“To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub.” Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Now that I am finally sleeping blissfully again, I can look back at how elusive sleep was for more than two years. I tried everything in order to get a good night’s sleep, and while nothing worked then, all of those new habits are now paying off splendidly!
Experts call this process Sleep Hygiene; revamping your habits and developing practices to improve sleep.
A good night’s sleep benefits everyone, in every way, from infants to centenarians.
This past year I saw lots and lots of people on social media complaining about sleep deprivation. Yes, there was a whole lot to be anxious about, so you can blame some of our collective sleeplessness on that. But a lot of our new behaviors are causing this sleep disruption: being glued to electronic devices at all hours, a lack of fresh air and daily exercise, working in a new environment (at home, in our pajamas, and often from our bed). Any one of these can contribute to sleeplessness, but compounded?
There are many consequences of poor sleep, especially when it occurs repeatedly.
- Weakened immunity
- Mood changes
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, and both short and long-term memory loss
- Weight gain
- Low sex drive
- Risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Have you ever dealt with a cranky, frustrated, and over-tire toddler? Lack of sleep creates all of those emotions in us, too. Fortunately, we don’t usually throw a screaming tantrum. Although…
Developing a good night-time routine will help reinforce “Bedtime” in your mind, making it easier for you to sleep..
- Limit naps and caffeine in the afternoon.
- Build in a one hour buffer before bedtime to unplug from electronic devices. They cause mental stimulation and produce blue-light which can disrupt sleep. If you like to read at night, read a book, or use the black-screen on your e-reader.
- Lower your lights to signal your brain that it’s time to relax.
- If you’ve been working in pajamas all day, change to a different pair for bedtime.
- Make your evening facial cleansing/moisturizing/tooth brushing routine into a relaxing ritual.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool enough, and if you need it, add some white noise. I used a small old-fashioned fan that whirred softly, but there are also white noise machines that you can purchase.
Experts say you should make this your Golden Rule: only use your bed for sex and sleeping, but I’m not about to hang-out on the couch when I don’t feel well, so I would include recuperation too.
I used to become anxious each night at bedtime because “I knew” I wasn’t going to fall asleep. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy until I developed a Daytime/Bedtime distinction in my mind. I also learned that if I went to bed and wasn’t asleep in 20 minutes, to get up. Stretch, read a book, sit quietly, or do something else calming, in low light, before trying to fall asleep again.
Do you have any tricks or practices that work for you that you would share? Let me know in the comments below.
We’d all like to be sleeping like a baby.