(CNN) — It could any small disturbance that breaks your sleep, and suddenly you are very awake.
Before you know it, your mind is flooded with things you forgot to do, worries over finances or reliving an unpleasant experience you planned to forget. Sleep is a lost cause — or is it?
Here are eight tips from sleep and anxiety experts on how to shut down your brain and coax your body back into much-needed sleep.
Before you go to sleep:
Beware of blue light. The No. 1 rule, according to many sleep specialists, is no computers, cell phones or tablets in bed and at least one hour prior to bedtime.
If you decide to read to put yourself to sleep, make sure you read in a dim light and from a real book, not a tablet or an e-reader,,” said Dr. Vsevolod Polotsky, who directs sleep basic research in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
That’s because “any LED spectrum light source may further suppress melatonin levels,” Polotsky said. Melatonin, secreted in a daily 24-hour circadian rhythm, is often referred to as a “sleep hormone,” because we sleep better during the night when levels peak.
“Digital light will suppress the circadian drive,” Polotsky said, while a dim reading light will not.
Don’t drink alcohol before bed. Cut yourself off several hours before bedtime.
For one thing, alcohol is more likely than other beverages to result in nighttime awakening to urinate.
For another, “as alcohol is metabolized it forms acetaldehyde, which is stimulating,” Dr. Bhanu Kolla, an addiction psychiatrist and sleep medicine expert at the Mayo Clinic, told CNN. “Therefore if you drink too much alcohol right before going to bed, in about four hours it is converted to aldehyde which can disrupt sleep and wake you up.”
If you wake up:
Try deep breathing. It’s a well-known method of stress reduction and relaxation, if done correctly.
Start by putting your hand on your stomach. Close your eyes and take a slow, deep breath through your nose, making sure that you can feel your abdomen rise. Try to breathe in for a slow count of six. Now release that breath very slowly — to the same count of six — through your mouth.
“Taking slow deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth using our main respiratory muscle, the diaphragm can help relax the body and mind,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
Another option: guided sleep meditation. Meditation is a great way to calm the mind. But if you’re not a practiced meditator, the act of trying to keep your mind focused might become a source of stress.
You could try a guided sleep app, “some of which actually embed delta sleep waves,” said stress management expert Dr. Cynthia Ackrill, an editor for Contentment magazine, produced by the American Institute of Stress.
“Put it on loop so you don’t wake up,” Ackrill said. “Lie there and listen and …read more
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