How to Sleep Better when You Have a Long Illness
The constant tossing and turning, the persistent discomfort, the unremitting aches and pains — sound familiar? There is nothing more frustrating than trying to sleep while suffering from a long illness. A long illness could mean a chronic condition that persists for a while or a physical affliction that requires a lengthy recovery. Whether you are suffering from the former or the latter, the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep is through proper diagnosis, and treatment. Once you are properly taking care of yourself you will begin to sleep better because your condition will improve.
Making Your Environment Comfortable
Use your bed for sleep.If you are recovering from a long illness, especially a physical ailment, it is best to sleep in your bed instead of using the couch or recliner. By using your bed for sleep, you will elicit a necessary reaction in your body, activating the sleep-promoting parts of your brain.
Run a humidifier.Humidifiers increase the amount of moisture in the air. By using one it may help to alleviate your cold or illness symptoms.
Set a comfortable temperature.When trying to fall asleep, your body tries to reach a perfect temperature that is not too hot or cold. Your body has an easier time achieving the right temperature when you’re in a cooler room.
Use appropriate covers and blankets.Be sure to use comfortable blankets and use an adequate amount so that you are cozy.
Keep necessities nearby (tissue, water, throat lozenges, etc.) Prevent the need to get out of bed for essential items by keeping them close by. This way, you can easily access them without completely waking up and disturbing your sleep cycle.
Minimize light in the room.Draw your curtains and turn off the lights to greatly increase your ability to fall asleep as well as your quality of sleep. Consider using a sleep mask if there's still light seeping into your room. Light exposures affects the hormones that induce sleep.
Reduce screen time.Prepare your body for sleep by avoiding the use of phones, television or other devices. The light emitted from these devices can cause you to stay awake longer and don’t allow the body to prime itself for bed.
Avoid caffeine before bed.Caffeine is a substance that stimulates the central nervous system so it is something you want to stay away from right before bed. It will energize you and cause you to be jittery, making it harder to fall asleep.
- Stay away from soda, coffee, alcohol, chocolate, nicotine, etc.
- Caffeine can cause dehydration, worsening your illness.
Elevate your head.Your quality of sleep can be directly associated with your sleep posture. Use pillows to raise your head and create the optimal position for your air passage.
Maintain good sleep posture.Sleep positioning affects your ability to sleep well. Determine which sleep posture is best and increase your ability to sleep uninterrupted.
- Sleeping on your side is recommended for people who snore or suffer from sleep apnea.
- If you suffer from heartburn, it is best to sleep on your left side.
- If recovering from a physical illness associated with swelling, be sure to alleviate the swelling by elevating the swollen limb so that’s is above your heart.
Changing Activities or Routines
Avoid behaviors or activities contributing to your illness.Don’t automatically resume behaviors and activities from before falling ill. This especially true for physical recoveries that necessitate little to no movement. If able, skip work, school or other obligations to recuperate.
Go to bed early.Try to fall asleep early or go to bed at a reasonably time to ensure you are receiving sufficient sleep. By sticking to a healthier sleep cycle you are regulating your inner clock or circadian rhythm.
Limit loud noise or sounds.When trying to fall asleep, do so in a calm and soothing environment free of aggravating noises or sounds and create tranquility by playing soft music or nature sounds.
Limit exposure to pungent smells.Very strong smells can intensify your symptoms. This holds true for illnesses symptomatic of nausea, motion sickness, or dizziness.
Following the Doctor’s Orders
Ask questions.During your initial doctor visit for your illness, ask any relevant questions to fully understand the diagnosis and treatment.
- Go to your appointment with a list of questions.
- Don’t feel intimidated by your doctor and ask anything you think is necessary.
- Ask the doctor for clarification to answers you are not certain about.
Take prescribed medication.Don’t forget to take every dose of medication and make sure you finish the entire prescription. Failure to do this will cause the medication to not working properly or not at all and you can develop a resistance.
- Set an alarm on your phone to remind you that it’s time for your medicine.
- Take your medication at the same time every day so your body always has working medicine in it.
- Doctors rarely prescribe sleeping medication for long periods of time. Continue exploring alternate ways of improving your sleep even while you're on your medication so that you can get good sleep after you go off it.
Familiarize yourself with the side effects.Read the side effects associated with your medicine before you begin taking it so you know exactly what to expect. If you believe there are too many side effects, contact your doctor to discuss your concerns.
Contact your doctor.If you find that you are consistently unable to sleep, it’s probably time to call your doctor. You physician can determine the underlying cause for your insomnia and prescribe you sleeping medications or change your current medication to something that won’t affect your sleep.
- Mild sleeping medications exist that can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep for longer periods of time.
- Your doctor may alter the dosage of your current medication or prescribe you something to be taken at night so your day won’t be affected when you experience drowsiness.
- Your illness may have worsened and additional medication could be necessary.
QuestionI can't fall I asleep. I'm sick and have a toothache. What do I do?
Family Medicine PhysicianFamily Medicine PhysicianExpert AnswerTry and oral gel like Anbesol to help with the pain and let you go to sleep. If this medication does not relieve the pain then perhaps you need a stronger one. Consult you dentist for oral pain medications.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I get to sleep when it's after 3:00am and I'm sick?
Family Medicine PhysicianFamily Medicine PhysicianExpert AnswerYou might want to take an night time cough medication or NSAID with a nighttime sleeping aid.Thanks!
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