The Well

Tag: Relaxation

Sweet Dreams

by Andrew Shaw on Oct.18, 2009, under Archives

If you have trouble sleeping, you’re not alone.  Millions of people struggle with falling or staying asleep, and getting a good night’s rest.  With work, busy schedules, children and other responsibilities, getting enough sleep can be quite a challenge.  Add in the stress and anxiety from financial difficulties, work problems, relationship issues and many other stressors, and it’s no wonder that we’re sleep deprived.  Below are some generally agreed upon tips for sleeping well; suggestions for creating a conducive environment and adopting healthy habits for a more peaceful and restful night.

Maintain a regular routine- Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day, even on the weekends. Sticking to a set schedule helps reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle and can help you fall asleep more easily at night.

Exercise regularly- Regular physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, can help you fall asleep faster and make your sleep more restful. However, try not to exercise right before bed as it may initially cause you to be more stimulated and alert.

Don’t eat or drink too much right before sleep- Eat lighter dinners at least two hours before sleeping. If you’re prone to heartburn, avoid spicy or fatty foods, which can increase heartburn and keep you up at night. Also, limit how much you drink before bed. Too much liquid can cause you to wake up repeatedly during the night.

Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol in the evening- These are stimulants that can keep you awake. It takes many hours to eliminate stimulants and their effects. Avoid caffeine for six to eight hours before your planned bedtime. And although often believed to be a sedative, alcohol actually disrupts sleep.

Stay in sync- Daytime naps may make it harder to rest solid through the night. Limit daytime sleep to about a half-hour. If you work nights, keep your window coverings closed so that sunlight, which influences the body’s internal clock, doesn’t interrupt your sleep. If you have trouble waking up, turn on bright lights or open the blinds to get some sunlight to awaken you.  Bright light in the morning can be helpful for activating the mind and body.

Make your bedroom comfortable, an ideal sleeping environment- Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Adjust the lighting, temperature, and noise level to your preferences. Use blackout curtains, eye covers, earplugs, a fan, a white-noise machine, or peaceful music to create an environment that suits your needs.  Usually the ideal sleeping environment is cool, dark and quiet.  Also, try to reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex only.  If you associate your bed with events like work, studying, tasks or errands, it will only make it harder to wind down at night.  You may also want to remove the television from the bedroom.  Television programs can actually stimulate rather than calm you, and the light and noise from the television can interfere with your body’s clock.

Go to bed when you’re tired- If you don’t fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, get up and do something else, something relaxing. Go back to bed when you’re tired. Don’t agonize over falling asleep. The stress and worry will only make it harder to sleep.  It may also be helpful to cover up your clock, so you’re not staring at the time ticking by.  If you continue to worry about losing sleep, try focusing the mind on something else, something simple and neutral, such as counting to ten as you breathe slowly in and out.

Develop a relaxing bedtime routine- Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down. Think about what relaxes you.  This may include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a light book, stretching or listening to soothing music. Relaxing activities can help ease the transition between wakefulness and sleepiness.  Try dimming the lights one hour before bedtime to relax and help get the mind and body ready for sleep.  Consider meditation or other relaxation techniques, such as yoga, visualization or muscle relaxation.  Avoid any nighttime activities that are stimulating or that cause stress and anxiety.  If you have a lot on your mind, write down your worries or make a to-do list and then set it aside, letting it be, until the next day.  For more on managing anxiety and worry, read a previous post, Lessening the Worry, 10-4-09.

Be Well

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