You’re in bed wanting to sleep but for some uncanny reason, you just can’t. You toss, you turn, you wonder why this happens to you, you look at the time…OMG, it’s so late…you’re sure to have a crappy morning tomorrow. You’re frustrated, tired, and unhappy but the sleep fairy hasn’t hit you up yet. Sound familiar?
I went through years of insomnia and tried many tactics that didn’t work. I didn’t want to resort to taking meds because I felt it was only masking the problem. And the times I did try sleeping pills…let’s just say I engaged in extracurricular activities I didn’t recall the next day. So I went on a quest to find what would work. Here are 5 actions to help you get restful sleep:
1.No alcohol after 6 pm. No coffee after 12 pm.
Although alcohol makes us drowsy, it gives us poor sleep quality. It blocks REM sleep, which is the restorative part of our sleep. REM helps us feel focused and energized in the morning. Alcohol can interrupt our circadian rhythm which may lead to frequent waking in the middle of the night or restlessness. Alcohol also suppresses your breathing. This is why drunk people snore louder than normal.
And now our friend, Coffee. Now this one was tough for me. Back in college, I could drink a pot of coffee like a 7-foot Viking drinks beer, but such is not the case anymore. As we age, our bodies change and some foods may affect us differently than they use to, so begin noticing how your body feels and reacts after your coffee intake and don’t drink it past noon.
Exercise is the prescription you just can’t escape. Exercise improves sleep quality and sleep duration. Only 20 minutes a day of brisk walking, jogging, yoga, or dancing can help. So next time you walk your dog, walk faster so it counts as exercise.
Are you taking a daily multivitamin? Deficiency in vitamins/minerals such as vitamin D, potassium, iron, and magnesium can affect your sleep. Look into a natural multivitamin with essential minerals. Check out Magnesium lotion – it’s a great way of getting magnesium into your system without a pill. And of course, the best way to get your vitamins is from natural food sources like fruit and vegetables!
When you go to sleep, treat yourself like royalty – Make your room extra comfortable. The temperature in the room should be a notch or two colder than what you’re typically comfortable with because our body temperature changes while we sleep. We sleep better when we’re cooler so keep it below 70 degrees and get a comforter that’s not too hot. Get darker curtains to keep the light out – light disrupts the sleep cycle so complete darkness is best. Throw away your old crappy pillows and get ones you truly enjoy. Spritz some lavender essential oil in your room or use a diffuser. Lavender helps calm and relax you.
I know, I know, this is so uncool but hear me out. Electronics such as your phone, laptop, tv, and ipad emit light that suppress your melatonin production. Melatonin production is critical for your sleep, immune system, and even helping your body rid itself of cancer cells. “But I have a setting on my phone that decreases blue light!” you say? Doesn’t matter. Any light affects your body’s natural rhythm. Begin by choosing a set time you will get to bed, let’s say 10:30 pm, then set an alarm on your phone that reminds you to turn off electronics at 9:30 pm. Either turn off your phone or have it go automatically on silent (if you can trust yourself not to look at it past that time). If you use your phone as an alarm, you may want to consider getting a separate old fashioned alarm. Choose one with no light so that you’re not staring at it during nights you can’t sleep well. It’s also helpful to decrease light exposure around the house and bedroom. This gives your mind the message that it’s time to wind down and relax.
Stressing over how crappy your morning will be the next day will only give you more anxiety and keep you up longer. If you can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, get out of bed and move rooms. Do some deep breathing, meditate, count your blessings, anything except look at your phone or electronics. And if you’ve had bad sleep, don’t walk around telling everyone you got awful sleep or complaining about how tired you are. It brings down your mood and energy even more. Plus, no one likes complainers. Begin expecting a great morning rather than dreading how awful you’ll feel the next day. Why? Our minds are powerful and create what we expect.