Sleep Essentials: Tips for Sleeping Well

Sleep Essentials: Tips for Sleeping Well

Sleeplessness, or difficulty sleeping is one of the most frequently reported ailments by patients in my practice.  Patients describe difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking too early.  Medical studies point to sleep as the single most important factor when recovering from a surgery, physical or mental illness, and even stress management.  When patients are asked what single thing helped them in recovering from depression or anxiety, the answer is almost always “getting adequate sleep.”
If you suffer from lack of sleep, it is likely you have tried many different strategies.

There are several essential elements needed to achieve restful sleep:
1) Believe and value that adequate sleep is important to your health.
2) Developing a nighttime routine.
3) Commit to and prioritize sleep as critical to your total well being.

Take a personal inventory of your night and awake time habits to review for at least two weeks. Once you have insight about your sleep patterns, you must commit to a nighttime routine.  Make note of the areas you can improve and write out an action plan. Many of us refuse to follow the basic rules for getting a good night’s sleep.  On nights you struggle with sleep, review your routine from the previous day and check for areas that might need adjusting.

Some basic tips:

  • Develop a bedtime routine.  No matter how old we are, our bodies respond best to routine.
  • No caffeine after 3:00 p.m. – limit your caffeine intake to 1-2 cups in the morning.
  • Turn off all technology one hour before your bed time.  This includes your T.V. and cell phones.
  • Exercise routinely but not directly before bedtime.
  • Take a soothing bath or do something relaxing in the hours before going to sleep.
  • Try reading a novel or something mildly cheerful or entertaining for a change (no work reports or reading on an IPad/IPhone)
  • Remove the television from your room.  The bedroom is a place for rest and sleep.  Using a television to fall asleep is one of the worst ways to get a good night’s rest.  
  • If you are a light sleeper, consider white noise or a sound machine to block out distractions or noise that awakens you.
  • Try drinking warm caffeine free-teas, such as chamomile while winding down in the evening.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages, studies indicate alcohol is actually disruptive to your sleep.
  • Set a bedtime in which you know you can achieve 6-8 hours of sleep. 
  • Limit naps in the daytime to around 30 minutes.
  • Add writing in a Gratitude Journal to your nighttime routine.

If you are obsessing about sleeplessness while trying to sleep, try these strategies:

  • Practice breathing techniques (i.e. focusing on inhaling and exhaling slowly)
  • If you become agitated and have been laying down for more than 30 minutes, get up and try one of the strategies above 
  • Try meditation or prayer, clearing your mind, focus on breathing.
  • Get creative, instead of counting sheep or backwards from 100, try to play a favorite song in your mind or replay a favorite memory that could lead to a nice dream.
  • Try appreciating rest or laying down even if you are not sleeping.  As opposed to becoming aggravated, focus on how grateful you are for the time to rest.

If you have exhausted all your strategies and are still struggling with sleeplessness, it might be helpful to seek the counsel of a medical professional.  There is the possibility that a medical reason may be the underlying cause of sleeplessness.

Good luck and good night.

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