Five Surprising Keys to Better Sleep
Sometimes the answer to better sleep is right in front of you, but you just don't realize it. Here are are five surprising tips to help you sleep more soundly.
By Lynell Ross, Certified Health and Wellness Coach
Our inability to sleep well at night can be caused by all kinds of things such as stress, drinking too much coffee, or even depression and other mood disorders. Often is it caused by our lack of healthy habits such as poor eating and staying up too late. If you are frustrated by waking up at night and not being able to fall back asleep, or not being able to fall asleep, then you know what an exhaustive cycle you are in. You may also know that this is taking a serious toll of your health, your lack of efficiency at work, and an inability to handle stress. Chances are it is affecting your relationships and your safety. Quality of sleep is more important to your health and your life than you may realize.
In the book The Sleep Solutions: Why Your Sleep is Broken, by W. Chris Winter, M.D., the basics of learning how to sleep without the need for sleep aids is revealed. Dr. Winter is a neurologist, and explains that while virtually every organ in the body is affected by sleep, sleep resides in the brain. In the book, Winters also reveals that “Poor sleep can lead to depression and negative mood consequences.” He makes the case for all the reasons that lack of sleep is harmful. The Sleep Solution is a detailed investigation about all aspects of sleep. One of the biggest takeaways from Dr. Winters is that “Achieving great sleep can take time.”
Like anything we attempt to do to improve our life, there are no quick fixes for permanent solutions. Sure, you can take a pill or have a drink to help you fall asleep, but if you are looking to solve your sleep problems for good, you will need to put in some concentrated effort.
Here are some surprising by proven suggestions to lead you to a long-term solution for a better night’s sleep:
1. Keep a Sleep Journal. Sit down with a journal and begin to become self-aware of your sleep habits. Keep the journal every night for two weeks. Record, what kind of day you had, what you ate, and describe your bedtime routine. Then the next morning, record details of your sleep. See if you can notice patterns with eating, stress activity, upsetting events, the time of day you started getting ready for bed, etc.
To be most effective, record the time you went to bed and the time you wake up in your sleep journal. Log the total number of hours you slept and the quality of your sleep. Write down the types of food and drinks your consumed six hours prior to bedtime. List your evening activity or exercise. Record your feelings and moods. Be sure to include any medications you take and the time you take them.
2. Make Your Bedroom a Priority. Take a day a dedicate it to making your bedroom a sleep haven. Clear it out and start fresh. Get rid of anything distracting or upsetting. Objects carry memories and disrupt your energy. Move out anything that doesn’t belong in the bedroom. If possible, do not bring work, papers, a computer, or anything distracting into your bedroom. Keep only the basics, a nightstand, lamp, dresser, and an excellent mattress that feels best to you. Do need a firm, medium or soft mattress? There are so many types on the market today that you should have no problem finding one that is best suited for you. If you have a spouse or sleep partner, they even have beds and mattresses, that split apart, have different amounts of firmness and more. Invest in soft linens, sheets, blankets, comforters and pillows that fit your head. If sleep is important to you, then make your bedroom, bed, mattress and linens a number one priority.
3. Stop Struggling with Sleep. I know, this sounds ridiculous. Have you heard the following saying? Anything we resist, persists. What this means is the more upset you are about the problem, the more you will worry about it. Your mind is what will allow you to fall asleep or prevent you from falling asleep. Dr. Stephen C. Hayes, author of “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life,” teaches that sleep is natural, and that we need to let go of our thinking to allow sleep to take over.
Dr. Guy Meadows, founder of The Sleep School is a sleep physiologist with a PhD from Imperial College, London. He has successfully treated over 1,000 clients and spent over 12,000 hours working with insomniacs in clinics, workshops and retreats. His approach is non-pharmacological and hugely successful. In his book, The Sleep Book: How to Sleep Well Every Night, Dr. Meadows shares that when we try all kinds of things to help ourselves sleep better, “sleep becomes more about doing stuff and less about actually sleeping.” In the book, Meadows teaches how to strop struggling and let go of trying to sleep. He breaks down mindfulness, and explains how to watch and observe your thoughts and feelings without judgement.
4. Get in Touch with Your Rhythms. In the Audio Book, Sleep Smarter, by Shawn Stevens- 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health and Bigger Success, Stevens lays out the case for working with your own body rhythms to create a better night’s sleep.
“When it comes to health, there is one criminally overlooked element: sleep. Good sleep helps you shed fat, stave off disease, stay productive and improve virtually every function of your mind and body.” Stevenson advocates getting in touch with your circadian rhythms by taking in sunlight and following your best body clock. He shares stress reduction exercises and fitness tip to keep you physically fit. Stress hypes us up and pumps us full of hormones to keep us on high alert.
We do all kinds of things during the day like drinking too much coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages, involve ourselves in high drama, eat rich foods late at night, put ourselves in pressure situations and then expect to come home, calm down and sleep like a baby. We need to think about our need for sleep as we go through the day. Experts say to cut out caffeine after noontime, learn to make our lives a drama free zone, and make reducing your stressful life your number one priority. Exercise is one of the best ways to help you calm down and promote better sleep.
5. Face What is Really Bothering You. In her book, Face the Fear and Do it Anyway, Dr. Susan Jeffers lays out a plan for moving from pain to pleasure. The bottom line is that it is no fun to look at our problems and what is really keeping you awake at night. However, until you face them, your problems will eat away at your peace of mind, and cause you to keep doing all those distracting things that are making your sleep worse. If you don’t look at what is upsetting you, you may distract yourself with unhealthy food, drink, and drama. It’s easier to do anything, then to stand up to the problem and try to do something about it. Until you have had enough, you won’t be motivated to do something about it. When you are ready, find a counselor, therapist, doctor, coach, or group and face your fears. When you do, your mind will let you rest.
In our fast paced, get ahead society, we have forgotten the basics of living a healthy lifestyle. We overlook the simple things like good sleep, fresh air, nutritious food and civility with the people in our lives. If you are having trouble sleeping and would like to re-learn how to sleep naturally, without the help of pills or other aids, you can find reliable help. And in the evening, while you train yourself to develop a better nighttime routine, read books on sleep to help you slow down. Remember that you are brave and can handle anything.