Sleep is just as important as food or water to our bodies. We can actually die from extreme amounts of not sleeping, so why do we honor the notion that babies need all of that amazing sleep,
but don’t give it to ourselves as an adult when we work harder than ever and have acquired so much more emotional, mental, and physical cumulative stress over the day than we did as babies or children? The following tips will be a few helpful ways to get you those much needed Z’s to a happier, healthier, you.
- Make sleep a priority. Friends, facebook, instagram, twitter, online shopping, the internet, work, chores, and stress will still be there in the morning. It can wait. If trying to fall asleep with an incomplete to do list will keep you up at night, I have found that writing a new list for the next day helps me get it off my chest. Plus, the number one I hear from clients for what they do for hours before bed, it’s browse social media. Sleep > Internet Gazing. If you are better rested, you will actually be more productive with that to do list tomorrow.
- Use your bed for the following activities SLEEP, relaxing, partner playtime (if applicable at the appropriate age/maturity/time… I know I have teens who read this too), or meditation. Pick another place to catch up on work, watch tv, play on your ipad. I cannot stress this enough. Studies have shown that the blue light emitted from your phones, ipads, tablets, and computers keep your brain thinking that you are awake. Let your brain sleep.
- A hot tub, steam room, or sauna. These soothing contraptions dilate your blood vessels and get plenty of warm comfy oxygen floating around, which helps you relax and sleep better. Don’t have the money to pay for a fancy gym membership where these are accessible? A hot bath with some epsom salt will do the trick just fine!
- Working out super late can re-jump-start your energy, so I would try not to work out too late, but working out a few hours before bed (say- right before dinner can actually help you de-stress and sleep better.
- You can learn how much sleep you body needs. The trick to find out? Try your very best to go to bed at the same time every single night for 4 straight nights. Don’t set an alarm- just sleep until your body wakes you up (I know you are thinking, “when do I have 4 days in a row when I can NOT set an alarm? But if you can get a vacation or a 3 day weekend and add a day where you go in to work late, I promise it’s a cool test to do). Also, for purposes of this test, don’t nap during the day. By the 4th morning your body should have reached it’s balance after catching up on not enough sleep, and you have a good idea of how much you need. On day 1 or 2, usually your body is either used to lack of sleep so your body will wake up early even though you really are tired, or you will sleep 11 hours+ because it is overcompensating due to lack of restful Z’s during previous nights. In high school and college I could thrive on 6, but now I find about 9 is best for me. It doesn’t always happen but I really do feel best when I have gotten ~9 hours. Listen to your body. Everyone is different. Also, after you know your number of needed sleep hours, try to go to bed around the same time every night. Your body is an intelligent and intuitive creation. Just as it learns to know when it’s hungry, it also will learn how to get sleepy when it needs to.
- Do you need to consult a doctor? Pain, sleep apnea, or some medications could be affecting your sleep.
- Don’t eat a huge meal right before bed. Most people tell me they experience weird dreams, have nightmares, or sleep poorer right after having eaten a large meal before bed. Going to bed on a hungry stomach will keep you up too though, so if you are hungry have a light snack. Toast with peanut butter, or a small bowl of cereal. No caffeine, chocolate, soda (no soda ever!), or apples right before bed as these are all energizers!
- Cut back on Alcohol. This one may seem counter intuitive as we have all heard of the famous night-cap as well as the party guy who passed out to a peaceful almost dead slumber, but Alcohol actually interferes with sleep. This goes for nicotine as well.
- Keep Daytime naps short and before 3pm-ish so you can go to bed sleepy and ready for bed.
- If you are so emotionally stressed that you consistently cannot fall asleep, please seek therapeutic help. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to help or find a referral for someone who can help. There are so many good counselors out there. You just need to find whom will be the right fit for you.
- Keep a room dark and cool as best as you can for sleeping. This may mean it is harder to wake up, since you are all snuggled sweetly under the covers. I encourage you, however, to invest in curtains- having something to pull closed and keep your room dark at night an open up to the sunshine in the morning! Having natural light can help you wake up peacefully and improve your mood ever so slightly.
- Try to keep kiddos and pets sleeping in their respective sleeping quarters. Just remember, not only you and your choices, but each and every person/animal in your bed affects your sleep as well. So while I’m not telling you to kick your partner out of your bed, the less bodies affecting you, the better your chances for a good night sleep.
I hope these ideas have been helpful. I truly believe that sleeping better can improve your life. Being well rested definitely has shown to improve job performance, mood, productivity, workouts, and memory, not to mention improve all of the negative physical effects that your lack of Z’s can cause: baggy under eyes, dark circles, physical fatigue, and poor posture. Prioritize your ZZZZ’s and you will feel AmaZZZZing! Blessings, Sweet Dreams, and Sleep well!