Do you have trouble falling asleep? Does your mind seem to race even after you climb into bed? Do you have worries on your mind that prevent you from easily falling asleep? Do you toss and turn, finding you can't shut your mind off? Or, do you sleep ok, but wake up and find you are still tired?
You are not alone! Trouble sleeping (difficulty falling asleep and/or sustaining sleep) is something that I've noticed many people struggle with. Or, maybe you are able to fall asleep easily now, but you've had times in the recent past when you couldn't fall asleep no matter how tired you were. The Sleep Foundation (https://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/lack-sleep-affecting-americans-finds-the-national-sleep-foundation) reports that 45% of Americans said they had difficulty sleeping in the past week, with women struggling with insomnia more than men. Good quality restorative sleep is so important for us to function at our best! It is necessary for memory consolidation, helps reduce our risk of certain diseases like heart attacks and diabetes, and improves our decision making.
'Sleep hygiene' is the fancy term for any practice that helps you to sleep well consistently. I suggest the following tips, which can be especially helpful for the ones who suffer with anxiety and racing thoughts at bedtime:
1-Use a sound machine. Any sound, whether it’s white noise or rain softly falling, can help block out other extraneous sounds. The soothing, repetitive nature of any sound machine track can help you relax. There are even apps (Relax Melodies, or Sound Machine) available that have tracks of the rain forest, a babbling brook, or birds chirping that you can use for free.
2-Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Use blackout curtains if you need it. Conversely, when it is morning time, open up the curtains immediately, as the sunlight can help jumpstart your day and give you energy.
3-Limit naps to 15-30 minutes at most. Skip naps if at all possible, because you most likely won't be ready for bed at your typical bed time.
4-Have a consistent sleep/wake time. Even if it’s the weekend, or your day off, it’s best to wake up within 1 hour of your normal wake time to not throw off your bed time that night. And, go to bed at approximately the same time every night.
5-(THIS ONE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT!) Create a relaxing bedtime routine that includes no electronics. Just as children crave routine, especially at bedtime, we do too! A routine (like bath, pjs, read a book, and bedtime for kids) helps our brains to understand what is coming next. Your brain will learn to expect that soon you'll want to fall asleep. So, starting at least one hour prior to bedtime, turn off all electronics (yes, this includes your iPad, computer, tv and cell phone). Some of these electronics have a “nighttime” lighting setting, but any light that they emit can prohibit your brain from naturally producing the melatonin that signals your body that you are tired. Take a warm bath or shower. As your body temperate decreases from the bath or shower, you will naturally become drowsy. Take some time to journal your thoughts, or work on a crossword puzzle. Read. Crochet. Do Sudoku. If you turn off your phone, you’ll find you have time to do some of the things you previously did in the non-digital age, while promoting good sleep habits.
Give some of these a try and let me know what works for you!