Sleep is important. A good night’s sleep can make use more empathetic, more creative, better parents, and better partners. Sleep can help us manage stress and can set us up better to manage day-to-day events. Too often, a good night’s sleep is an after thought seen as a nice to do but often out of our reach. When this happens, people often reach for a supplement or sleep aid. Here are some simple things we can do throughout the day to help set ourselves up for a good sleep.
During the Day:
Set aside time for “scheduled worry”.
We are too busy during the day to “worry” about things. At night, as we lie there with nothing else to do, things seem unmanageable and the worrying starts. To help mitigate this, set aside 10-20 minutes each day to think about the things that cause anxiety and just think about it. Take notes and jot things down as you think of them. This can help alleviate the anxiety/worrying at night.
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon.
Drinking coffee in the afternoon will result in caffeine being in your system by bedtime. Instead, if you feel you need an energy boost, go for a brisk walk, spend 5 – 10 minutes taking a break from work (do a bit of gardening, reorganize a book shelf, listen to some music and focus on the song). Finding a non-work task can re-energize the brain and jolt us out of a routine. If you want an extreme option, stick your head in the freezer! The jolt of cold air activates your arousal system like jumper cables on a car battery.
Declutter your bedroom.
Get ride of your computer, piles of laundry etc. that will only remind you of all things you need to do. If you cannot move them right out of the room then put them somewhere you cannot see when you are lying down. As well, to set the mood for sleep, invest in some blackout curtains and turn the heat down (or AC up).
Plan a transition period that lets you power down your brain.
The ideal power down time is two hours but often that is not possible so take as much time as you have to switch things off (TV, devices and computer) and get into sleep mode. Spend that time doing pleasant things such as listening to music, taking a bath, write in a journal, or sit outside and look at the stars. The idea is minimal distractions and low arousal activities.
Watch your favourite show again.
Rather than powering off your device, use it as a tool to power down your brain. Avoid watching or reading thrillers, mysteries, or action movies that will arouse the brain and keep you thinking. Instead watch something calming and possibly one you’ve seen before so your not left wondering what will happen when you turn if off.
During the Night:
If you cannot sleep then move.
Give yourself 20 minutes and if you still are not asleep then get up and move to the couch or living room and do something quiet like knitting or meditating. If you cannot get up out of bed then sit up. You want your body to associate lying down with sleep so do not stay in a lying position for too long if you cannot sleep.
Do not stress about having one or two bad nights. Having a few bad nights will not ruin your sleep pattern. Try some of the tips above to get you back into your sleep routine. If you are still unable to sleep talk to your doctor to find out the right way to deal with it.