If you are a light sleeper you know the value of a good night’s sleep. You cannot explain the struggle that you go through every night to the unsympathetic heavy sleepers around you who can sleep through a disastrous earthquake. The sound of water dripping in the kitchen, the dog barking in the next street or even your roommate snoring across the hall can all mean one thing to you: a sleepless night.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end in there. Waking up in the morning you feel low and exhausted. The high caffeine coffee that you keep in the cupboard especially for such days got finished in a week and can give only 2 hours of energy; 3 if you are really lucky. You can’t help but be jealous of those in your office appearing fresh in the morning after a good rest. If you are such a person you are not alone.
What Causes You to Be a Light Sleeper?
Researchers could not yet put a finger on the reason why some people lose sleep over small disturbances while others can sleep through a wailing siren. But they have found that there are some factors that can make a person light sleeper. They are:
Sleep irregularities are found to pass down to generations. So genetics is a crucial factor that influences the sleeping pattern of a person.
The Sleeping Disorder
A light sleeper may be a person with a sleeping disorder. Insomnia, sleep apnoea, Restless Leg syndrome and so on can disturb a person’s sleep.
Poor Sleep Hygiene
Sleep can be affected if a person has poor sleep hygiene. Going to bed late, watching TV or using a laptop or mobile phone in the bed, overly lit room and so forth can result in light sleep.
Light sleeping vs. Heavy Sleeping
Studies prove that the difference between a light sleeper and a heavy sleeper is the time each spends on deep sleep of the sleep cycle. To understand this better we have to have a rough idea about the different stages in the sleep cycle. The two major stages a person goes through while sleeping are:
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Stage
You enter REM state typically 90 minutes after you start sleeping. It is believed that we dream during this state. REM sleep is characterized by many symptoms like rapid eye movement from side to side, increase in heart rate and breathing rate and elevated blood pressure. Sleep researchers believe that REM sleep occurs in the same way in both light and heavy sleepers.
Non-REM (NREM) Sleep
The Non- Rapid Eye Movement stage is subdivided into three stages where the body functions like breathing, heartbeat, etc become progressively slow to induce deep sleep. You spend almost 75% of your sleep time at NREM stage. Sleep researchers have come to the conclusion that light sleepers face problem maintaining NREM stage and so they wake up intermittently.
What Can a Light Sleeper Do?
Some people resort to medication to get sound sleep. Though in some cases it may be necessary, you can do some simple things that can give you better quality sleep.
Keep your bedroom suitable for sleeping
First, preference should be given to making yourself comfortable in the bed. Make sure that the room is dark and quiet. You can use some white noise like soothing music, the sound of the gently falling rain from Youtube or even a fan to drown the disturbing ones. With a white noise machine, all the sounds congregate into a static that will help you relax.
The temperature of your room should be a cool one. Too cold or too warm can keep you from relaxing.
The use of blackout curtains to create a dark, cool environment also helps you fall asleep faster.
Relaxation techniques for sleep
People with anxiety are more prone to light sleeping. If you are someone who brings your office stress to your bed, you have to try and avoid it. This may seem easier said than done but in all honesty, it isn’t too hard to accomplish.
Learn some relaxation technique to calm your nerves before going to bed. Some breathing techniques, soothing music, aromatic oils and so on can often help you fall asleep early. Always make sure that you go to the bed with a clear head.
Meditation is one of the easiest ways to clear your thoughts and relax. You can follow guided meditation videos or podcasts till you are able to reach a place of enlightenment where you can do it yourself.
Avoid all distractions
You are trying to get some sleep and you are almost there. Suddenly your phone chimes, and even if you prefer not to check the notification you cannot help but think about it.
Such distractions should be avoided if you are trying for a good sleep. Keep your laptop, TV and mobile phone in the other room.
Social media, work stress and even that ex-boyfriend’s pending friend request can keep you up at night. Losing sleep isn’t going to affect anyone else but you. To best avoid distractions, keep the temptations out of your room
Avoid morning naps
If you are light sleeper, avoid siestas. It can help you sleep better at night. Naps are great when you want to catch up on sleep but with everything, there is a time and a place.
Naps that are closer to your bedtime and longer than 45 minutes can affect your regular sleeping schedule. A short, afternoon nap that lasts about 20 minutes can fill you up with energy.
While power naps are great, anything longer can affect the way you sleep at night. There is also the right time to nap. The best time for your afternoon siesta is between 2 PM to 3PM. Any later, you are compromising your body’s ability to sleep at night.
Do regular exercises
Stick to a regular exercise routine, preferably in the morning as evening exertions can affect your sleep. Any type of physical activity can help you remain fit and tire your body out.
It also increases your body temperature and the post-exercise drop in temperature can help you feel sleepy. However, late-night exercises can keep your brain active and in turn, leads to restlessness.
Though that empty gym might seem tempting, keep your workouts to the day time.
Avoid large meals before going to bed
Many people skip breakfast and take a sandwich for lunch hoping to fill themselves up with a large meal at dinner. But unfortunately, this can affect your sleep. Better to eat lightly before going to bed.
Early supper times are often not followed and can adversely not only impact sleep but also your health. Eating late at night can increase the levels of glucose and insulin, increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
While you fill up on those carbs, you are asking your body to stay up digesting your food rather than sleep. Also, it is best to avoid spicy foods at night as it can cause heart burn.
Nicotine, caffeine and some medications can keep you awake at night. Consumption of alcohol can also create disturbed sleep. It is often very important to note what goes into our bodies and how that affects the way it functions.
High levels of caffeine and sugar found in beverages can keep one up and night. At the same time, food that are high in carbs can trigger the digestive system, keeping your brain awake.
Follow a bedtime routine
Make sure to go to your bed at the same time every day. Create a half an hour routine that helps you to sleep.
Read a book or listen to music, do relaxation breathing and bladder checks. Such routines can prepare you for bed and will get you to deep sleep easily.
Creating a sleep ritual is a personal decision. It contains a list of activities that help you relax. Be it a warm cup of lavender tea, the scent of jasmine or a warm shower, sleep rituals can help you fall asleep faster.