Do you go to bed exhausted and wake up not feeling much better? Do you try to get to bed earlier thinking that more time in bed could be the solution, only to find yourself disappointed? The days roll into a blur and before you know it, you can't remember that last time you had a good quality night's Sleep.
I know just how you feel. I would collapse into bed feeling bone tired, but then I'd wake up multiple times throughout the night. I'd look at the clock to see what time it was, then estimate how much time was left before I had to get up. Also as a light sleeper, it took me ages to get into a deep sleep. I was stuck in this rut over a long period of time while caring for my husband who was unwell, while orchestrating the kids and running the house - and working full time. You get the picture. So I TOTALLY relate to the frustration of sleep deprivation.
After talking with a colleague at work, she suggested that I see my GP for some help. "You have got a LOT on your plate right now...." You know it girl!
A Surprising Approach To Sleep Health
I really thought medication would help me just get on top of this lack of sleep issue. You know - just get me through this sleep-deprived state long enough to feel like I have caught up! Thankfully my very wise GP, while compassionate, had a wise approach. Yes he gave me a script for sleeping pills, but I never actually got the script filled. Why not? Because, after completing a well-planned and lengthy questionnaire with him (yes - it really was actually helpful) - I immediately recognised a few strategies that I knew I could immediately implement. Health has so many parts to it. There is physical health, mental health, spiritual health and yes - sleep health! In fact sleep would have to be the most important part of your health regime of all, simply due to the impact it has on the rest of our wellbeing.
From Haphazard To Habitual
We have often heard how important it is to have positive healthy practices in our lives; healthy eating, plenty of exercise, drink lots of water etc. Be proactive in looking after ourselves. Not a 'new' message that's for sure. I am the first to admit that executing healthy habits tends to fall away pretty quickly after the initial high. Not getting outside several times a week and going for a run. Not giving much thought to my diet. The biggest one? Not sleeping well.
As a result of not sleeping well, I'd be too tired to get out in the morning for my exercise and of course too tired when I'd get home from work. So this new pattern was on a repeat cycle. I was getting to that exhausted state again and everyone around me could see it too. So I have a new ally that has flipped my poor habit patterns.
I found this share on Pinterest and now, in my Bullet Journal - I have set up my own personalised Habit Tracker which I simply MUST fill in every single day. I am rather compulsive like that - so it's a match made-in-heaven scenario!
Now - to the 6 ways that YOU can significantly improve your sleep experience. If the points below seem too many for you - just start with one and see how you go. Also - keep track of what you try in a journal and to record your results. This could be really beneficial if you need to see your GP about any health-related issues in the future. He'll know doubt ask you about your sleep patterns.
6 Simple Steps To Improve Your Sleep Health
#1 Go To Bed Later
I know!! "Are you kidding me?" I hear you. I was just as horrified at first with this idea when my doctor said this!! But here's the thing - I would get stressed about how tired I felt and the fact that I would most likely not get much sleep SO I would try to get to bed earlier. Yet it made no difference. Go to bed 1-1/2hrs later than usual. You will be really, REALLY, ready for sleep!
#2 Wind Down to Unwind
Give yourself 1.5 hours (an hour minimum) to implement a selection from the following 'menu' of options:
- No more screens of any kind;
- Read if you'd like to - but a real paper-based book, not digital - and don't read in bed! Doctor's orders! Truly - he said "Bed is for sleep and intimacy";
- No scary or thriller style TV/movies right for bed. Not helpful;
- Play some nice music that is relaxing for you;
- Take a bath or a nice hot shower;
- Colour in! I was thrilled with this idea that I had all by myself! I have several of those "Colouring In for Adults" but hardly ever touched them because I didn't have time. Now I do - and I am intentional!
- No conversations after 9:30 that are likely to generate a heightened emotional state. Let's talk about the events of the day BEFORE then. (This boundary is one I came up with and is working a treat!)
#3 During the Day
- No big meals close to bedtime;
- No caffeine after lunchtime;
- Exercise! Melatonin is vital for sleeping and having time outside in the fresh air and sunlight aids the natural melatonin development process. Go figure!
#4 Set Up The Environment
- If you have a clock in the bedroom, dim it or turn it around so that you cannot see the time. One bad habit I kept repeating was that every time I'd wake up through the night I'd look to see what the time was. When you do that, the brain starts getting out of that needed rest state and becomes more alert - making it harder to get back to sleep again. Chuck a shirt over the clock if you have to!
- Create a designated place in your home where you give yourself permission to worry. At that place (study, dining table) - write down anything that is troubling you. That process takes it out of your mind and on to paper, to deal with at a later time.
#5 Prepare For Tomorrow Tonight
- The brain does funny things to us. So many early mornings have come and gone where I had every intention of getting out for exercise, but didn't do it! The brain starts to kick in with "oh - I can always do this at lunch time or after work" but we both know - it very, very rarely does! So what I do to combat that brain is tell myself "don't think - just do". I have my exercise gear beside the bed now so all I need to do is sit up and start getting dressed. Once those runners are on that's it - off I go
- I also found that for me it makes a big difference to my post-sleep mornings if I have already decided what I'll wear to work the next day and put it aside in the wardrobe. Seem's minor I know - but if you are anything like me - I really don't care to spend excessive time (ANY time for that matter) trying to figure out what I'll wear today. I end up running out of time, running late - just doing the kind of running that IS good for me!
#6 Quality Products
- Scott Pape in his book "The Barefoot Investor: The Only Money Guide You Will Ever Need" talks about the 'stuff' we accumulate in our lives and is a big fan of scaling back. No doubt loosing everything they owned in a bush fire had something to do with that. One of the lessons he and his family learned was they had a renewed attitude to 'stuff' and advocates for this: don't waste your money on lots of crap. Instead, spend your money on QUALITY items that you use every single day - like underwear! Yup. But related to this topic - on the best quality bed/mattress/pillows you can afford. When was the last time you treated yourself to some top quality linen? Mattress Topper perhaps? Pillows? Think of it as investing in your health - because you are!
One of my favourite aspects of staying up later and implementing that wind-down routine is that I am having more time for things I enjoy. Reading, playing my guitar, colouring in! The huge lesson learned here is treat your night time wind-down routine with the same due diligence that's needed for our diet/exercise.
Sleep is so tremendously vital for our holistic health. Remember - if the 6 steps seem overwhelming all at once, just start with ONE and work with that, then try a 2nd one and so on. Let me know how you go! Sweet dreams!