We're busy, we're stressed out, and many of us have a really hard time falling asleep. We have a few tips to help you get to sleep more quickly and sleep more soundly so that you wake up ready to take on the world!
If you look at the world today compared to the way humans lived for thousands of years, we've got a lot of things keeping us up later. From work and school obligations, TV shows, and all sources of artificial lights, our world is brighter than ever. But all that stimulation can make it very hard to get the quality sleep we need to make sense of work, family, and technology. More and more of our patients are having trouble getting anywhere near the eight hours of sleep suggested for adults, and some find it hard to get in even more than four or five hours or quality rest.
Sleep is a huge factor in health, having impact on everything from weight gain, attention span, stress, and blood pressure. There are plenty of reasons people can't fall asleep, and it's important to talk to us or your doctor about some of those issues that most affect you. There are, however, some good habits to practice to set yourself up for a good night's sleep.
1. Make it a habit. Adults need to have a bed time, too. Going to bed at the same time each night helps to set your circadian rhythm, a function of your nervous system that fires up during the day and winds down at night. This rhythm can impact everything from hormones to pulse, so getting in touch with it can help you get the most out of your most alert times. For example, some people are naturally wired to go to bed early and wake up early; these people may find that from 6-9 am is their most productive time of the day! Night owls might be geared better for afternoon productivity, and need to sleep in a bit later to feel properly rested. Whatever works for you, try to stick with a fixed time.
2. Routine Is Key. It can really help to 'tell' your body when it's time to rest. Going through the same ten to fifteen minute routine before bed can really help calm your mind and slow your pace to respond better to sleep. Wash your face, brush your teeth, take a minute or two to pet the dog, even set out your clothes for the next day; having a set routine that's familiar and calming can lead to falling asleep much more quickly.
3. Turn off the lights. And we mean all lights! Starting thirty minutes before bed, turn off all sources of light, especially the TV, computer screens, and even your phone. That type of stimulation can get your brain firing too quickly to find rest, and even the type of light that powers your phone is designed to perk your interest. If possible, keep your electronics use to a minimum, and consider using a good ol' fashion alarm clock to wake up in lieu of your phone to keep the cell away from your bedside.
4. Don't Panic. The best way to stay awake when you're trying to sleep is panicking or getting stressed out because you can't sleep. Be as positive as you can when you find restfulness elusive. Tell yourself that any and all time in the dark and lying still is quality rest, even if you're still awake. If your body needs the rest, it will fall asleep; until that happens, think about the positives of your day, your week, even the things you're grateful for in life as whole. These positives will reduce your stress and help you relax, eventually drifting off.
5. Notice patterns. Ever notice you can't sleep during a certain time of year, a certain day of the week, or something similar? Certain stress like work, family, the holidays, or even cold or hot temperatures can make sleeping tough. Make an effort to identify periods of poor sleep and determine what affects you. For example, one of our patients had a hard time sleeping on Sundays. The reason was because they'd spend the whole night worrying about all the things they had to do at work the next day. To help, we worked out that making a list of things to do Friday, and then taking care of 1-2 things during the weekend helped remove the stress of facing the workweek.