If you were to sit down across from your best friends over a pitcher of beer or a glass of wine and play a game of “Can You Top This” about how hectic your day is or what it is that winds you up so much each day that you have a hard time turning your brain off and falling asleep at night, how long would the game go on? Who would win?
I know that in my case the most amazing part about the conversation would be sitting back and listening to everybody at the table, because nobody is immune from the hurry-up, frenetic pace that makes up our lives. The 21st Century was supposed to be a time when we all felt more freedom and had more time to enjoy our lives, and there’s no doubt that being overly busy can often feel like a very first world problem. But it’s a problem nonetheless. Our country is overcome with fatigue to the point where we have been warned against an epidemic of sleep deprivation, and the fact that we’re tuning in to our technology in the moments before we close our eyes and the second after we open them in the morning isn’t helping matters. It seems as though our constant thought process runs to, “What do I have to get done next?” and the answer is rarely, “Nothing. Sit back and relax. Chill.”
So what can be done to fix the problem? Well, there’s plenty, if you’re willing to make some lifestyle changes. The single most important thing that you can do to make a difference in the panicky feeling you have and the difficulty you have in falling asleep is to shut down the technology. Not entirely but at least for an hour or two before you go to bed. A study conducted by researchers at USC indicates that the average American is consuming over 15.5 hours of digital technology stimulation every day, and that is just too much Between the blue light that is tricking our brains into always thinking that the sun is up and we need to be awake and the stimulation that what we’re looking at is providing, it’s no wonder that we just can’t relax. And if you’re one of those people who has to have some kind of technology present to make yourself feel in touch, try some of the new contraptions that are designed to help you get a better night’s sleep. There are watches and wristbands that will gauge the amount of sleep that you’re getting and what kind of quality you’re accomplishing, alarm clocks that monitor your sleep cycles in order to awaken you at the best possible time that provides you with the longest deep sleep possible, and even lamps that go on slowly so that you’re awakened gently and in the same natural way that our caveman ancestors did instead of to the blaring sounds of the local radio station’s traffic update or the buzzing of an alarm bell.
Beyond those consumer goods, there are a number of other habits that you can try to get yourself into that will help you get a better night’s sleep. These include:
Establish a sleep routine
Remember when you were a little kid and you had a bedtime, and a time that your mom would wake you up each day for school? Not only that, there were probably a bunch of little routines that were part of your nightly ablutions: you’d take a bath, get a bedtime story, your mom and dad would tuck you in and turn out the lights. It’s unlikely that you had trouble falling asleep back then, and you’ll be amazed to find that if you find a routine and stick to it as an adult, it will help you fall asleep now too. Something as simple as fixing a cup of tea for yourself each night before going to bed and meditating, or reading a book (not an electronic book – a real book) will put your brain on notice that bed time is approaching and it’s time to get drowsy. And if you go to sleep at the same time each night and wake at the same time each morning (even on weekends) you’ll find your body adjusts and knows what to do.
Nap When You Need It
There’s a whole new science dedicated to napping, and the bottom line is that it is perfectly fine to take a midday snooze as long as you do it the right way. That means make sure that you’re in a comfortable, quiet place and that you restrict your nap to hours prior to 4:00. If you have the time, go for a full 90 minutes, which is the equivalent of a complete sleep cycle, but if that isn’t available to you, keep it to just twenty minutes or so. Anything between is likely to leave you feeling groggy and be counterproductive.
Diaries Will Still A Spinning Mind
Taking the time to jot down your thoughts, concerns and stressors will go miles towards letting you close your eyes at night without having those worries whirring around in your head and keeping you from going to sleep. If you’re not comfortable writing down your thoughts, try writing up a to-do list. Either way you’ll have taken steps towards what you need to address the next day, giving your brain permission to let go of it for the night.
The more you move your body during the day, the better you are likely to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. According to researchers at Oregon State University, 30 minutes a day seems to be the magic number for getting both exercise benefits and sleep benefits.
Pay Attention to Nutrition
Most people know that they should stay away from caffeine but few realize that there are foods that can help you fall asleep. Drinking plenty of water, drinking milk or dairy products and heating healthy sources of protein can all help you keep your hormones in balance and trigger