Sleep is something that is absolutely imperative to living and yet it is also something that we so often skimp on when we are stressed. Adults typically need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Take a moment and think – when was the last time that you got that amount of sleep per night for a few days in a row? How did you feel? Or maybe, it’s been so long that you can’t remember. How do you feel now? Research has shown that when we are sleep deprived we respond similarly to when we are intoxicated. And yet, we so often go about our days sleep deprived; driving around town, making decisions, and caring for others. We simply must create greater emphasis on getting more and better quality sleep! This applies for us and our children. Try these tips for a week and then compare how you feel.
- Start powering down at least 60 minutes before bedtime. This means turn off electronic devices which stimulate our minds. Reducing the stimulation allows our brains to begin to power down for sleep which is a gradual process. So that when we get into bed, our mind is already in a closer to relaxed state.
- Create a bedtime routine. We often do this for our children and yet not for ourselves. Perhaps its changing into pajamas then reading for 30 minutes then turning out the light. Or perhaps its wiping the counters, having a cup of tea then going to your room. Whatever works for you and is realistic. Sure, it’d be great to mediate every night but if it’s not realistic then let’s not put it as part of our routine or we’re just setting ourselves up. Having a routine let’s your mind know that sleep is coming soon when you begin the routine each night.
- Avoid large meals before bed. It can be easy to snack on chips or ice cream or to even eat a late dinner some nights. Food equals calories which gives us energy. Taking in large amounts of calories will give us energy which is the opposite of what we want right before bed. Further, when we eat a lot we may become uncomfortable which can make it more difficult to get physically relaxed when we get into bed.
- Calm your mind. Often, it isn’t our body that keeps us up, but rather our mind. Practicing mindfulness can be one way to learn how to become more aware of what is happening in our mind and to then be able to direct what happens. For example, if I frequently get into bed and then think about everything from the melting glaciers to my shortcomings from the day, I can be actually increasing my anxiety which is the opposite of becoming more relaxed. When I can remind myself that my thoughts are just thoughts and that I can choose to let them pass by my mind like clouds in the sky, I’m taking steps towards calm rather than activity and anxiety.
- Put a pen and pad next to the bed. Sometimes we remember things when we’re laying in bed because the stimulation of the day has died down. When we have an idea we can write it down on the paper next to the bed which removes the feeling of anxiety about having to remember it the next day. We can write it down and then let it go. It will be there when we wake up.
I’d love to hear what works for you! Sweet dreams!