Everyone has their triggers and warning signs, you know… the things that indicate a need to reset and recharge. For me the first warning sign is always sleep… or lack of. From lack of sleep it all seems to crumble down around me, from lack of sleep stems more lack of sleep and then too much sleep. It took me years to realise that lack of sleep was my personal warning sign. Every now and then I neglect my healthy sleep habits, but it doesn’t take me long to realise that I need to get back to basics.
Generally going to sleep isn’t my problem, staying asleep is. I can wake around 3-4am (or sometimes earlier) and then lie awake until it’s time to get up. I can lie awake tossing and turning, and once awake, my mind starts firing on all cylinders, thoughts fly round and round and sleep seems further and further away.
Researchers refer to the variety of habits around establishing a good sleep habit as “sleep hygiene” … and good sleep hygiene is becoming more and more important in this 24/7 environment we live in.
Up & at ’em – Try and go to bed at the same time every night, it may sound a little childish but it’s important to create a bedtime routine. Same goes with getting up, get up roughly around the same time, of course you’re allowed to lie in on weekends but try to be up before lunch.
Late nights – catch up on lost sleep after a late night by heading to bed earlier the following night. Try and avoid napping, as it can really put things out of whack.
Wind down – Ensure you allow yourself some quiet time to wind down before lights out, stop work or study half an hour before bed. Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time with a period of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed. Take a bath (the rise, then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness), read a book, watch television, or practice relaxation exercises. Avoid stressful, stimulating activities—doing work, discussing emotional issues. Physically and psychologically stressful activities can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with increasing alertness.
If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down—and then putting them aside.
Sleep sanctuary – Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary, ensuring its dark, quiet and free from distractions by like TV’s, computers and gaming consoles. Basically turn your room into a modern cave, used only for sleeping and…and sex. Part of creating a good sleep sanctuary is making sure that there is good air flow and it’s not too hot or too cold, like Goldilocks, you’re looking for that middle ground…something “just right“.
Caffeine – Cut down on coffee, sugary drinks, energy drinks, alcohol and tobacco. I personally avoid coffee in the afternoons and always stay clear of energy drinks and tobacco.
Worry – A lot of people, myself included, tend to get into a cycle of worry when we can’t sleep. All sorts of things start running through my mind making sleep even hard. TIP – write down what’s worrying you, get it out of your mind and onto a piece of paper, then put it aside to address at a more appropriate time during the day.
Exercise – Do some physical exercise every day, it doesn’t need to be overly strenuous just ensure that if you’re exercising in the evening that you’re giving yourself time to wind down before bed.Exercise can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly—as long as it’s done at the right time. Exercise stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which helps activate the alerting mechanism in the brain. This is fine, unless you’re trying to fall asleep. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bed or work out earlier in the day.
Relax – There are many different relaxation techniques, and finding what works best for you might require a little trial and error but things like yoga, meditation or breathing techniques can be a great help.I personally find STOP. PAUSE. BREATHE to be great technique.
STOP what your doing/thinking.
PAUSE and clear your mind.
DEEP BREATH in through the nose (until you pretty much can’t take in anymore air).
Swallow and then slowly exhale through your mouth.
AND... if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep in about 20 minutes, get up and engage in a quiet, restful activity such as reading or listening to music. And keep the lights dim; bright light can stimulate your internal clock. When your eyelids are drooping and you are ready to sleep, return to bed.