A Return to Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is something that others might take for granted. Having the ability to fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow is an enviable ability for those suffering from light to severe insomnia. According to The Sleep Health Foundation, nearly 1 in 3 Americans suffers from some level of insomnia. The reasons for having insomnia vary widely from person to person. Some severe versions of insomnia are caused by sleep disorders. Other versions of insomnia can be caused by depression, stress, a sudden life change, some medications, and even chronic pain. While more severe forms of insomnia will need medical intervention, the other types may be managed by some strategies to try if you want to improve your sleep.
Studies have shown time and time again that humans enjoy rituals. It keeps us balanced during the day—knowing what to expect and when to expect it. Having a nighttime ritual is one way we can curb our insomnia. Creating a bedtime ritual will help you to put yourself in a more relaxed state of mind before falling asleep. These routines could include a bubble bath, gentle stretching, aromatherapy, creating a serene atmosphere in your bedroom, writing in a gratitude journal, or reading a few chapters of your favorite book. Maintaining these rituals each night can help your brain shut off for the night.
Sleep Hygiene Tips
Sleep hygiene can sound misleading—it isn’t focused on brushing your teeth or washing your face, but rather the steps you can take on a nightly basis in order to enjoy a full night’s sleep and wake refreshed in the morning. A few key practices for healthy sleep hygiene are good starting points for overall health. Avoiding caffeine or nicotine close to bedtime is very important—both can stir you up, which makes it much harder to settle down when it’s time for bed. It also helps to avoid foods you know will give you trouble before going to bed, such as spicy dishes, candy, alcohol and greasy food. More good sleep hygiene tips include limiting the amount of naps you take per day (one “power nap” is fine), exercising during the day so you are ready for sleep when it’s time, and not browsing your smartphone while you are in bed—or at least turning it on “night mode” if your phone has such a function.
Listening to guided relaxation recordings can be another way to manage insomnia. They are designed to calm you both physically and mentally. Choosing the right recording for you might take a few tries, but in the end, a guided, calming recording can help you drift off to a peaceful sleep. You can listen to samples of “A Time for Sleep” here.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (or PMR) has been discussed before on this blog. PMR is the act of becoming aware of which muscles in your body are tense and learning how to relax them individually. For example, when your shoulders are tensed nearly to your ears, then understanding and training yourself to relax those muscles can help you find peace before bed. I often use Progressive Muscle Relaxation when I am having trouble settling into sleep—it gives me that nice sinking into the bed feeling that is so necessary for falling asleep. I recorded a version of this helpful exercise on “Daydreaming by the Sea”
This is a simple step in theory but hard for some to practice. Placing a high value on getting sleep is vital to preventing and managing insomnia. Friends might beg you to go out for the night, but if you are already exhausted, then choosing sleep is the best choice. Allowing plenty of time for rest, investing in a quality mattress, making your space conducive to sleep and removing all distractions from your bedroom ingrains the idea that sleep is necessary for your well-being.
If you have any questions or need help with improving your sleep, I am here as a resource. Feel free to email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or use this contact form.
May you sleep well and have beautiful dreams…