You toss, you turn, you can’t fall asleep, or you wake up too early. “I just want to get some sleep,” you think. To many, sleep becomes an illustrious myth – a battle at bedtime. Insomnia is an all too common problem for many people each night. In our ever changing, fast-paced lifestyle, it’s no wonder we can’t turn our brains off at night.
“I wake up every night at 3 a.m. and my brain kicks into high gear going over my “To Do List” for the upcoming day,” said a client recently. If your brain is waking you up trying to solve the world’s problems at 3 a.m. let’s go over some tips to remember when it comes to sleep so you can practice good “sleep hygiene.”
1. Start with clean sheets – I know this sounds silly, but it’s true. Who doesn’t appreciate the scent and feel of fresh clean sheets, and clean sheets can actually improve your quality of sleep.
2. Adopt a sleep ritual – a warm bath, drinking herbal tea, light reading, changing into comfortable clothing, and/or meditation or yoga, can all signal your brain that it’s time to wind down for the day and get ready for bedtime.
3. Power down – Get off the internet, social media, texting, managing email, or working at least an hour before bedtime. These types of activities stimulate our brain and keep our mind active; your brain needs time to quiet down.
4. Dim the house lights – We start to produce serotonin, the sleep hormone, when it gets dark. Turning down the lights in the evening can signal the brain to start producing serotonin. If you want to stay awake, bright lights certainly help.
5. Don’t go to bed angry – this old saying is true if you want a good night’s sleep. Save troubling conversations for any other time of the day except bedtime.
6. Write it down – If you have lots of things on your mind, get them out of your head and on paper. If you wake up in the middle of the night with more thoughts, add them to your list and go back to sleep. You won’t have to worry that you will forget because they will be there for you on paper in the morning.
7. Your bed is for sleeping…(and sex), only. It’s not a good idea to work on your computer, listen to the radio, read, or watch stimulating TV in bed.
8. Keep it cool, quiet, and dark – The right temperature, even on the cooler side, can increase your quality of sleep. If you wish, sleep with earplugs and/or a sleep mask for added sensory restriction.
9. Avoid heavy meals and alcohol too close to bedtime – Our bodies work overtime digesting food, and indigestion is more common when we are “stuffed.” Alcohol may initially induce sleepiness, but will cause more disturbed sleep throughout the night.
10. Moderate exercise – Daily exercise or even taking a brisk walk, can help you sleep better at night.
If you are still having trouble with sleep after practicing these tips, your brain might be trying to tell you that your stress level is too high or you have some unresolved deeper troubles that need some working out. Sleep disturbances can also be a sign of anxiety or depression. Likewise, lack of sleep can exacerbate these symptoms sometimes making mole hills feel like mountains.
I wish you all a good night’s sleep.