7 Steps To Improve Your Sleep
We all know that too often sleep either doesn’t come easily or last 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 commonly we hear of high performers struggling to consistently shut off their minds once in bed, or waking up in the middle of the night unable to 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 and maximize your performance both at work and in your personal time.
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. Our bodies thrive on consistency and sleep is not different!
2. Limit caffeine.
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. Caffeine is present in coffee, tea, hot chocolate, chocolate, some soda and most energy drinks. If you like coffee, limit it to the morning and eliminate other caffeine altogether. Many clients are surprised at the difference this one change can make and besides we have to take caffeine out of the equation to determine other contributing factors and address them directly.
3. Limit the alcohol.
While alcohol can initially make you feel sleepy and is found to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep due to its sedative qualities, it will cause disturbed sleep. Research has found a close link between alcohol use and insomnia and those using alcohol to help them with sleep end up with disturbed quality of sleep. Alcohol is found to decrease the most restorative sleep cycle, REM and it can have negative repercussions to quality functioning during waking periods. People with distruebed sleep are advised to pay particular attention to how alcohol can affect their sleep and overall health.
The bottom line: the stimulating effect of alcohol on your body results in lots of tossing and turning in bed and a reduction in restorative sleep. This is not good!
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. If having some distraction in your bed helps you, try an auditory option like a mellow and even boring podcast, an audible book and or some natural sound app?
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. As tempting as this can be, it will stimulate you. When you feel sleepy then go back to bed. If you still can’t sleep then get up and repeat these strategies. Remind yourself that your training your body about what happens in your bed…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. Reduce your attention to your worrisome thoughts!
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. Bring your attention to the sensations of breathing in your body and the present moment taking a break from your worrisome thinking.
7. Take medications as prescribed.
Always take medications as they are prescribed. 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. Being patient with yourself while finding solutions to your gain a restorative sleep pattern. This alone will reduce tension that can increase anxiety and reduce restful sleeping! Choose 1 or 2 of these suggestions and write down how or what difference this made to your sleep and then try another 1 or 2. You’re worth the investment, that’s for sure.
With your intention set to increase your restorative sleep and a commitment to behaviour change, this will happen. We’re here to help you achieve your goals.