How to Sleep Better During a Long Illness

How to Sleep Better when You Have a Long Illness


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    Contact your doctor if your problem is truly severe and you are not sleeping at all or are unable to fall asleep several nights in a row. There are now many medications that help you fall asleep that are not habit-forming and have minimal side effects. There are also natural substances available at your pharmacy or health food store (melatonin and Valerian, for example) that many people have found useful, but if you are experiencing a chronic or long-term illness it is imperative that you check with your doctor prior to taking any over-the-counter medication. Even over-the-counter drugs can have unintended consequences for your condition or unwanted interactions with your prescription medications.
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    Speak with your doctor if you have pain that is keeping you awake as it is possible that your medications can be altered for a nighttime dose.
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    Try to determine which type of problem you are having. Falling asleep and staying asleep are actually two somewhat different problems. There are those people who, once they manage to fall asleep, sleep quite well for several hours at a stretch, and there are those people who fall asleep fairly easily but find they wake up after a couple of hours and are then unable to fall back asleep. Chances are your difficulty is one or the other, not both.
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    Try to stay out of bed during the day if you are having trouble falling asleep, even if you are ill if at all possible. Reserve the bed for sleeping not for watching TV, eating or reading. Use an easy chair, recliner or a couch for stretching out on during the day, and save your bed for sleeping. You will begin to subconsciously associate the bed with sleep rather than with other activities.
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    Try falling asleep in the hammock in the summertime. There is no reason that a hammock and stand have to stay outdoors. Some people sleep better when they have that rocking motion.
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    Try to stay awake during the day. Remember that as someone with an illness, you probably are not using up a lot of energy and your body just might not need much sleep. Even though your brain is tired, your body might not be ready to go to bed. Sleeping during the day disrupts your sleep cycle and makes it harder for you to fall asleep at night as that daytime sleep gets subtracted from the total hours you'll sleep in a 24-hour cycle. More sleep during the day equals less sleep at night.
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    Try to get some exercise during the day, if your condition permits, so your body as well as your mind feel tired at the end of the day. It can be as simple as raising your arms up and down or lifting your legs one by one when seated. There are exercise tapes and exercise programs tailored for people with limited strength and mobility. Explore these as they might be what you need until you get better.
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    Do your exercise early in the day, not within a few hours of bedtime.
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    Get some sun during the day. Exposure to sunlight triggers the creation of certain chemicals in your brain that help regulate when you fall asleep and wake up. Chances are you've been inside and not getting a lot of sunshine. If you can't get outside, sit near a sunny window. If it's dark and gray outside, invest in a full-spectrum light bulb available at most do-it-yourself and hardware stores.
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    Try to limit liquids after 6:00 p.m. if you are waking up frequently to use the bathroom. Use a nightlight or a low-wattage bulb in the bathroom, and avoid turning on an overhead light as it will wake you up even more.


  • Many people think that getting less than 8 hours of sleep a night means they aren't getting enough sleep. As people age, the amount of sleep they get per night will lessen naturally. There is no "magic rule" about having 8 hours sleep per night. Even if someone is sleeping in 1- or 2-hour increments, when added up over the course of the night, it may be an enough sleep.
  • The majority of the benefit of sleeping is actually just plain resting. If you can't fall asleep, simply resting will accomplish a lot for your body in terms of healing so you have the satisfaction of knowing that you are still doing good for yourself even if you aren't asleep.
  • If tossing and turning is making you feel miserable, then don't try so hard - turn on a light, get up, do something you enjoy or a chore to have you get out of the way. At least you will be doing something fun or productive so that you don't feel frustrated. Maybe sleep will come later that night, and there's always tomorrow night.
  • Remember - it's annoying and frustrating not to be able to fall asleep or stay asleep especially when you are ill but lack of sleep itself is not making your condition worse. Try to keep that in mind.
  • Contact The National Sleep Foundation and visit their website.

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Categories: Better Sleeping