We all know that too often sleep either doesn’t come easily or lasts long enough. A recent National Sleep Foundation poll found that adults need an average of 7.5 – 8 hours of sleep a night. That sounds lovely, but how often does that happen for you on consecutive nights? ….So many of us are consistently unable to shut off our minds once in bed, or we wake up in the middle of the night and can’t return to sleep. It’s frustrating! But why is this and what can we do to make a change??
The same Sleep Foundation poll showed a downward trend in sleep with an average of 6.4 hours. The culprits? …..Not surprisingly two of the main offenders are nighttime internet use and/or doing work at home at night. Both are directly linked to poor sleep and poor sleep hygiene. And while anxiety and depression can make sleep more challenging, it’s well-known that less sleep is what makes both worse.
Sleep is key to overall good health and optimum functioning. So, here are the simple steps to take to improve your sleep.
1. Set a consistent sleep and wake-up time.
Go to bed at about the same time each night….that means you might need to avoid binging on that extra Netflix episode no matter how tempting! …Then get up at the same time each morning. As nice as it may be to have a long sleep-in on the weekend, try to limit sleeping to no more than an hour past your usual wake-up time. This will help to get your body into a healthy sleep cycle.
2. Limit caffeine.
Avoid caffeine afternoon. Caffeine is present in coffee, tea, hot chocolate, chocolate, and energy drinks. If you like a coffee, limit it to the morning.
3. Limit the alcohol.
While alcohol can initially make you feel sleepy, it will cause disturbed sleep. The stimulating effect of alcohol on your body results in lots of tossing and turning in bed.
4. Keep the bed for sleep only.
Keep work, texting, and watching TV out of the bed. This will train your brain and body to know that it’s a space for sleeping.
5. Take a break if you can’t sleep.
If you find that you can’t sleep after lying in bed for about 15 minutes, then get up and do something quiet and relaxing; read a book or listen to music. Don’t watch TV, don’t surf the net, and don’t work or text. These stimulate you. When you feel sleepy then go back to bed. If you still can’t sleep then get up and repeat these strategies. Don’t worry…you are training your body that sleeping (not thinking or tossing and turning!) is what happens in bed. And if you wake very early in the morning, use this same strategy. And, no matter what time you fall asleep, still get up at the same time in the morning.
6. Stop the worry!
Have you found that the worries seem to start the moment your head hits the pillow even if it has a silk pillowcase? Try keeping a notepad next to your bed so that when you have a thought or a worry you can jot it down. Then come back to it the next day. If you find you’re still thinking about it, simply remind yourself that you’ve already planned to deal with it tomorrow; not now. Worries generally seem bigger in the night, so leave it until morning when you’re rested.
7. Take medications as prescribed.
Always take medications as they are prescribed. You even get prescription discounts for many of them. Check with your pharmacist or family doctor before trying an over-the-counter medication for sleep, and never take a sleep medication that is prescribed for someone else.
Restoring healthy patterns of sleep won’t happen overnight.
Give it time and it will happen. We’re here to help you achieve your goals.