Getting yourself to fall asleep can sometimes feel like a major struggle. Do you know that 40% of adults in the US report symptoms of insomnia at some point annually? The CDC states that insufficient sleep is a public epidemic.
A man is a genius when he is dreaming.—Akira Kurosawa
Let’s look at what may be in the way of getting enough sleep. If sleep is something our bodies need and crave, why is it so difficult to not only get to bed at a reasonable hour, but to actually fall asleep?
This is a problem if, like me, you enjoy waking up early to get a head start on your day. It is extremely important to give your body its full rest during the night, so you will be ready to rise early and make the most of your day. Let’s look at the ‘process of getting to sleep’.
I have always been an excellent sleeper. Depending on what is going on in my life, however, I may experience some challenges.
Our life directly affects our sleep – even if we sleep alone and don’t factor in sleeping in a bed with someone else. Although much of the same principles apply. Here are some basic principles that, when done properly, can benefit sleep:
Create a room that is pleasant, peaceful and comfortable. This includes colors you choose, luxurious bedding, and the items that you decorate with.
I change my mattress every 7-10 years. It is important. I know that most mattresses come with a 20-year warranty, and they can be very expensive, but the mattress is what cradles us for sleep.
I prefer cool temperatures as they induce sleep, especially with a cozy comforter. If the room is too warm, I find myself kicking off the blankets and tossing around. Choose a temperature that suits you.
Have good, comfortable pillows, including several for body parts that may need more comfort. I learned in Yoga that our body parts are relaxed when supported by bolsters or pillows.
Your position in the bed will affect how you sleep. Experiment with the part of the bed that relaxes you and where you feel most comfortable. It doesn’t have to be a traditional one side. I sleep in the middle.
What you are wearing or not wearing for sleep is also important. Choose comfortable breathable clothing if you choose to wear something. I like to wear bed clothes that will not pull on me while I am sleeping. Material also matters. That is, when I am wearing something!
This is the natural processes that create physical, mental, and behavioral changes. Having a natural sleep pattern is what will allow you to get your best sleep. Sleeping the same or similar hours each night will establish the pattern. Once you have the pattern, your body will easily fall asleep and awake in the rhythm or pattern that you have made.
By creating a circadian rhythm, your body will become accustomed to the pattern. Just like if you have created a poor sleep pattern ignoring your natural circadian rhythm you will be sleep-deprived.
I have never been a fan of changing the clocks, and apparently, neither have the farmers. It is just my belief that changing the clocks only confuses my circadian rhythm and is an unnecessary practice, but we will leave that discussion for another day.
So how can you make the transition to take your body from a wakeful state to a restful state in a more effective way? With the busy lives we live, the multi-tasking, job, family, responsibilities and then throw in social media, and vast amounts of technology, it is no wonder that we are overstimulated at bedtime.
I have found that I have to prioritize my sleep ritual to help my body relax and prepare for a night of not just good, but excellent sleep. Sleeping when made a priority like food, water, and shelter, can have many health benefits and improve your overall mental state.
Let’s take a look at 4 key componentsto building your ideal sleep space:
We have heard too many times over the past decade that to help our sleep environment we need to shut off all technologyand electronics. There is no reason to sleep with your phone, yet many still do it. I love my phone just as much as you, but I don’t sleep with it. That also goes for laptops, the TV, and any other electronics.
Resist the temptation to look at your emails, Instagram, Facebook, and my biggest distraction, Pinterest, before bed. ALL of it will be there in the morning. You have to make good decisions to get what it is you want.
Make sure you have eaten a nourishing dinner. One that will stay with you, so you are not hungry. You do not want to overdo the sugar as it will wreak havoc on your sleep. I try not to eat past 8p.m. so that my body has time to process dinner and prepare my system for sleep.
I have set myself a reminder that says, ‘Get ready for a wonderful night’s sleep’. Why not? When we are exhausted, our brain sends signals to our body. However, we confuse those signals with hunger signals. Late night snacking is nothing more than our body telling us we are sleep-deprived.
That is why we think we get hungry late at night. When really we are tired, and it is our brain trying to signal us to go to bed. This not only may help with sleep, but also weight control.
I like to take a hot bath or shower before bed. Bathing is not only relaxing, but it prepares us for a good night’s sleep by beginning a sleep ritual. Freshly bathed, I make sure that my sheets are clean and crisp.
I am a big pillow person. I have a silk pillow case on the pillow I rest my head on. I arrange a few other pillows under my knees and on my side so that if and when I turn during the night, my body is comfortable, and I am not awakened by the discomfort of moving. I am cradled in a familiar arrangement.
Yes, I have become an Olympic sleeper.
Create a morning routine that you look forward to. How will you wake up and begin the new day? Have a morning routine in place, awake at the same time every day and do something pleasant that you enjoy.
I wake up naturally when the sun begins to shine through my windows. I never set a loud annoying alarm clock to shock me into waking up – that is just awful! I never wait until the last possible minute, jump out of bed, run and rush around until it is time to get out the door – who would look forward to a morning like that?
Rushing in the morning serves no good purpose. I stick to my routine whenever possible, remembering there are no hard and fast rules, and it is wonderful! How we start our day is how we live our life!
Read more: American Journal of Managed Care.
Are you a good, bad or great sleeper? What do you think prevents you from a good night’s sleep? How do you think poor sleep is affecting you?
Tags How to Sleep Better
I have battled insomnia for many years. My father did also. One thing that helped me a lot is Sleep Music from Amazon music. For me I concentrate on the music… if my brain drifts to thoughts about things that are going on like my to do list, I can focus on the music. My mother used to say what are you thinking about? I would say nothing but now I see my mind would drift back to things happening in my life. Sleep music is only calming melodies… I play it very quietly.
Thank-you Beth for the great info! Happy to hear- R
I regularly wake at 3 or 4 am and find it v difficult to get back to sleep. Any suggestions?
Hi Sinead, I suggest figuring out what it is that is waking you up? We are all different no hard and fast rules. Some things that wake us are room temperature, uncomfortable mattress, how many hours are you sleeping by 3/ 4am, is there a garbage truck outside waking you or a dog barking? Do you have to use the bathroom? These are just a few questions to think about so you can figure it out. Good luck and thanks for commenting. I hope it helps. Best R
In Dec. I had a sleep study and got a new APAP machine. I already had CPAP’s for 18 yrs. However, this new machine has a feature..new technology my older machines never had. It continually monitors oxygen level. My level kept dropping and the machine responds. Now for the first time I can sleep from 10:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. continuously. I believe people w/ sleep disorders have a fixable issue that goes undetected and undiagnosed.
Hi and thank-you for the info. Happy you are sleeping! Best R
Yada Yada Yada. How many times have we heard these exact same things from a doctor, a sleep expert, a life coach, and in this case, an excellent sleeper? Don’t you think that any intelligent person would know these by now? The thing is, they often still don’t work. That’s why so many people still can’t fall and stay asleep. Sometimes I think that my nighttime routine like changing into pajamas, washing up, flossing and brushing my teeth, taking out my contacts, and making sure the house is safe and secure, actually wakes me back up even though I started out sleepy. I sleep alone, my bedroom is calm, dark, and screen free. But I still can’t fall asleep and if I do, of course, my 71 year old bladder wakes me up a few hours later, and then I’m wide awake; until right before dawn when I can sleep for several hours, past when I should be getting up. If I have to be up early for some reason, then I’m tired and sluggish. Melatonin doesn’t help. So what’s the answer? Maybe forgetting all hygiene. dental care, and house routine and just let myself fall asleep on the couch with lights on, maybe TV on, contacts in, clothes on, and see what happens.
I think you’re on to something! Maybe take the contacts out…What have you got to lose!?!
Hi Beth- Agree, thanks for commenting. Best R
Hi Irene and thanks for your comments. I agree with you , your nighttime routine is waking you up- so I suggest changing it. There is no secret sauce, we all have to figure our what works for us. Best R .
Can’t change bladder issues. I’ve had bladder surgery and can’t hold a lot of urine and any attempts cause incontinence. Crazy.
Thanks for sharing Jacqueline. Best R
I’m 100% with you, Irene. Help comes from those who experience insomnia and have struggled with it ALL of their life, off and on. The worst part is the psychological component where the bedtime becomes a form of torture- a nightly opportunity for failure and for feeling like the only person in the world with this problem. I prefer advice from folks who struggle with the same problem on how they cope and make “friends” with this issue rather than another obvious list of what to do and not do.
if if anyone knows of such an online dialogue, please share.
Thanks for your thoughts Marilyn. Best R