Lack of sleep can have far-reaching health implications as well as being annoying and leaving you tired for the next day. For years, I had issues sleeping. If I got more than 4 hours a night I was doing good. Something had to be done.
I did some research as to some possible things I could try to improve the situation. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I tried any suggestion I came across. In the end, I found six things that actually worked over time and drastically improved my sleeping patterns. I am proud to say that I am able to sleep for at least 7 hours a night now. I have more energy and am definitely healthier for it. Here is what I helped me reap the benefits of a peaceful night’s sleep.
- How much sleep do you need? We are usually advised to get 8 hours of sleep a night but not everyone needs this amount. Some people work best on 6 or 7 hours while others need 9 or 10. Work out what your optimum sleep time is and then make sure you get it on a regular basis.
- Establish a bed-time routine that you follow every night. This routine is a winding down process that ensures you are relaxed and ready for sleep. Different things work for different people but some of the more common activities that people use include a warm shower (not hot as this is too stimulating); a warm drink, especially milk as it has a sedative effect; meditation; listening to soft, calming music; reading a quiet book (not a suspense thriller); gentle stretches to remove any tightness in your muscles; breathing exercises.
- Make sure your diet isn’t keeping you awake. Some foods have a heating effect on the body and these can affect your sleep. Make sure you eat your last meal of the day several hours before you go to bed, to give your body a chance to start the digestion process. Have a light snack half an hour before bed if you are hungry. Your body needs the correct, nutritionally-balanced diet to function properly, so you need a diet that is high in fruit and vegetables, lean protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates. Limit fast food and foods that contain high amounts of fat or sugar. Try eating 6 small meals a day instead of 3 big meals, especially if you are not able to have your evening meal well before bed time. Keep your body hydrated by drinking a glass of water every hour through the day. Limit sodas, caffeine drinks and alcohol.
- Get enough exercise each day. You will sleep better when you have been active through the day. For optimum health and wellness we need to have 20 to 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. If you can’t find the time to exercise, aim for a short brisk walk during your lunch break each day. Research has found that morning is the best time to exercise for people with sleep problems. Learning yoga or tai chi can be a great help as these ancient arts teach control of mind and body as well as breathing exercise which aid relaxation.
- Learn to manage stress. Stress is a major reason why many people can’t fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. There are numerous strategies and methods for stress management; you can attend a course or find excellent research on the internet. Stress often means that you find it hard to still your mind when you go to bed and this stops you falling asleep. Keep a notebook and pencil beside your bed and write down any thoughts that come into your mind when you are in bed. Your notes will help you remember what you were thinking for the next day.
- Plan the next day. As part of your bedtime routine, you could write a to-do list for the next day. This allows you to sort out what you needs to get done so that it won’t be on your mind as you are falling asleep. If you find this unsettling, do it before dinner or before you leave work. Prior planning allows you to clear your mind of work-related thoughts and allows you to rest better.
Give yourself the best chance of consistently getting a good night’s sleep by ensuring that your bedroom is quiet and calming. Approach each night with a positive attitude and, with the help if these strategies for getting more sleep, enjoy the benefits of a good night.
So, have you ever had issues sleeping? What things have you tried?
This post is so timely: I have been waking up after 4-5 hours sleep for sometime now and am feeling increasingly more tired. This brings me to the six strategies you discuss. I am ready to try them all but how do you figure out how much sleep do you need? And, of course, controlling stress is a bit of a challenge.
Sorry to hear you have been battling this. There is hope though so don’t fret.
Dr. Michael Breus writes on the Insomnia Blog that to find your perfect bedtime, you should count back 7.5 hours from your typical wake time (the average person has 5 sleep cycles that last 90 minutes long, so that’s why we should start with 7.5 hours). If you wake up within 10 minutes before your morning alarm after three days, that’s your target bedtime.
If not, move your bedtime back by 15 minutes every three days until you do wake up just before your morning alarm.
I tend to go through phases, where for a few months I will sleep like a baby every money and then others where if I was able to get 3-4 hours I would count myself lucky.
Sounds like your sleep is affected by circumstances and stress.
Or in my case, get the thick “blackout” curtains, which cuts down on teh streetlight that comes in through my window, and magically I started sleeping better!
It is amazing how much even a tiny bit of light can affect your sleep. I use a sleep mask which works great.
Mr. LH has been working with a client on a sleep site and it’s interesting that the protocol for getting a better night’s sleep is really setting a routine and stop worrying about not getting enough sleep. I helped with the site a bit and apparently many insomniacs stress out so much about not being able to fall asleep, that prevents them from sleeping. It’s interesting stuff, but not getting enough sleep is really unhealthy.
It is interesting how you can stress yourself out by trying to fix the problem. Sometimes you just have to let things be.
I definitely need to work on this. I generally don’t have a problem getting up early, but I really need to work on increasing the amount of sleep I get. I see so much that I can do and hesitate to put it down for sleep. However, I need to place more value on facing the day fully refreshed. Thank you for writing this!!!!
As much as I have improved my habits I still have to work on the same thing as you. I still don’t get the ideal amount of sleep. Going to bed earlier is on the project list.
Love that last tip. I lie there at night and my mind won’t shut off…this might just work. An additional tip? Don’t have a baby.
lol. I have monkey brain too. One thing that has helped me is to read before bed. It helps me focus on one thing and lets my mind slow down.
That’s a great idea. I’m going to have to try it out.
Do try it and let me know how it goes.
Powerful sleep tips. I really enjoyed reading your post, and I agree with each one of your suggestions.
Thanks for stopping by.
Don’t have a baby. 🙂
Hahaha, just joking. It’s getting better everyday and soon I’ll be able to get my 8 hours.
lol. Yes I know that. Haven’t had kids yet but am well aware as to the disruption it can cause with sleep. My plan- sleep when baby sleeps.
Great tips. Adequately managing stress is a big one for me 🙂
Its a hugs one for me too. My stress can easily get out of control. I find exercise and reading to really help.
I’ve gotten in the habit of listening to CBC podcasts when I get into bed. Believe it or not, I often quickly fall asleep even with someone talking to me through earbuds! If I wake up in the middle of the night and start stressing about something, a CBC ‘bedtime story’ again often does the trick.
Good to know. I will definitely have to try that.
You said it well yourself. You need to establish a better routine. Don’t let your health take the back seat. It is an expensive price to pay later on.
Sleeping well is really important to me. I like to get about 10 hours a night. Prior to Christmas I was waking up every night around 3 am and then laying there for about an hour. My mind starts running and I can’t stop it. Lately, I have been making sure that I take my vitamins and now I am not waking up anymore at 3 am.
Glad you found out how to fix the problem. I find reading and exercise really helps with my monkey brain.
Sleep WAS a major issue for me then. The major cause of my self-deprivation was stress. Having lots of things in mind plus the thought of having to go to work when I wake up just kept awake for hours. Now that I’m stress-free I can sleep regularly. I decided to work full-time from home so I can have more time with the family and to take care of myself.
Glad to hear you fixed your problem. It is amazing at the impact stress can have. Managing stress has a been a big one for me too.