In today’s busy world improving our sleep quality becomes extra important. It is easy for us to get run down and over committed. Whether that is with work or family obligations. Having an occasional night of tossing and turning isn’t unusual. It can happen to the best of us. However, if you notice that it is becoming a pattern it is time to take note.
Sleep isn’t something that is optional. It plays a vital role in many of our body’s essential functions. If we aren’t well rested things like our emotional regulation, eating patterns, memory, immune system etc. quickly start to go haywire.
Unfortunately, I hear time and again as soon as someone feels overwhelmed and too busy the first place they start looking to make cuts is to the amount of time they sleep. Thinking if I just spend another hour on this report, homework, or video game I will be able to get it to where it needs to be. Certainly, there are times in life where that is the only option. However, there is a price to pay if that becomes the norm.
Here are a few tips that may help get your sleep on track:
- Develop a schedule. Going to sleep and getting up at the same time each day helps regulate your circadian rhythm which is essentially your body’s internal clock. This is something that may take a little experimenting to work out but once you settle on what a good routine is your body will start winding down and waking up on que. It may seem boring but your body will thank you. That episode of your favorite program will still be on Netflix tomorrow.
- Keep screen time in check. Screen time can become problematic for a couple reasons. Keeping yourself engaged in heaving thinking or highly emotional events isn’t conducive to a restful night’s sleep. Checking of your work email before going to bed could be what keeps you up worrying. Especially helpful is avoiding the habit of bringing a work computer / device into the bedroom. Keep that a zone for relaxation and romance. There is also some research out there stating that the type of blue light that is emitted by our screens stimulates a part of our brain that interferes with sleep signals.
- Monitor food and drink choices. Everyone may have different sensitivity levels to these sorts of things but to some degree we are all impacted. Things like having stimulants e.g. caffeine late in the day may wreck an otherwise good night. Pay attention to how much you personally are effected by having a big dinner or eating later vs earlier etc. In this category I must make a mention of a go to for many restless sleepers. Drinking alcohol may seem like a good solution. However, there can be a rebound effect that leads to waking up early or light sleep. This occurs when the sedative effect of the drink wears off over night. So, having a few night caps may knock you out but it won’t necessarily help you rest.
- Get moving. Along with many other benefits exercise may help us with sound sleep. Partially because our bodies are physically tired. There are also changes involving our body temperature and metabolic rate that happen when we are active that can increase the odds of a sound night’s sleep (if timed correctly).
- Start a night time routine. If you think about it most animals have a ritual or some sort of routine they go through to help transition from activity to rest. Picture a cat that always turns in circles while fluffing their bed every time they lay down for example. Remember the bedtime stories your parents told you each night just before lights out when you were little? The grown-up version may be diming lights, turning off screens, reading a few pages of a novel, or taking a warm bath before calling it a day.
- Control your environment. As best you can put yourself in an environment that is conducive to good quality sleep. Things like a comfortable temperature, limited light, and a quiet space can help a lot. For the more advanced version you might consider sourcing the ideal firmness of pillows, lavender scented sachets, or ocean wave sound tracks for your bedroom.
- Nap with caution. A nap may be just what you need to help compensate for a poor night’s sleep. However, be aware of how long you are napping. If you allow yourself to get into deep sleep it could leave you feeling groggier than before. But a short power nap of say 20 minutes may leave you feeling refreshed. Also, try not to nap to late in the day or you may interfere with your sleep for the upcoming night.
- Manage your stress. The solution isn’t always about sleep hygiene at all. If you are completely overwhelmed and worried about some issue with work, friends, family, school, health etc. when you are awake that is going to impact your sleep. So, if you can’t fall asleep, stay asleep or are waking early because your mind is spinning in circles about some problem your sleep may improve if you can take some steps towards sorting that out. Click here to read a previous post for other tips on managing stress.
A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything