Why You Need Mindful Moments: Better Sleep
Are you having trouble sleeping at night? Proper sleep tips and sleep rituals is all you need for a peaceful night of rest. Many of us are living mindlessly these days instead of mindfully. As we race through our busy lives our minds can race like an out of control train on its tracks. Our minds and bodies were not created to maintain our mental and physical health at our current rate of speed.
A Mindful Moment is when you stop your mind, body, and soul, for a moment in time and focus on one thing only. No multitasking but intentionally focusing on something for a moment.
Better Sleep Month
Are you one of the 30-50 percent of the people worldwide who have been having trouble sleeping at night? Not only is your life cut short when you don’t get adequate sleep, your risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, obesity, stress, depression and other diseases increases.
Getting the Sleep You Need
Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep? If so, you are one of over 100 million Americans who experience some sort of tossing and turning through the night, making insomnia a national health concern.
Luckily, implementing simple lifestyle changes and improving behaviors that contribute to nighttime restlessness can alleviate the symptoms of mild to moderate insomnia. The simple tips outlined in this article can teach you better “sleep hygiene” and help you find the restorative slumber you so desperately need.
Tips for Daytime Practices
- Do not nap during the day. If you are having trouble sleeping at night, try not to nap during the day–you will throw off your body clock and make it even more difficult to sleep at night. If you are feeling especially tired, and feel as if you absolutely must nap, be sure to sleep for less than 30 minutes, early in the day.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol. Avoid drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages for several hours before bedtime. Although alcohol may initially act as a sedative, it can interrupt normal sleep patterns.
- Don’t smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant and can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs disrupt sleep.
- Expose yourself to bright light/sunlight soon after awakening. This will help to regulate your body’s natural biological clock. Likewise, try to keep your bedroom dark while you are sleeping so that the light will not interfere with your rest.
- Exercise early in the day. Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise every day can help you sleep, but be sure to exercise in the morning or afternoon. Exercise stimulates the body and aerobic activity before bedtime may make falling asleep more difficult.
- Check your iron level. Iron-deficient women tend to have more problems sleeping, so if your blood is iron poor, a supplement might help your health and your ability to sleep.
8 Before Sleep Rituals
- Keep a regular schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Keeping a regular schedule will help your body expect to sleep at the same time each day. Don’t oversleep to make up for a poor night’s sleep–doing that for even a couple of days can reset your body clock and make it hard for you to get to sleep at night.
- Incorporate bedtime rituals. Reading a book that does not get you emotional or disturbed. Listening to soft music, sipping a cup of herbal tea, etc., cues your body that it’s time to slow down and begin to prepare for sleep.
- Relax for a while before going to bed. Spending quiet time can make falling asleep easier. This may include meditation, relaxation and/or breathing exercises, or taking a warm bath. Try listening to recorded relaxation or guided imagery.
- Don’t eat a large, heavy meal before bed. This can cause indigestion and interfere with your normal sleep cycle. Drinking too much fluid before bed can cause you to get up to urinate. Try to eat your dinner at least two hours before bedtime.
- Bedtime snacks can help. An amino acid called tryptophan, found in milk, turkey, and peanuts, helps the brain produce serotonin, a chemical that helps you relax. Try drinking warm milk or eating a slice of toast with peanut butter or a bowl of cereal before bedtime. Plus, the warmth of the food may temporarily increase your body temperature and the subsequent drop may hasten sleep.
- Jot down all of your concerns and worries. Anxiety excites the nervous system, so your brain sends messages to the adrenal glands, making you more alert. Write down your worries and possible solutions before you go to bed, so you don’t need to ruminate in the middle of the night. A journal or “to do” list may be very helpful in letting you put away these concerns until the next day when you are fresh.
- Go to sleep when you are sleepy. When you feel tired, go to bed.
- Avoid “over-the-counter” sleep aids, and make sure that your prescribed medications do not cause insomnia. There is little evidence that supplements and other over-the-counter “sleep aids” are effective. In some cases, there are safety concerns. Antihistamine sleep aids, in particular, have a long duration of action and can cause daytime drowsiness. Always talk to your doctor or healthcare practitioner about your concerns.
7 Tips for a Better Sleep Environment
- Make sure your bed is large enough and comfortable. If you are disturbed by a restless bedmate, switch to a queen- or king-size bed. Test different types of mattresses. Try therapeutic shaped foam pillows that cradle your neck or extra pillows that help you sleep on your side. Get comfortable cotton sheets.
- Make your bedroom primarily a place for sleeping. It is not a good idea to use your bed for paying bills, doing work, etc. Help your body recognize that this is a place for rest or intimacy.
- NO Technology. Computers, screens, lights, may keep the brain stimulated. Cover up your technology with a pretty cloth or some type of screen.
- Keep your bedroom peaceful and comfortable. Make sure your room is well ventilated and the temperature consistent.
- Temperature. Keep your bedroom cool. It is easier to sleep in a cool room.
- And try to keep it quiet. You could use a fan or a “white noise” machine to help block outside noises.
- Hide your clock. A big, illuminated digital clock may cause you to focus on the time and make you feel stressed and anxious. Place your clock so you can’t see the time when you are in bed.
Tips for Getting Back to Sleep
- Try visualization. Focus all your attention on your toes or visualize walking down an endless stairwell. Thinking about repetitive or mindless things will help your brain to shut down and adjust to sleep.
- Get out of bed if unable to sleep. Don’t lie in bed awake. Go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Worrying about falling asleep actually keeps many people awake.
- Don’t do anything stimulating. Don’t read anything job-related or watch a stimulating TV program (commercials and news shows tend to be alerting). You should not expose yourself to bright light. The light gives cues to your brain that it is time to wake up.
- Eat. Get up and eat some turkey. Turkey contains tryptophan, a major building block for making serotonin, a neurotransmitter, which sends messages between nerve cells and causes feelings of sleepiness. Note, that L-tryptophan doesn’t act on the brain unless you eat it on an empty stomach with no protein present. So, keep some turkey in the refrigerator for 3:00 am.
- Consider changing your bedtime. If you are experiencing sleeplessness or insomnia consistently, think about going to bed later so that the time you spend in bed is spent sleeping. If you are only getting five hours of sleep at night, figure out what time you need to get up and subtract five hours (for example, if you want to get up at 6:00 am, go to bed at 1:00 am). This may seem counterproductive and, at first, you may be depriving yourself of some sleep, but it can help train your body to sleep consistently while in bed. When you are spending all of your time in bed sleeping, you can gradually sleep more, by adding 15 minutes at a time.