Trouble Sleeping? Try these 5 Tips
Sleep is such a key part of both our emotional and physical health. Unfortunately, it is one of the first areas to suffer when we experience emotional struggles, stress, or trauma. Lack of quality sleep can not only affect your health, but also how you function during the day. Without a good night's sleep it can be difficult to concentrate, learn, emotionally regulate, communicate, or even complete basic daily tasks (AKA, "adulting").
What does poor sleep look like?
Here are some commonly reported symptoms:
difficulty falling asleep
difficulty staying asleep
waking up frequently
tossing and turning
waking suddenly and feeling startled
waking hours early and having a hard time falling back asleep
feeling exhausted upon waking
It is always a good idea to address these sleep issues with your health care providers; especially your doctor. There can be physical causes for these symptoms.
The good news is, there are several healthy sleep patterns that may be able to improve your sleep. Keep in mind that these tips won't work immediately- they will take some time to become part of your routine. I also don't recommend trying them all at once. Adopting one new habit at a time is a good idea, so your body has time to adjust and experience the benefits.
TIP #1- Create a Bedtime Routine.
Have you ever heard your stomach growl around noon, even if you aren't really hungry? Our bodies have an amazing way of getting used to routine and responding accordingly (i.e., noon is usually lunchtime: okay, I'm ready. Feed me! *cue growl*). You can harness the power of routine and prepare your body to feel sleepy by adopting a bedtime routine. This might involve "winding down" (i.e. reading a book, having a hot beverage, stretching), washing up and putting on pyjamas, turning the lights low, meditating- whatever is comforting to you! The more consistent your routine, the more clearly your body will know it is bedtime and you may notice that you even start to feel sleepy.
TIP #2- Have a Consistent Bedtime.
This ties strongly into tip #1 regarding creating a routine. It can be tough to go to bed consistently at the same time, though, so just try your best with this one.
TIP #3- Soothe the Nervous System
It can be pretty tough to fall asleep if you are feeling wound up. Incorporating soothing activities into your routine may be very helpful in winding down and preparing for sleep.
Things that "soothe the nervous system" are any activities you find calming or relaxing. For me, this involves cuddles with Gator, having a cup of tea, reading, or putting a heating pad on my feet. Others find music, guided meditations, stretching, a hot bath, applying lotion, prayer, yoga, or journalling effective. You will have your own list of soothing activities that work especially well for you. If you are feeling wound up around bedtime, try a few of these ideas out to see if any help calm you down.
TIP #4- Beds are for Sleeping
This is probably the most important of all the tips. Your bed will be a cue for whatever activities you spend most of your time doing in it. If you spend a lot of time scrolling your phone, watching movies, studying, eating, video gaming, or doing other stimulating activities, your body will think "oh! This is a place to feel wide awake." On the flip side, if you only ever sleep in your bed, your body will feel far less confused about what it is supposed to be doing.
TIP #5 Get out of Bed
Branching right off my previous tip- if you are tossing and turning, get out of bed! It seems painful in the short term (and frankly, it will probably suck the first few times because you may temporarily feel more awake). However, if you are tossing and turning in your bed you will be spoiling the restful cue you want your bed to be. In the long term, this tip will pay off.
If you do get out of bed, try a relaxing activity (see Tip #3 for ideas) and try returning to bed when you feel more relaxed/sleepy.