Sleep – although we all should look forward to shutting down and crawling under the covers after a long day, for some, nighttime hours can become a dreaded time. When stress levels are high – which they are for many Americans across the country – the first thing to take a hit is our ability to get a restful night’s sleep. This can be incredibly hazardous to our health, not only making us groggy and unmotivated, but those who get less than the recommended 7 to 8 hours a night tend to be sick more and suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
Sleep allows our bodies to recover both mentally and physically, shutting off our brains to external stimuli and giving us a chance to heal. For children, overnight hours are a time of incredible growth. Some parents even swear their child grows inches overnight.
But without it, we suffer. We drag ourselves through the day, unmotivated to participate in things we once loved and growing anxious as the evening hours approach.
If you’re like many Americans right now, unable to shut down nagging thoughts, staring at the clock all hours of the night and, perhaps, suffering from panic attacks while trying to fall asleep, don’t lose hope. There are ways you can get a restful night of zzzzzs to restore your sleep bank.
Stop looking at the clock. Unplug, shut off or turn around the clock so that you aren’t focused on the time. This only causes frustration and causes you to constantly count the hours until morning, which, in turn, leads to an increase in adrenaline and anxiety.
Stay off the device. It’s human nature now. When we’re bored, we reach for our phones. When we’re waiting for something, we reach for our phones. When we’re in bed, we reach for our phones. Not only does this expose us to blue light that has been proven to counteract the production of melatonin needed to help us get sleepy, but all that social media surfing and comment reading only causes frustration and negative emotions. Not a good recipe if your goal is a good night’s sleep.
Get up and move. Just as important as falling asleep is staying asleep. Sometimes we crawl into bed and drift off within minutes only to wake up an hour later, unable to settle back into the sleep we need to feel well-rested. If after 5 or 10 minutes, you are unable to fall asleep, get up and find something to do. Sit in a comfy chair in another room and read a book with a dim light, head to the kitchen and look through some cookbooks, or take up knitting or crocheting. When you start to feel sleepy again, which you likely will, head back to bed and try again.
Limit fluid intake. Nothing could be worse than finally getting a long stretch of sleep only to be woken up by the need to use the bathroom. There is no denying the benefits of getting plenty of fluid throughout the day, but don’t let that be the reason you lose sleep. Cut back on fluids about two hours before heading to bed and don’t forget to make a final trip to the bathroom just before crawling into bed.
Burn off some of those chemicals. Anxiety, anger, frustration, stress – they all lead to an excess of chemicals that, when built up, can lead to insomnia. Whether it’s a racing mind or a physically amped up body, you’ll never win. Burn off the excess chemicals, like adrenaline and cortisol, while producing more serotonin by committing to a regular workout routine. Take a daily walk, jog around the neighborhood, find a favorite workout on TV. Whatever the choice, be deliberate about working toward tiring your body out and preparing it for sleep.
Set your body’s natural clock. This is fairly simple to do. Parents do it all the time with their newborns, infants and toddlers by keeping with the same bedtime routine each night. Maybe for you that includes dinner, an evening walk, a warm shower and a favorite book. Whatever it is, keep it consistent and head to bed and wake up at the same time each night and day. Your body’s circadian rhythm was designed for this.