Sleep is often the first thing to suffer when stresses are mounting at home and work.
Expectations are high and your mind is filled with “what-if” and “what-next” thoughts.
Even though sleep is a requirement for survival it is the most common struggle and complaint among adults.
The common most frequent recommendation is to develop a sleep routine. To go to bed and wake-up at roughly the same time each day.
Agreed this is a key to developing, healthy sleep habits, but easier said than done.
Most people are able to identify what is their ideal sleep needs. For most adults, it’s between 7-9 hours of sleep. But the difficulty lies in how do I get the needed sleep when there are so many demands and pressures on my time and energy.
Here is a list of practical tried and true tips to help with falling asleep and getting the rest your body and mind desperately needs.
1. Set an alarm
Alarms are not just for waking up, but also for going to bed. Set your alarm for a reasonable time to start winding down to go to bed. Between family demands and streaming TV it can be easy to lose track of time in the evening.
2. Use parental controls on electronics
Originally intended for parents to supervise the volume of media their kids use, setting the parental controls on your phone, tablet and Netflix account is a great external reminder to unplug and go to bed.
Laying in bed playing on the phone or scrolling social media is tempting and can often feel like relaxation. However, the light emitted from devices prevents the sleep hormone melatonin from producing and can impact our quality of sleep. Choose to disable apps and streaming at a certain time as an additional reminder to turn off the devices and break the habit of laying in bed and watching a screen.
3. Talk with your partner
It is much harder to go to bed when your spouse is awake, busy about the house or watching your favorite show. Talk with your partner about changing your sleeping habits and make a plan together. This will create accountability and support.
4. Prep for tomorrow
Take a few moments to prepare for the next day. Prep breakfast, make your lunch, pick out your clothes, pack your gym bag, etc. Taking some time to prepare for the next day may prevent you from lying awake thinking about the morning’s to-do list.
5. Lower the lights.
Our bodies are designed to have a sleep and wake cycle that follows the sun. With electricity, we are more exposed to light after the sun goes down. Specialized cells in the retinas of your eyes process light and tell the brain whether it is day or night and can advance or delay our sleep-wake cycle.
Exposure to light can make it difficult to fall asleep so dim the lights in the evenings to trigger the body to know it’s time to sleep.
6.Eating before bed
There are many different viewpoints on whether eating before bed is good for you or not. But common sense tells us that drinking caffeine or having high carbs/sugary foods do not promote positive sleep.
However, I’m all about keeping things practical and evening meetings and skipping lunches are a reality in life. So, when you are forced to eating late, due to meetings or hunger try to choose foods that don’t cause indigestion or are on the lighter side. (here is a great article on eating before bed)
What’s the first thing on the recommendation list when we see a health care professional for just about any issue? Yep, exercise. And sleep is no different. Those who exercise report better sleep.
However, what is that last thing someone who is tired and struggles with sleep wants to do? Get up early and exercise. Good news! Reports say that exercise at any point of the day shows to improve sleep.
So get out and have walking meetings. Ride the stationary bike while watching TV. Or play basketball with your kids after dinner. More then your just your sleep will be improved.
Let’s talk about naps. Kids fight them, but adults crave them. Being awake during the day and sleeping at night is key to maintain a healthy sleep routine however, there are times when a nap is critical to productivity. Naps longer then 20min can leave people feeling groggy and naps later in the day can interfere with bedtime. So set an alarm, keep naps short and earlier in the day.
9. Daily expectations
It can be incredibly anxiety provoking to be lying in bed thinking of all the things you didn’t get done today and all the things on your list for tomorrow. By keeping reasonable expectations for a day’s work decreases stress and anxiety while lying in bed. Remember you are only one person with no superpowers. Keep work expectations reasonable.
With so many demands for your time and attention, it can be difficult to set boundaries. It’s tempting to book appointments late into the evenings or agree to volunteer your time beyond your capacity. But, having time to de-stress and relax is important for both your mental health and sleep. Set boundaries with your schedule so that you have time to whine down and recharge for the next day’s activities.
A personal favorite sleep tool of mine is Abide. Abide is a Christian meditation app for your phone or computer. With hundreds of guided meditations, listeners are soothed by music and encouraged by scriptures. Abide has meditations that are specific to bedtime and have proven results in lowering stress and improving listeners sleep. Check out the app here.
12. Progressive Relaxation
Often times, when we are under a lot of stress or pressure our muscles are tense and we have difficulty falling asleep. Progressive relaxation is when we systematically tense and release muscle groups to promote relaxation of the body and mind. Lie down in a quiet room and starting with your feet tense your muscles for a few seconds and then slowly relaxing them over the course of 20 to 30 seconds. Proceed up the body until the face slowly tensing and relaxing each of your muscle groups. By the end of this exercise your body should be more relaxed and your mind calmer and focused. Like all new things, this exercise may take a few times to get the hang of it.
13. Deep Breathing
“Take a deep breath and just relax.” Can’t be that simple, can it?
According to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry in December 2018, breath-focused relaxation techniques help both the brain and body relax. By targeting the autonomic nervous system through deep breathing techniques, the study’s authors say that deep breathing can help treat insomnia and sleep issues. And deep breathing exercises may make it easier to fall back asleep if you tend to wake up during the night.
There are many breathing exercises but the simplest one is laying down in bed and focus on taking a deep full breath through the nose in expanding your diaphragm. Hold this breath for 3-5 seconds and then slowly releasing the breath through the mouth. Work towards controlling the exhale so it takes twice as long as the inhale. There are many benefits to doing daily deep breathing exercises and improved sleep is certainly one of them.
In the bible, there are dozens of scriptures referencing rest and in the Gospels, it’s written that Jesus frequently retreated to rest and pray. Click here to download a list of scriptures about rest and peace.
God created our bodies to require rejuvenation and sleep.
As stewards of our bodies, we are to honor our body needs for sleep and rest.
I hope these tips serve you well and you are able to sleep peacefully and soundly.