Most of us think we’re getting enough sleep when really, we aren’t. A recent poll revealed that almost two thirds of us just don’t feel we’re meeting our sleep needs. And, “we” includes those teaching our kids, driving on our roads and running our world!
Are you one of those statistics? Walking around compromised by tiredness — cranky, fog-headed and simply unable to participate fully in the script of your life? These are common complaints in our over-processed, over-stimulated, overdone world. And unless you step in and break the pattern of this life-sucking roller-coaster ride of mere existence, you’ll have more and more down hills and crashes.
I’m quite confident that you’d prefer a prettier picture for your future. So jump on board and start by getting a good, solid night’s sleep. You’ll want to begin by making some simple changes to your daily and bedtime routines.
- Stick to a sleep schedule
This may not make sense, but it works. Go to bed and rise at roughly the same time every day, including weekends. You might be cursing at the thought of foregoing your Sunday-morning sleep-in but truth be told, too much time in bed can actually disrupt sleep.
So even if you’ve had a rough night, get up and on with your day.
- Establish and follow a bedtime ritual
We are creatures of habit. Our sequences give us familiarity and get us doing the predictable. So set up a routine that you can easily do with guaranteed consistency.
I love to take my bath, light candles, drink a cup of Relax tea and drift off to a meditation. I don’t stress that I don’t hear the entire track because I know that on some subliminal level, my soul is sensing the words and the deep relaxation and healing is taking place.
- Don’t eat or drink excessively before bedtime
Nighttime is for sleep. It’s the time for your body to recuperate from your busy day and restore your health and energy. If you introduce more work such as digestion, you jeopardize the quality of your sleep as well as the actual digestion. Don’t be surprised if you wake up with gas or heartburn! Or if you feel flat and groggy — let your body do what it needs to at night, sleep.
Drinking excessively before bed will result in you waking up and running, or perhaps stumbling, to the bathroom throughout your sleep time.
- Exercise and stay active
Exercise, if bottled and sold, would be a billion-dollar industry because it seems to cure almost everything — including sleepless nights. The results are unequivocal; get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes most days of the week and you’ll find yourself deeply engrossed in many, many dreams.
Here’s the point of controversy — when to exercise? Late at night is a definite no-no. But, wait up, that’s when I exercise and I truly sleep like the dead an hour thereafter. Other research indicates early morning exercise is best for guaranteed deep slumber while still additional studies points toward a late-afternoon cardio workout as being the trick to lights out all night.
My suggestion — as always, listen to your infinitely wise body. Try out different times and see what works best for you.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
Noon should be your cut off point for taking stimulants — and that includes cola if you haven’t ditched it yet. Caffeine takes much longer to metabolize than you might think — from at least four hours and then some.
While alcohol hangs around in your system for a varying amount of time depending on your body mass, gender and your metabolic rate and tolerance levels, a standard drink will stay in your body for at least one hour.
And what’s the deal with cigarettes? Well, nicotine can cause shallow breathing and sleeplessness. Furthermore, smokers tend to sleep much more lightly than non-smokers. So, you’re easily startled and disturbed.
- Schedule worry time
We all worry. At least worry sensibly! If you’re stressing out before you go to bed, a nightmarish period lies ahead. Schedule some “Worry time” instead. Block out a space during your day to confront your concerns by brainstorming solutions on paper or talking to someone. But don’t start that anxiety ticker before bed.
- Find ways to relax before bed
Does relaxation come easily to you? If not, identify actions you can take that encourage you to chill out. I practice breathing to a soothing mantra. Perhaps for you it’s taking a warm bath or sipping chamomile tea. However weird or wacky these may appear is unimportant. The goal is to unwind and shed your cares so you can drift off peacefully.
- Create a sleeping haven
Experts say you should make your room like a cave — cool, dark and quiet . While “cool” is a subjective experience, the average recommended temperature is between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Apparently, this gentle drop in temperature induces sleep, especially REM sleep where you do most of your dreaming.
It’s also crucial that your mattress and pillows are comfy. Before I changed my mattress I would honestly wake up due to lower back pain every time I rolled over. It was just awful. And if you ask my family members, so was my morning mood!
- Don’t watch the clock — And turn off that smart phone!
The glowing haze or staccato tick-tock of a bedside clock will totally blow your night’s rest. Get rid of the distraction by putting it in your dresser drawer or under the bed.
And turn the phone off! At least those beeping Twitter and Facebook notifications. You are unique, magnificent and uber special — but the world will survive without your immediate response. Off!
- Check your medications
Ask your doc if any of the meds you are on may be contributing to your insomnia. Particular drugs to take note of include steroids, beta blockers, nasal decongestants, appetite suppressants, and asthma and high blood pressure medications. You can look on the label of over-the-counter drugs to see if they include caffeine or other stimulants such as ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
- Your bedroom: For sleep and sex only
It’s been labeled the “Cardinal Rule of Sleep Hygiene” — your bedroom is there as a place of calm and pleasure. It’s not an office, a gym, a dining room or a movie theater.
And here’s the thing; less sleep equals less sex. Sixty-one percent of Americans report that sleepiness disrupts their sexual relations. So you might want to follow these tips.
With a good night’s sleep, you’ll arise smiling, energized and ready to be an active player in your life. Sounds crazy but it’s true — and simple. Make a few tweaks here and a few tweaks there and before you know it, life will be brighter, your productivity will be fantastic and you might just be the lover you were in your college days!
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