There are few things more precious to me than a good night’s sleep. I mean it. I pride myself on my ability to sleep at pretty much any time of day for any length of time. Okay, for all my bragging about sleep abilities, even I have restless nights of tossing and turning. It’s not surprising-- one in three Americans have reported difficulties falling asleep or waking frequently throughout the night. Our hectic lives can often wreak havoc on our sleep cycles, and it can take a lot of effort on our part to rectify the damage. Scroll down to read some methods to getting more restful and sustained sleep.
One of the biggest factors of our lives affecting sleep is stress. The constant go-go-go of the standard Modern American lifestyle impacts our sympathetic nervous system causing it to be constantly upregulated. This upregulation is helpful in the hustle and bustle, keeping us moving and alert, but when it comes time to sleep, our body needs time to downregulate. Allowing our parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for functions like digestion and healing, to kick in while we rest is critical for a happy and healthy body. But in a stressful “constantly on” world, it is increasingly difficult to downregulate, which can cause-- you guessed it-- insomnia and other sleep troubles. If you find your mind racing, or feel anxious around bed time, try some of these downregulating activities:
Meditate for 10-20 minutes. Meditation is a really great way to override your nervous system to allow for calm and relaxation. Need some guidance? Try a guided meditation app, like Headspace or Calm.
Yoga. Light physical activity like gentle yoga an hour before bed can help the body begin to downregulate. Specific yoga positions, like forward folds and bends are particularly beneficial in calming the nervous system.
Put away the screens. Phones, computers, and even televisions emit blue light, which interrupts the body’s natural cues to begin getting sleepy. I recommend turning off at least two hours before bed, and do something else, like some light reading or maybe that yoga I mentioned before.
Limit the Caffeine, Sugar, and Junk Food. What goes into your body is just as important as what you do with it. Caffeine has a huge impact on your ability to sleep restfully throughout the night. Some studies have shown that ingesting caffeine up to 6 hours before bed can reduce your total sleep by one hour a night. Sugar can also rob you of precious sleep, which can even increase your blood sugar, posing a long-term risk for diabetes. So put the cookies down, eat a healthy snack if you must, and limit that coffee to the morning. Your body will thank you for it.
Get a massage. It can be difficult to get comfortable in bed and sleep restfully if your muscles are tense and sore. Massage not only helps soothe any physical issues you might have, but can also have a huge impact on that nervous system that’s stuck firing on all cylinders. Schedule a massage once a month to keep the continuing benefits going. I’ve heard of this really great place called the Pear Day Spa….. :)
Sleep can be elusive to some, but hopefully some of the tips above can set you up for a more restful night. Of course, not everything can be fixed with some yoga and less coffee-- if you have persistent sleep issues, it could be time to speak with your doctor about potential medical conditions.