. Usually I pile pillows on my head or have to go to the spare room. Help?

Snoring can definitely be challenge to sleep through. If you don't mind earbuds, try listening to ambient noise or nature sounds, or there's always trusty earplugs. You could try gently rolling your partner on their side if it's a positional thing, but if you notice heavy snoring that sounds like they stop breathing occasionally, bring it to their attention as it could be a sign of sleep apnoea.


What do you recommend for problems staying asleep? I get to sleep just fine but wake up regularly at 2-4AM and then back to sleep between 5-7AM. How do I stay asleep?

What you describe sounds like a common type of insomnia, sleep maintenance insomnia, which refers to trouble staying asleep. First, make sure there's nothing in your environment that's causing you to wake up — does light come in through your windows around that time? Does the temperature change? Is it environmental noise? Alcohol and certain medications can also interfere with the later cycles of sleep. If nothing else seems to explain it, chat with your doc or a sleep professional.


I sleep on my stomach in a Rockclimber/Spiderman position, and I feel it is going to be an issue later in life causing back problems or troubles sleeping. I would like to sleep on my side or back ideally. What is the best way to correct this?

Sleep position preference can be hard to change but you could start gravitating toward side sleeping by hugging a spare pillow for support. This can help prevent you from rolling all the way onto your stomach. Make sure your other pillow supports you head well so it doesn't bother your neck or shoulder, as side sleeping usually calls for a thicker pillow than stomach sleeping.


As a past insomniac, sleep has always been a focus of mine. I've gone from getting only an hour of sleep to consistently sleeping from 10-11pm to 6am. Quantity is fine now, quality is the concern. I've purchased a quality mattress, adjusted the temperature of my room to my liking, chosen the perfect pillow. My question is : Is there a location in a bedroom that is best for getting a goodnight's sleep?

That's awesome that you've improved your sleep! It's not always easy but definitely worthwhile. The best place in your bedroom will ultimately be where it's darkest and quietest. If you don't have blackout curtains, perhaps a position that doesn't face a window. If you have noisy neighbours or a wall facing a busy street, it's probably best to position the bed away from that. Drafts from windows or vents can also be bothersome for some people.


I toss and turn a lot when I sleep. Is there anything I can do to calm myself down so I'm not switching sides every five minutes?

If it's your mind that keeps you up, maybe give guided visualisation, deep breathing or mindfulness meditation a try. There are many free apps and downloads out there to help. Check out these university websites with free resources.


I grind my teeth. For many years I have been waking up after decent-to-full night (7-9 hrs) of sleep, with a persistent feeling of tiredness which often lasts (or comes and goes) throughout the day. I suspect the bruxism is the main culprit; nothing else comes to mind. How can I deal with this? It's subconscious!

If you haven't already, definitely talk with your dentist about the best ways to reduce the side effects of bruxism. If you suspect it's related to stress, maybe try incorporating more relaxing activities into your evening. Guided relaxation, music relaxation, mindfulness mediation, light yoga and deep breathing have all been studied for stress and sleep showing at least moderate benefits. Caffeine and alcohol are also believed to exacerbate the effects.


I recently found that I'm snoring occasionally. I've never been a snorer and have actually been praised for how quietly I sleep. I come from a family of snorers and I know how destructive it can be. Is there anything I can to do stop this development and avoid becoming a nightly snorer? The thought of snoring terrifies me!

If it's an unusual habit for you, you might try checking the indoor humidity levels in your bedroom. Dry sinuses can be fairly common in the winter if you live in a colder climate and run the heater. Try a cold mist humidifier and see if that helps. Otherwise, consider always nasal strips, making sure your pillow isn't putting your head at a weird angle, and sleeping on your side.


I usually wake up at 6am and go to sleep sometime between 11 and 12. Sometimes I wake up really groggy and slow and other mornings I'm wide awake and energised. I can't seem to nail the time down. What seems to work one night doesn't work the next. I always seem to get my best rest the night of a time change which seems weird to me. Suggestions? How do I beat that 2 pm nap from taking me over?

If you head to bed around 11 or 12 PM and wake at 6AM, you're giving yourself less than 7 hours of sleep. Maybe try working in extra 30 minutes or an hour to see if a more sleep is actually what your body needs. The average sleep need for adults is seven to nine hours — some can get by on seven or less but many of us need more. Also, if it's practical for you, a short 2PM nap isn't necessarily a bad thing either. Naps can help boost energy for the second half of your day, but are best kept under 30 minutes.


I very often cannot stay awake in the evening but then wake up several times during the night. Is there anything I can do to help firstly stay awake, then secondly stay asleep!

Difficulty staying asleep can have a few different causes. First, take a look at your bedroom. Check for sources of noise, light or drafts that could be waking you up. Earplugs or a sound conditioner, light blocking shades or an eye mask, dropping room temperature and ensuring your pillows/mattress are in good shape can help.

Waking up often and feeling fatigued during the day can also be signs of sleep apnoea, so that might be something to rule out, too. Certain sleep apps will record audio when they sense disturbance, so this could help you get an idea of what's causing you to wake.

To stay awake, short early afternoon naps and bright lights can help as can physical activity. Try not to use caffeine to stay up since this can backfire come bedtime!


I used to have a job with rotating shift work, wherein every 2-month cycle, I'd have to work overnights for 10 hours, for 8 days straight. I've been done with the job for a couple of years now, but ever since, I have trouble sleeping through the night. I can get to sleep fine, but usually wake up by 3-4AM, often wide awake and unable to get back to sleep. Any suggestions?

Shift work is a pretty popular area of sleep research recently since night and rotating shifts can have a significant impact on sleep and health. Since you're no longer in that cycle, you could try a few of the sleep hygiene tricks like getting direct sunlight during the day to help align your sleep clock (one recent study said working near a window was best), getting regular exercise and skipping stimulants.

More extreme measures could include trying to "reset" your sleep clock when you have time off work or with the help of a sleep therapist. There are different ways people suggest doing this including gradually move your bedtime forward to push your wake time forward, or moving your bedtime backwards gradually until your wake time is where you want it.


Comments

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