Living alone abroad

” Living alone abroad: basic steps to beat your sleeping problems (pills appart)”

I have been struggling with a worsening of my sleeping disorders since I came to work in my current position abroad.

I’m facing and fighting, as same as many, one of the biggest problems of working outside of my home country: the single status life for a short or long-lasting term, by keeping your previous status or due to separation from a previously established couple or family.

According to international statistics and world marriage data, even in our current times, preople after 25 years old are more attempt to have a companionship in life, formal or informal. When this natural state of things is broken, among the most frequent health issues faced by any person in that situation, are related to sleeping problems and its consequences.

Lonely people are 25% more likely to not sleep well and develope insomnia ( says a research from King’s College (UK) that conducted a study on sleep habits).

”Insomnia is the feeling of inadequate or poor-quality sleep because of one or more of these : trouble falling asleep (initial insomnia); trouble remaining asleep, through the night (middle insomnia); waking up too early (terminal insomnia); nonrestorative sleep that does not leave a person feeling rested after an adequate duration of sleep. If the person has the symptoms at least 3 times/week and the sleep difficulty is present for at least one month we could say is an Insomnia”.

Individuals vary in their need for and satisfaction with sleep. The worst part it comes when people start facing unbalance in life related functioning such as daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, irritability, and the inability to feel refreshed and rested upon awakening.

It is known that chemical therapy for psychological and neuropsychiatric disorders tend to create a high dependence that might affect more our technical and professional capabilities and productivity levels. We can work against this from traditional treatment, to behavioural therapy. A non chemical answer appears like the leading management of the problem; except if it is related to different grades of depression and other complications that requires a combination of both, pills and therapy.

But how can we face it other than with filling us with pills like seeds in a rattle?

Behavioral techniques applied by professionals to improve sleep:

Relaxation Therapy: There are specific and effective techniques that can reduce or eliminate anxiety and body tension, till the person’s mind is able to stop racing, the muscles can relax and restful sleep can occur. It usually takes practice to learn these techniques and to achieve effective relaxation.

Sleep Restriction or deprivation: Those who can’t get to sleep may benefit from a sleep restriction program that at first allows only a few hours of sleep during the night and gradually increases the time until the person achieves a normal night’s sleep.

Reconditioning: Is to recondition them to associate the bed and bedtime with sleep. For most people, this means not using their beds for any activities other than sleep and sex. As part of the reconditioning process, the person is usually advised to go to bed only when sleepy. If unable to fall asleep, the person is told to get up, stay up until sleepy and then return to bed. Throughout this process, the person should avoid naps and wake up and go to bed at the same time each day. Eventually the person’s body will be conditioned to associate the bed and bedtime with sleep.

The complete ”to do” list for actually help yourself, step by step:

1. Set your body clock:

Try sleep and wake up by schedule, same time, even during weekends. As soon as wake up, expose yourself to a sun bright light by opening a window or go stretching outside.

Sleep experts recommend exposure to an hour of morning sunlight for people having problems falling asleep. Sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself each day. Also take a morning bath or shower and a warm shower before sleep. create a short routine that you can perform at least of 5 minutes every day right before going to bed, so your brain associate that with sleeping.

2. Physical activity:

Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day minimum, no later than five to six hours before going to bed. Sex can be a natural sleep inducer and helps some people, but if you are alone sporadic alternatives like masturbation in those individuals not facing a conflict about it, might help; but it is not recommended routinely. Mild yoga, Tai Chi, relaxing respiratory routines or meditation are good before sleep followed by a warm shower.

3. Turn off blue light devices:
Cover or off tv, computers, tablets, keep your mobile away all 1 hour before your already set sleep time.
4. Avoid or reduce naps:

If you need it, take a nap of 20 min at about 8h from your wake up. If feeling sleepy out of time drink cold iced water go for a short walk, call a talkative friend. Go for a total deprivation therapy if your problem is to get to sleep.

5. Put your alarm away:

Clock or mobile must be away, where you can’t check it from time to time from the comfort of your bed.

6. Try a comfortable position that suits you:

Use pillow between the knees or under the knees; and your neck in a neutral position. Recommended room temperature is between 68°F to 72°F

7. Seal your mattress and pillows:
Use an hypoallergenic cover.

8. Save bed for sleep and sex related activities only:

Not for eating, studying , working , watching tv or internet searching…
If you can’t get to sleep, don’t just lie in bed. Get up and do something else, like reading, watching television, or listening to music until you feel tired. Remove tv from bedroom. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to insomnia.

9. No Caffeine at sleep time:

If possible 6 -4 hours before sleeping do not take coffee, chocolate, cola soft drinks, no herbal teas, diet drugs, some pain killers. Read your drinks labels searching for the presence of caffeine.

10. Eat properly:

Balanced food, proper frequency, do not get to feel hungry. Not eating heavy food or big amount of food after 8:00pm. Do not take excess of fluids at night. However warm milk, chamomile tea, small snack of pretzels, cereal, graham crackers, fresh fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice, vanilla are good from half hour before sleep.

11. No alcohol before sleep:

Alcohol robs people of deep sleep and REM sleep and keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep. There could be awakening and nightmares after your brain process it.

12. Relax:

Stop working from home if possible 2h before the scheduled sleeping time. Empty your mind, put away decision making or discussions, do pleasant activities, relaxing therapies.

13. Turn off house lights:

Keep only a small night light in the bathroom in case you need to go, avoid bright illumination. For entertaining reading use a 15 watts bulb.

14. Associate a sound to the sleeping moments:

Air conditioning sound, fan, sleeping friendly sounds Applications or devices… to avoid noise from outside.

15. Low the tobacco intake:

Do not smoke from 1h before sleep moment, try to slowly quite with professional support.

Smokers tend to sleep very lightly and often wake up in the early morning due to nicotine withdrawal.

16. No pets on bed.

17. See a doctor if:

The insomnia has lasted more than three weeks; it is not improving with basic measures; it is interfering with your ability to function during the day.

Start step by step incorporating this habits and changes in your life. The improving is immediate when you have no other health problem affecting your sleeping.

“Those above are general recommendations from a health professional, but under the advise of always do a direct interview and check up by a physician when any health problem appears; as situations may vary from one person to another, or from one moment of life to the other.”

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