Have you ever had a night where you tossed and turned? Where every time you crept to the edge of sleep, and began to drift ever so gently over the ledge, into a soft and welcoming dream- SNAP! – a thought shoots through your mind like a bolt of lightning, and your eyes flap open as if someone pulled the shutter string. Every minute that ticks by feels like an eternity. It’s as if the clock is whispering in your ear, daring for you to look at it, to see how much time has gone by, and how little time to sleep you have left. The longer you can’t fall asleep, the more your mind swirls around your need to.
A sleepless night is a most unwelcome occurrence. We feel stranded, alone with our thoughts, and beg the sandman to take mercy on us. Sleep, like money, seems to be the thing that everyone wants more of, but never gets enough of. While a complete understanding of why we need to sleep is still unknown, we know from experience that if we don’t get enough, we feel terrible. There are several day to day habits that will help you get the best sleep possible. They are seemingly small changes, but can make a huge difference if you often find yourself hopelessly counting sheep.
Turn Your Cell Phone Off
Ok, I get it, most of us use our cell phones as an alarm clock, but we also use them to read emails, make calls, send texts, play games, and scroll through social media. These distractions can release dopamine and cortisol, which are keeping you awake when they shouldn’t be. If you do use your phone as an alarm clock, place it out of arms reach so you won’t be tempted to use it.
Stick to A Schedule
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This helps regulate your circadian rhythm, or your body’s natural internal system that makes you feel sleepy or awake. Create a bedtime routine that helps separate the rest of your day to alert your brain that it is time to wind down. Get away from bright lights and external noise. If you aren’t tired yet, read a book. It will keep you entertained while still allowing your brain to transition to sleep mode.
Get Some Exercise
As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can help you get better shut-eye. Particularly if you exercise often. Not only will it help you burn off extra energy and reduce stress, healthy people are less likely to have sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or restless legs. Just make sure that you don’t exercise too close to bedtime, because it will energize you.
Be Mindful of Your Meals
Avoid caffeine after noon, and keep your sugar intake to a minimum. These affect hormones and neurotransmitters that keep us wired. Alcohol seems to make you drowsy, but after your body is done metabolizing it, it can cause you will wake up again. For some people, spicy foods and dairy can cause indigestion, especially while laying down, so be mindful of those as well.
No matter how disciplined we are with these rules, sleepless nights happen. Daily stressors have a profound impact on our ability to shut down, and sometimes we need that drink or extra shot of caffeine to make it through the day. However, if we can tip the scale in our favor to ensure that we have a frequent probability of good sleep, why not give them a try?