Turn off all electronic equipment and dim the lights a minimum of 30 minutes before bed; a full hour is best. The experts say it takes that long for the brain to calm down from outside stimuli.
Question: But what in the world will do I for thirty minutes to an hour?
Answer: reading, journal writing, listening to relaxing music-classical in particular has been found to be very calming; light stretching relaxes the body for sleep, writing a to-do list, meditating or a good conversation are a few good suggestions.
Maintain a regular pattern of sleep: Go to bed and get up at the same times every evening and morning.
Aim for 7 hours of sleep. Research has proven sleeping for seven hours is the healthiest amount of sleep time for most people. Getting too much sleep is just as unhealthy as sleeping too little.
Be adamant about your sleep routine six days a week; if not every day!
Prepare for the coming day. Prepare your breakfast, your clothes, whatever you need to bring with you or make a list. Doing so relieves worry and anxiety-preparation is very calming for sleep.
Read something positive or inspirational just before your head hits the pillow. Doing this, your brain is thinking of peaceful, uplifting thoughts; not working on your fears, doubts, to do list and worries.
Establish a relaxing bed time routine. Example: turn off all electronics, dim the lights, listen to soft, peaceful music, prepare for the coming day, brush your teeth, meditate, journal and/or read.
Set your alarm for your wake time, and then cover the read-out with a dark cloth. If you awaken during the night, do not look to see what time it is. This will prevent a calculating and thinking process from beginning that would potentially keep from going back to sleep.
Do not take naps. If you feel you must, nap for no longer than 30 minutes; two hours is not a nap!
Try taking .5 mgs of melatonin or natural cherry juice two hours before bed-it takes time to be effective. Although, bear in mind; neither one of these is a magic bullet. They will simply make it a little easier to sleep well.
Make your room as dark as possible; covering all illuminating lights even the tiny, green glowing cable box light.
Avoid all caffeinated beverages and foods an absolute minimum of six hours before sleep: coffee, tea, chocolate. The experts say we should cease all caffeine consumption after lunch (some experts say it can take as long as 16 hours for the body to completely eliminate all of the caffeine).
Avoid alcohol as well-a minimum of three hours before bedtime. Drinking may make you drowsy, but it will prevent you from reaching your deepest, most restorative stages of sleep. And, if that’s not enough; it will also wake you up as it leaves your system.
Have no electronics ‘even in their sleep mode’ within 5 feet of your head, e.g., your laptop, IPad or phone.
Do a few simple breathing exercises as soon as you get in bed, and afterward; focus on your breathe to distract yourself from thinking; The breathing exercises are immediately calming and focusing on one long slow breathe after the other will distract you from your thoughts-it’s the thinking, the tangential thinking that will keep you awake; one thought leads to the next, and the next, and the next, etc.
Reserve your bed for “The Three S’s”: Sleep, sex and sickness. You do not want your brain to associate being in bed with being awake. Do nothing in your bedroom that will train your brain to associate being in bed with being awake.
Exercise during the day for two reasons: One; The exercise will burn off excess energy and stress allowing for a calmer, more relaxed evening. Two; it has been found that experiencing bodily temperature variations (a temperature rise and fall) during the day is extremely conducive to a good night of sleep. This is the very reason why a nice warm bath is helpful.
Try taking a twenty minute hot bath before bed. Especially if you are unable to exercise; afterward, your body temperature will drop rapidly and cause drowsiness.
Avoid exercise or any rigorous activity within three hours of bedtime: The stimulating effects to your mind and your core body temperature can take at least that long to decline.
Make your bedroom as cold as possible. Most people do not sleep well in temperatures above 68 degrees. If you cannot get the room cold enough, a nifty trick is to wear socks. Socks will keep your feet warm allowing your body to get cold.
Reduce ambient noise: close your windows or use ear plugs if you must. Noise can take you from a deep, restorative level of sleep to a lighter level or from a light level to an awakened state. In regard to ambient noise; it’s the quality of sleep that suffers.
Call a supportive friend or family member or journal if something is troubling you. This way you won’t take it to bed with you. Ruminating over problems and worries can all too easily prevent you from gliding into sleep.
Don’t worry about waking in the middle of the night. Sleep becomes more fragmented as we age; awakening even multiple times throughout the night is perfectly normal. As long as you are able to go back to sleep within five to seven minutes-this is very normal for human beings as we age. It’s the worrying about it that is counterproductive to sleeping. The worrying will prevent you from returning to slumber. It’s the worrying about it that is unhealthy, not the awakenings. So, relax and just go back to sleep-you’re in good company.
If you are unable to sleep or wake up and are unable to go back to sleep: Do not turn on the lights and watch television or go on the internet!!! These practices will only further serve to wake you up. They will stimulate your cortisol-your awake hormone. Rather; do something quietly in dim lighting, e.g., listen to soft calming music-maybe with a cup of herbal tea; read until you feel sleepy enough to go back to bed; journal or write a to do list-there is something about writing things down that allows our minds to let them go.
Do not eat anything heavy after 7:00 pm. Eat light if you must. Your body is supposed to be working on what to do with all the nutrients you already consumed throughout your day. If you eat heavily shortly before bed, your body has no choice but to try to digest what you just ate, and it will not even do that well because as we sleep our metabolism slows down. Going to sleep with a full stomach is extremely dysregulating to your body, your sleep, your overall well-being and health.
Aromatherapy can be a very valuable tool of your sleep hygiene routine. It’s called therapy for a reason. These natural aromas are extremely calming to the mind and body. Many different scents are available at your local health food store for less than ten dollars and will last months. You place a dab or two on your palm, rub your palms together and breathe in the relaxing aroma. You can even dab a few drops on your pillow near where your nose will be.
Author: Kathleen M. Cossette
Kathleen M. Cossette is dedicated to working in the field of wellness-holistic wellness. Kathleen is a MN, DHS Certified Peer Specialist; a Copeland Center for Wellness Certified WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) facilitator; and a Minnesota Recovery Connection trained Addiction Recovery Coach as well as a freelance health and wellness writer. She provides support to those suffering with mental health and addiction challenges; connects others to resources for recovery; and gives one-on-one strength’s-based and holistic wellness coaching. She also spends her time at the Minneapolis and Hopkins Vail Place where she co-facilitates WRAP classes, teaches Nutrition and Mental Health classes and has voluntarily written articles for the Vail Place and Consumer Survivors Network Newsletters.