When we are already lying in the middle of the darkness and there is nothing left to do but rest, threatening questions and thoughts can be unleashed that prevent us from realizing the long-awaited dream. Two experts explain what causes this problem and what habits can be incorporated for good sleep.
See how comfortable and soft our bed feels, lie down on it, adjust your head and body a bit, and finally close your eyes after a long day of things to do. It’s a routine we do daily and know by heart, and it’s also many people’s favorite time because it means all that’s left to do is rest.
Although this is not the case for everyone, it works the same way. For some, the moment of falling into the arms of Morpheus can become a real martyrdom that is even remembered in a negative way several times a day. . When we are in this situation, the night seems eternal, only the darkness of the bedroom surrounds us and the anxiety of sleeping becomes more and more intense.
This is where a series of questions start popping up in our mind, we remember what we haven’t done so well in the past and even worry about future things that haven’t even happened yet. or, perhaps, will never happen.
Sleep disorders are not a foreign symptom to the Chilean population. According to the latest National Health Survey (2016-2017), 63.2% of people suffer from some type of sleep disorder, the most common of which are insomnia and apnea.
During the pandemic, due to the context of uncertainty experienced by the explosion of Covid-19 cases, this did not seem to improve: 51% of people said that their quality of sleep had deteriorated, according to a study by Corp. in 2020.
Anxiety before bed
Evelyn Benavides, neurologist specializing in sleep medicine at Clínica Bupa, points out The third that it is normal for the afternoon and night to start a series of biological processes that allow the brain to prepare for a good quality of sleep, for example, the secretion of certain hormones decreases and others increase, such as melatonin. Blood pressure and body temperature also decrease.
“In people who are anxious because they believe they are going to get poor quality sleep, these low biological activity processes do not occur, and they remain active and hyper-dependent as daytime” says the specialist.
Thus, a kind of aversion to falling asleep is generated because we begin to wonder how long we are going to rest, if it will take us too long to achieve it and if we will wake up at night.
“This is called ruminations, which are negative ideas patients have about their sleep schedule,” explains the specialist.
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Even in the midst of this arduous effort to sleep, even the slightest noises or movements could distract from the task of falling asleep once and for all. The sound of a car driving in the street, someone else’s breathing, a device that keeps generating a slight but noticeable noise at those times… Everything becomes necessary to monitor.
It’s something like a vicious circle that repeats itself. . And amid these seemingly lurking issues, we think making repeated efforts to get there will be very helpful, but it can actually make the problem worse, says Eduardo Vásquez, a neurologist at Red UC Christus Sleep Center.
“It’s when we try to control sleep that we fail, because sleep is an involuntary process. The more things we do to sleep, the less we achieve it” said the doctor.
Another factor also plays a role in restlessness to find sleep: when there is more stress than usual and that means unnecessary worries.
“Whether it’s school, family, professional or due to the environment, what triggers is the generation of mood or sleep disorders. It can also be both together,” says Vásquez.
Whether it’s the day before starting a new job, vacation is about to begin, or a few hours away from a milestone, all of this could mean that someone is suffering from anxiety and intrusive thoughts at nightfall. night.
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In other cases, there are those who try to delay bedtime as much as possible because they are afraid that this time will come and what might happen.
For this, they carry out a series of activities that delay falling asleep, such as continuing to do things while waiting for work, eating, watching television or using their mobile phone until late hours, which is also another way to perpetuate the problem.
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On this point, the UC network neurologist Christus warns that during consultations, they generally observe that many people finish their wakeful routines at times when they should already be lying down.
“We arrive with a lot of energy at the end of the day, not physically, but the brain is very activated when we go to bed with a host of emotions and worries for the next day”, explains the expert.
Being in the dark at night, with the lights off, can be a contributing factor to this anxiety Vásquez believes: “There is a little cognitive trap there: all the problems seem bigger, the repercussions seem bigger, for example, that if I don’t sleep at a certain time, the effects are going to be catastrophic.”
The ways in which sleep deprivation can affect an individual can be varied. When this happens occasionally, the most obvious symptoms are fatigue, irritability, anxiety, increased memory and learning failures, impact on decision making and increased appetite because this is regulated when we sleep.
In the long term, say experts, so-called chronic insomnia can lead to an increased risk of cerebrovascular pathologies, high blood pressure, heart attacks and obesity, especially if the problem is not treated early.
Everything can’t be so bad. There are a series of practices that influence an improvement in the quality of sleep, and therefore, allow us to move away from this anxiety that overwhelms us late at night.
What should I do to take care of and improve my sleep?
According to Dr. Benavides, the time an adult should devote daily is between 7 and 9 hours . Normally, no more than 20 minutes should elapse between deciding to fall asleep and actually falling asleep.
For Vásquez, meanwhile, it is important that people with nighttime anxiety can incorporate certain sleep hygiene habits, but he emphasizes that they should not be extremely strict, but rather constant in the short and long term. .
The first step is to have a more or less regular schedule for getting up in the morning and going to bed at night. The neurologist suggests that you don’t have to lie down to try to sleep and that the urge to rest magically happens there, but rather As soon as you feel sleepy, you should go to the bedroom and lie down.
It is ideal that the last meal of the day does not exceed 7 or 8 p.m., have exercise routines according to one’s ability, preferably in the early hours of the day, avoid caffeine -like coffee, tea, mate and energy drinks – after 5 p.m. and exposing yourself to the sun for half an hour in the morning are other routines that can help you sleep more peacefully.
Getting as far away from electronic devices as possible, such as cell phones, televisions, computers, and tablets, can also have a big impact on sleep quality. This must be done before entering the room.
This is what Benavides believes: “We must avoid the bedroom as a center of activity and nocturnal screens, which make our brain activate instead of lowering this activity normally.”
There are cases when it is simply recommended to consult a doctor who will help the patient to return to sleep normally.
“When we start having problems very constantly, more than 3 times a week in which it is difficult for us to fall asleep and stay asleep, we wake up very early and it starts to affect our mood during the day, the ability to to perform at work, studies or family, I think it is worth consulting, ”says Dr. Vásquez.
For these more aggravated situations, sleep medicine specialists typically explore the causes that are causing the patient to sleep poorly.
“We started to let go of sleep little by little. We always talk about alleviating the problem a bit, the more weight we give to the night, every day it keeps adding up and the problem continues” concludes the expert.
I am David Jack and I have been working in the news industry for over 10 years. As an experienced journalist, I specialize in covering sports news with a focus on golf. My articles have been published by some of the most respected publications in the world including The New York Times and Sports Illustrated.