Did your grandmother make you take naps when you were a kid? Mine did. I fought it the whole way saying I wasn’t tired and I wasn’t going to sleep at all. My savvy grandmother knew better and no matter how I pleaded or rebelled she put me to bed with her no nonsense nap time rule and I woke up two hours later a whole new kid. A sleep problem is important to address – and should be taken care of immediately.
Sleep is something we often take for granted until we struggle to get to sleep or never really wake up from it dragging our faces across the office the next day. Then we try to beat the slog with caffeine and paste our eye balls to the computer screen for another 7.5 hours. Barring some major bummer like the flu, falling asleep should be easy. Your body needs sleep like it needs water and oxygen. It is so key to our overall wellbeing it’s a wonder there are not more resources advocating it right along side getting your daily protein.
Address that sleep problem now. Follow these steps for a simple snooze and get the sleep of your dreams!
Blue light, right? It isn’t natural and your brain does some acrobatics to keep up. Sleep is regulated by a cycle or circadian rhythm. This cycle is mediated by light. During the daylight, blue light increases our focus, but at night when hormone levels have switched to snooze mode, blue light is detrimental to our sleep patterns.
Tip: One hour before bed turn off phones, tablets, computers and your brain.
You don’t have to be a yogi to move your body and stretch your limbs. During a workout it is a great idea to get blood pumping and sweat it out, but before bed help the body find comfort and relaxation through stretching. Some yoga poses trigger your parasympathetic nervous system to derail the monkey mind and help you down shift from your day.
Tip: Try child’s pose resting your forehead on a pillow and letting your body release any tension.
Make it your mantra to get enough water especially in the winter when the air is cold. The body loses moisture in colder and drier weather, by talking and of course if you exercise so replenish your fluids. It is helpful to put lotion on your skin before bed and use natural chapstick to keep your lips from drying out.
Tip: Drink half your body weight in ounces before 2 pm and spare yourself the trips in the middle of the night.
Some of the best selling books are about healthy habits because we intrinsically understand that structure and routine lead to success. Sleep routine is the same. To get rid of that pesky sleep problem, try to get under the covers at the same time every night and wake at the same time every morning. If you suffer from fatigue make bedtime before 10:30 pm and try to be up before 7:30 am. Be committed to this! It may take some training, but the body will appreciate it over time.
Tip: Put a rest routine in place – there is no app for that – plan to light a candle, do your deep breathing, stretch it out. For those parents out there you understand that the only way we will find peace is through creating a safe routine for children to follow. Treat your body like a toddler and let it rest.
Noise is pollution to the senses when the body is trying to wind down. To get deep restful sleep manage your environment so you are comfortable. Make your bedroom a sanctuary space where no electronics or heavy conversations are allowed.
Tip: Dim the lights before bed and sleep in a dark, as in, black out room. Turn the temp down so the air is cool- somewhere around 60-65*, make it a silent chamber of stillness and quiet. Surround yourself with light fragrances that help you feel relaxed. I love a mix of cedar and sage in a diffuser makes me feel like I am napping in the forest.
Why would this be a thing on a list? Because our lungs are massive and super essential to our vitality. From the tops of your shoulders to the bottom of your rib cage lungs fill the space and we typically only breathe into the top portion. Deep belly breaths actually help relieve tension in the body, pressing the diaphragm into the other organs and releasing core muscles (like the psoas) where emotional anxiety builds up. And as we know, emotional anxiety is not exactly helpful if you have a sleep problem.
Tip: Lay on your back with your knees bent and inhale to fill your belly then exhale all of the air and let your belly go flat. Try breathing so that both your lungs and your belly inflate with life giving oxygen and when you exhale push the last bit of air out right at the end. Don’t make yourself dizzy though!
When I struggle to go to sleep and nothing else is working it’s usually because my mind is still very much awake. The trick I have found that works every time to address this sleep problem without fail is a little mantra that overrides my conscious mind and activates the subconscious. It takes about 10m and is best if you are comfortable, covered and ready for sleep.
Tip: Start with a deep breath. Bring your awareness to your physical body, sensations, smells, wiggle your toes and fingers. Let your body relax into your bed and begin with your feet.
“My body is so relaxed” follow a natural breathing rhythm and repeat “My toes are so relaxed, my feet, ankles, calves, etc., all the way up to your face, mouth, eyes and scalp. By telling your body it is relaxed it has no choice but to follow.
This is the one step that isn’t done overnight. No pun intended. Diet is an important long-term healthy habit that we can always improve upon. In general, some foods and substances that play a role in offsetting adequate sleep is caffeine, sugar, carbs and alcohol.
Tip: Eat dinner earlier, make it lighter and consume nothing past 8 pm. The body should not be digesting when it is trying to rest. This slows metabolism and gums up the otherwise very efficient process of sleeping, hence explaining your sleep problem.
Harvard’s sleep health research reminds us of what we may already know; that sleep is critical to quality of life and determines our level of wellbeing. It also demonstrates that getting enough sleep is the paramount requirement for healthy brain development in infants and children and can prevent disease in adults.
A solid measurement of “adequate” sleep is somewhere between 6 and 9 hours per night. By consistently replenishing our system our bodies benefit by having:
- improved memory
- more creativity
- increased endurance
- increased ability to concentrate
- maintained weight and metabolism
- reduction in stress impacting cardiovascular health and blood pressure
While we sleep the body builds reserves allowing us to fight infection, reduce inflammation and regulate blood sugar. When we lose sleep or face a sleep problem, we have a diminished ability to ward off illness. Sleep deprivation is cumulative making it important to catch up with hours lost. The National Sleep Foundation reports that not getting enough sleep can become sleep disorders and are associated with an increased risk of:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Find out what works best for you and then honor that, own it and protect it like your health depends on it, because it does.