Did you know it's National Sleep Awareness Week? My whole life I've had trouble falling asleep, and staying asleep too. Maybe you can relate? If you can't remember the last time you woke up feeling rested and refreshed, you're probably not getting quality sleep. And poor sleep can take its toll, resulting in fatigue, reduced functioning, impaired memory and lowered mood, among other problems. So, what can we do?
Here are 10 tips that can help:
Write it down: If you find yourself lying awake at night running through a checklist of everything you have to do, you're not alone. So, why not write it all down? If something pops into your head, jot it down and address it in the morning. If you find yourself stressing or worrying, try journaling to help get things off your mind. Learn more about journaling by clicking here.
Exercise at the right time: Morning exercise may help your body clock stay active during the day and become ready for sleep at night. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime.
Watch what and when you eat: If your habit is to have a late dinner and then go to sleep within an hour or two, the activity of digestion will keep your brain and body awake longer. Love chocolate or coffee? Move those items to earlier in the day; caffeine can stay in your system for up to seven hours.
Get cozy: A calming tea like chamomile gets your body ready for sleep. If you want to avoid beverages that may have you waking up to go to the bathroom, try a hot bath. A foot massage is great if you're lucky enough to have an obliging partner or roommate. When you're warm, cozy and relaxed, you'll be sound asleep before you know it.
Focus on your breath: Counting sheep works for a reason. It's similar to meditating. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing; notice how it moves in and out of your nose, cooler on the way in and warmer on the way out. If your mind wonders just keep bringing it back to the breath. Listening to a mediation podcast or relaxing music or sounds can help too.
Do a body-relaxation scan: This includes relaxing every part of your body, one part at a time. From head to toe, sense the weight of each body part and then release any tension, feeling yourself sink into the bed. Sometimes it helps to alternately tense and relax body parts, letting everything go. Move down your entire body until it is totally relaxed. Don't forget small areas like your jaw and forehead. When you're finished, if there is an area that still feels tense, focus your attention there for further relaxation.
Make your bedroom into a relaxing environment: Make sure your bedroom is clean, ventilated, cool, quiet and dark—all optimum conditions for better sleep. Comfy sheets, pillows and blankets won't hurt either.
If you can't fall asleep, get out of bed: Avoid spending time awake in your bedroom. That means no TV, laptop use or even reading under the covers (boring books may be the exception!).
Nix naps: Sure, you want a daytime nap after a poor night's sleep. Fight that urge. Napping takes away from your nighttime sleep need and makes it harder to fall asleep. That sets up a continuing cycle of disrupted sleep and napping that keeps you from getting meaningful rest.
Watch your weight: A higher body mass index (BMI) contributes to shortened sleep. Obesity also increases your risk of obstructive sleep apnea, in which you stop breathing during sleep. Those interruptions wake you briefly and cause fragmented sleep. Learn more about the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea by clicking here.
For more on improving sleep without medication, click here.