Sleep Talk – How To Get Better Sleep
With all the stress, busyness and anxiety we run day-to-day, many of us would love to get better sleep. The main complaints I hear in my work as a life coach and hypnotherapist, are not being able to get to sleep and not being able to stay asleep. Sleep is so important to our well-being and influences not only our physical health, but our moods and thought processes. If deprived of enough sleep, a person actually begins to hallucinate. That’s how bad we need it! It’s right up there with food and water.
One person recently told me that because of their insomnia, they felt they were literally becoming a different person. The way they were acting with family and friends didn’t feel like who they were anymore. Lack of sleep can affect your coordination, your memory, your pain levels, and your ability to focus on what’s important in life. Sleep helps us repair ourselves both physically and psychologically.
So here are some useful insights and tips on how to get better sleep.
First identify what is causing sleep problems. Pain definitely can interrupt sleep. So obviously addressing that pain in whatever way helps is key. And of course stress, grief, anxiety and trauma also affects your sleep. Worry is often something we bring into our night. And it’s something we need to leave behind. One thing I often suggest to people is having a worry spot or chair away from the bedroom where you can intentionally sit and process all your worries on purpose, at the end of the day. Then give yourself permission when you walk into that bedroom, that you will keep your sleep sacred and untouched by those worries. And you can always reassure yourself that you can come back to whatever is important in the morning during your waking hours. I would suggest keeping a journal, because sometimes when we get our thoughts out from head spin onto paper, it grounds them and puts them somewhere other than in our head. What is really behind what is keeping us awake, is self protection. As if through worrying, we can keep a sense of control over what might happen. But it’s not real control. It’s only a mental cycle that keeps you awake.
So after you identify what is keeping you awake. It’s important to listen to the message. What about your life needs attention or change? Here are some habit changes that can help sleep quantity and quality:
Having a sleep schedule, and a specific time you go to bed and wake up each day helps to regulate your body’s rhythms and biological clock.
Doing things like exercising in the evening, and drinking coffee to stay awake at night can mess up your nighttime sleep.
Allowing the evening to wind down can prepare your system for quality rest. I find that people are often reluctant to give themselves permission to wind down because they’re in such a hurry to cram everything into their day. So I suggest having a ritual or routine before bed where you do things that are relaxing and calm, like dimming the lights, taking a bath, doing some deep breathing, doing some light reading, lighting some candles, or playing some ambient music. Be careful what you intake through electronics and the media. Shutting down the computer and phone, and minimizing exposure to media, can allow a more relaxing preparation for sleep. Just like you decide what to feed your body for your physical health, make a conscious decision what to feed your mind.
Another thing is to arrange your environment in a way that relaxes you. Have it be a comfortable temperature. Have your mattress and pillows the way that you’re comfortable. If there are noises at night, you can put on a fan or white noise maker or sound soother to block out the sound. Just make your environment something that is soothing to you.
As for caffeine and food, it’s good to avoid caffeine the second half of the day, as well as nicotine, as those are stimulants. Also, alcohol night caps may cause drowsiness, but they also can interrupt sleep through the night and decrease your quality of sleep later in the night. And having meals in the evening can keep your body up digesting food. A light snack is probably best because you don’t want to go to bed hungry either.
Now what about sleeping during the day? To nap or not to nap? Some people like to take a short nap. It’s better to just keep it short, in the afternoon or late afternoon, and not too close to sleep time. Too much naptime can interrupt your sleep schedule.
It can be also helpful to listen to a guided meditation, such as my sleep induction or another of your choice, as you lie down to sleep. This can be healing, calming, and engages a part of your brain other than your monkey mind.
Other than sleep techniques, I would encourage anyone to address any life issues that are bothering you. Often we stuff them or try to bypass them for too long, and they end up surfacing in some other way, like sleep interruption. This is because there’s a part of you that needs to be at acknowledged and heard for whatever message it’s giving you. So listen closely to the messages of your feelings and reach out for help if needed. Don’t think you have to go it alone. If you don’t have family and friends or people available right now in your life, you can always turn to a professional. Feel free to email me or contact me if you’d like more information or have more questions, I’d be happy to help you in any way I can.
My sleep audio meditation, Sound Asleep, in my hypnotherapy series, can be found on Amazon, iTunes and other digital media outlets.