Why Do My Muscles Tighten Up When I Sleep
If you have ever had a good night’s sleep, then you know that sleeping is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It gives us time for our thoughts and allows us to recover from the day’s stresses. Sleeping also helps keep our bodies in balance by slowing down our heart rate, breathing rhythm and blood pressure. However, not everyone gets the same sleep quality. Some people seem to be able to fall asleep quickly while others struggle throughout the night with sleepless nights that make them feel tired during the day.
It turns out that there are some factors that can affect how well we get the sleep we need each night. One such factor is what happens when we go to bed at night. A person may be able to curl up on their side without worrying about falling off the edge because they don’t mind having an arm hanging over the side of the bed. But another person may find this uncomfortable and end up pulling themselves into a more upright position so they won’t roll away from under the covers. This could be due to two different reasons.
The first reason might simply be preference but it could also be related to other changes in our lives. For instance, maybe someone who has been working long hours recently started taking care of a child full-time and doesn’t want to disturb her when she tries to wind down before going to bed. Or perhaps someone became engaged recently and wants to wait until they move into their new home before saying “I do.” Whatever the situation, sometimes making small adjustments can help us get better rest.
Another thing that can happen as we age is that we tend to spend more time in bed. We don’t necessarily need to stay awake all night. In fact, some studies show that most Americans only use 15% of their total sleeping time. So, instead of feeling rushed to finish watching TV or reading a book, take advantage of those extra minutes between waking and going to bed. You’ll probably benefit from spending some quiet time relaxing in bed. Try doing something like meditating, journaling, listening to music, talking with a friend, or whatever else keeps your mind busy and calm. The key is to give yourself plenty of opportunity to unwind and let things settle in. Don’t just lay around thinking about everything you need to accomplish tomorrow.
There are other lifestyle habits that can affect how well you sleep. Smoking, drinking alcohol, caffeine, and staying up late can all reduce your ability to relax properly before bed. If you drink coffee every morning, try switching to decaf after lunch so you can sleep peacefully through the evening. Many people believe that caffeine makes them alert which actually causes insomnia. Alcohol consumption affects sleep rhythms differently for everybody. Caffeine seems to work best in combination with other stimulants like tobacco products. Being overweight can lead to poor sleep as well. Obesity increases the risk of obstructive sleep apnea (a condition where airways become blocked) and contributes to chronic snoring. Excess weight can also interfere with normal breathing patterns and contribute to oxygen deprivation.
One important consideration is exercise. Exercise can improve sleep quality by increasing body temperature and stimulating circulation. It should also help lower stress levels and increase energy. However, exercising 2-3 hours prior to bedtime can stimulate secretion of hormones that release adrenaline and cortisol which can prevent you from entering a deep state of relaxation. Also, strenuous activity right before bed will wake you up several times during the night and interrupt your regular circadian rhythm. If you’re trying to improve your sleep quality, consider exercising early in the afternoon rather than right before bed.
Sleeping pills can be helpful to treat occasional sleeplessness but shouldn’t be used regularly to help you sleep better. Sleeping pills can interact badly with certain medications, foods, and beverages. They can also alter moods and cause drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, dizziness, and nausea. They are generally prescribed short term for treating mild cases of sleeplessness. Sleeping tablets usually contain benzodiazepines which produce sedative effects. Benzodiazepines are often combined with barbiturates which slow the central nervous system. Barbiturate drugs were once widely used in general anesthesia but are now rarely found in hospitals because they are associated with severe complications like death and coma. Other sleeping aids include melatonin, valerian root, chamomile, lavender oil, passionflower, hops extracts, and kava kava. These substances act on specific neurotransmitters in the brain to induce sleep. Melatonin is made naturally by the human body and is said to promote healthy aging. Kava kava acts directly on the brain to suppress anxiety and depression. Valerian root has been shown to relieve symptoms of restless leg syndrome and fibromyalgia.
In addition to avoiding caffeinated drinks and smoking, there are things you can do to improve your overall health and sleep quality. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable and dark. Keep noise and light levels low. Avoid using electronics within 3 feet of your bed. Use soothing colors on your walls and ceiling. Relaxation techniques like progressive relaxation and meditation can help you focus on calming your mind and body. Take a warm shower or bath 30 minutes before bed. Showering first thing in the morning can wash away any remaining sleepiness. Get plenty of sunlight exposure during the daytime. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. And try to avoid naps throughout the day. Napping leads to grogginess and difficulty awakening.
So next time you find yourself tossing and turning, remember that being well rested is very important. Good luck!
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