5 Tips for Sleeping Better
Tip #1 Set a regular time to get up every day.
This means weekends, too. The actual time you choose as “your time” doesn’t matter that much, but being regular about it does. If you have to be up by a certain time to make it to work 4-5 days a week, then that is going to be your time – workdays and weekends. This is a crucial step, and really, really hard for most people.
Sleep is definitely a natural process, but we need to allow the wisdom of nature to work with us and regular rhythms are a hallmark of nature. The human body, like the squirrel body or the bear body or the chrysanthemum “body” dances with rhythms of the natural world. The sun rises and sets, the temperature goes up and down, the seasons change. We need to get into that dance, move in regular rhythms to become regular in our responses.
Tip #2 Set an “intended” bedtime.
This too should be the same every night so that you can be certain you are allowing adequate time in you schedule for sleep. I say “intended” because you may not be sleepy at the same time every night and, as we shall later see, you should only try to sleep when you are sleepy. It is absolutely necessary, though to designate a time when all else will be laid aside and sleep will be the priority.
We live in a very busy, overscheduled, hyper-stimulated society. Sleep has taken a backseat to everything else and it needs to be given the respect it deserves. Post your bedtime in you PDA. Set an alarm clock in the living room or kitchen that will proclaim your bedtime as surely as the one in the bedroom proclaims your morning. Do not allow the 30,000 other distractions of life eat into your sleep schedule.
Tip #3 Allow enough time for sleep.
How much is enough? Well, grandma was right again. Most humans need close to eight hours. 7 to 8 is a good range to test for yourself. Some will require 7 hours and others 9, but science has shown us that we are likely to die earlier if we do not average at least 6 hours every night. That does NOT mean that 6 hours is enough for a good life, just enough to keep going.
Sleep is not a passive process. It is not “down time”. It is an extremely important opportunity for the body to heal, build, restore, re-balance and to clean up tissues, organs and systems. Without enough sleep the simple maintenance functions may not get completed. Some of our most important hormones, like human growth hormone and testosterone are produced most efficiently, sometimes only while, we are asleep. What would happen if you never took your car to the shop? If you never emptied the wastebasket in your office? If you never restocked your refrigerator?
The brain has lots to do while we sleep as well. We now know that memory consolidation is best achieved during sleep. There are hundreds of stories of creative breakthroughs that came through dreams or were at hand just upon awakening.
Schedule enough time for sleep so that the brilliance of your body and mind can have a chance to shine.
Tip #4 Create a bedtime ritual.
If you have kids, or if you ever were one, you are probably familiar with this idea. At a certain time each evening, the children are helped or reminded to take a warm bath, change into their snuggy jammies, brush their teeth, read a pleasant bedtime story, recite their hopes and gratitude, kiss their loved ones and then turn out the lights.
This would be an excellent routine to copy for yourself. The advantages of doing these kinds of things every night, at the same time are twofold:
First the regularity of timing, as discussed in Tips #1 and 2 is reinforced. Having a regular sequence of activities that lead up to “lights out” serves as a signal to your body that the chance for sleep is approaching. This lets the systems begin to reset and ready for their sleep tasks, rather than abruptly trying to change course in midstream.
Secondly, the quiet relaxing nature of the pre-bedtime activities gives you an opportunity to shift gears mentally and emotionally as well. You disengage from the stressors and pull of the daily responsibilities and ease into rest. Relaxing reading, soothing music, a bath, a massage, an intimate moment with a lover; these all can create an effective “moat” to safely separate your active day and your restful night.
Tip #5 Make your bedroom into a Sleep Sanctuary.
When you walk into your bedroom at the end of a full day, ready to start your successful sojourn to slumber you should receive one and only one message: Sleep…! (OK, Sleep and Sex – but two and only two messages!) If you walk into your bedroom and see a treadmill, a computer, a TV, a telephone answering machine, a pile of bills, a pile of laundry, a pile of anything other than pillows, your brain is getting mixed messages. With so much distraction the brain doesn’t know what you want or intend.
Just like training a new puppy, there needs to be a very clear message about what needs to happen where. Bed = Sleep. Bed = Sleep. Bed = Sleep (and sex). That’s IT!
So move everything out of your bedroom that does not relate to or promote good sleep. Now with all that clutter gone, you can “invite” sleep in. Make your bedroom a place you love. Choose your favorite restful colors. Hang pictures that remind you of relaxed times and places. Make it soft, like a hug and quiet like a sanctuary.