Sleep is an elusive fairy. She tickles my brain and then runs away only to come back and dance around. My brain, on the other hand, is an obnoxious bedmate. The moment I lie down he pokes me saying “Wanna think about stuff? Did you call the electrician? What if you don’t remember in the morning? Do we need apples? What are Catskills?” Between the elusive fairy and the obnoxious bedmate, sleep for me has been a journey. I do love the study of it, though. I love thinking, “now I have got it!” as I try new ways to get the best sleep possible.The ways that have been most effective have been gathered for your reading pleasure below!.
Whether your sleep fairy is flitting here and there or you have an obnoxious bully of a brain, these tips will help you improve your sleep hygiene, I promise.
HERE IS WHY YOU ARE SLEEPING LIKE CRAP
I – INCONSISTENT ROUTINE – I can remember my brother-in-law with my niece when she was a baby. An hour before bed he would turn down the lights and put on sweet, mellow music and dance with her. The dancing was her wind-down period to prepare her for sleep. It worked like a dream (pun intended). As adults, we are wired the same way. A consistent, reliable routine tells our body that it is time to start shutting down. Turn the lights down two hours before bed. Maybe only use non-EMF light sources like candlelight an hour before bed. Have rituals in place that trigger reflexive relaxation. If you know the story of Pavlov’s Dog, you know that we can be trained to have certain physiologic responses to external stimuli. So, the act of putting your briefcase by the door, locking the deadbolt, doing certain stretches before bed, maintaining the order in which you brush teeth, floss and wash your face can all become a signal to your brain to “get ready, it is dream time“.
N – NUTRITION – Everyone knows that you are not supposed to eat before bed. I disagree. This issue with eating before bed is that typically the selected late-night calories are usually crap and beyond your recommended calorie intake for the day. If you like to have a little snack before bed, then do it. Just make sure it does not tip you into “overeating”. Foods like sugar, caffeine and alcohol are to be avoided if you would like to sleep well.
S – STARING AT SCREENS – Put simply, there are two problems with staring at a screen before bed. The color of the blue light is highly stimulating to the brain. As a result, it becomes difficult to slow the brain waves down for sleep if you are looking at a screen to closely near snooze time. The second problem is that seeing flashes of images, words, and sounds such as on Facebook or Email, right before you try to go to sleep, just tells your brain to wake up. Your brain will start saying “Hey…hey (poke, poke)…watcha doing now? Wanna play, or think about work, or have that conversation with that jerk from today?” Consider of those flashes on the screen as revving the brain up for action and that is no good if you are trying to shut it down for sleep. As an analogy, my husband LOVES to rev up his nieces and nephews before they are supposed to go to bed. How successful do you think my sister-in-law is trying to get them down after that? My husband = Facebook before bed.
O – OVERSTIMULATED –I have a friend who says she is “Non-Verbal after 8 PM” She proclaims this to give her brain the opportunity to start to de-stimulate from the day. Whether it is a workout, a stressful argument, or a lively conversation with a friend, stimulation is going to dump adrenaline into the system. Think about the ways you can decrease stimuli before bed. If you have a crazy household with kids and laundry and general pandemonium you may need to create a sacred space in your bedroom that is off limit to the rest of the household’s chaos. Consider the paint, the lighting the art. Make a rule that no technology, or anything that reminds you of the tasks of the day, is allowed in the room. Your brain picks up on that unfolded load of laundry in the corner.
M – MAN’S BEST FRIEND – a tremendous amount of studies have been done to acknowledge that sleeping with a dog or cat decreases your sleep quality by an average of 53%. You wake up more frequently, and so do they. Most animal communicators and trainers will agree Man’s Best Friend is better in his space, and so are you. HERE the Huffington Post covers other disease-related issues regarding sleeping with a pet so in multiple aspects it is just is not a good idea. If you have sleep issues at all and “Rufus” is sharing your sleep space he is going to have to go. Mercola does a great job discussing how to transition your pet out of the room in this article.
N – NOT DARK OR COOL – Here is something “cool”. Your body produces more sleep-inducing hormones like Melatonin when it is working on staying cooler. One of the best ways to get better sleep is to cool down the room significantly. As your body tries to re-warm under the covers, the drowsiness ensues! The same effect occurs with darkness. Don’t think you are fooling your body if you do a half-baked job of making the room dark. It knows! Also, those cute little LED night lights slow Melatonin production and so they are keeping you awake. Cool and dark people, make it happen.
I – INCONSISTENT BEDTIME – I did a talk on “Healthy Habits” early in my practice, and one of the studies I uncovered (can’t find it for the life of me) talked about how during pre-electricity days people went to bed at sundown and got up at sun-up. There was a deep consistency to their routine and as the seasons changed so did their sleep habits but very slowly. No one was staying up until 2 AM in the morning on the weekend and then trying to force their bodies back into a schedule come Sunday night. The body is not designed to do well with this shifting around of bedtimes! Remember our first point about routine. Your body craves consistency. Getting to bed at the same time and waking at the same time can be wondrous for your sleep hygiene.
A – AYURVEDIC RULES – The Ayurvedic belief is that your body runs on 90-minute cycles. As it comes time for bed, your body will get sleepy at a time that it wants you to head under the sheets. If you fight it, then that cycle does not come around again for another 90 minutes. This works really well. If you miss the window, trying to sleep in that middle stretch is almost impossible but as soon as that next time mark comes around your body is ready again. For example, if I get tired at 7 PM and I decide to punch through, I don’t try again until 8:30 PM. Try it!
“INSOMNIA” – I thought was great word play to remember the tips for improving your sleep hygiene. I would love to know which of these you have found most effective and whether you have any other, non-Xanax, tips and tricks to share.
I encourage you this week to take hard stock of your sleep habits. Where do they need tuning? Where have you slipped on consistency? This TED TALK reveals how important our sleep is. I encourage you to take a couple of minutes to review the video and then make one sleep hygiene commitment this week.
Still can’t sleep? Here is some healthy supplemental help!
If you like this post, you will lay sleepless over these.