With the days getting shorter, I am suddenly having issues getting to sleep at night. Any suggestions?
Signed: Needing Sleep
Dear Needing Sleep,
Did you know that a healthy sleep pattern means you can fall asleep within about 7 minutes? Shutting off the mind at bedtime can be challenging, especially if you’re dealing with racing thoughts, stress, or anxiety. However, with some practice and by incorporating calming habits into your routine, you can improve your ability to relax and fall asleep easier and deeper, every night. Here are some strategies to help improve the quality of your sleep:
(Keep in mind, many people have no difficulty at all falling asleep when they go to bed. They might be able to have a triple espresso and still sleep like a baby. These strategies I am sharing now are only for those people who find themselves tossing and turning for long periods of time, or who wake up as exhausted as they were when they went to bed the night before!)
Establish a bedtime routine: Create a calming pre-sleep routine (which includes allowing yourself to feel bored) that helps signal to your brain and body that it’s time to wind down. This could include activities like reading a book, doing the dishes, folding laundry, practicing gentle stretching or yoga, or listening to soothing music.
Limit screen time before bed: Avoid using electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, or computers at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep. These devices (and the activities you are doing while on them) activate your brain wave patterns (and can prevent you from falling into deep sleep for at least an hour after you have closed your eyes).
Write down your thoughts: If your mind is filled with thoughts and worries, jot them down on paper or say them out loud (even just to yourself) before going to bed. This can help clear your mind and make it easier to relax. They also slow down your thoughts.
Practice relaxation techniques: Incorporate relaxation techniques into your bedtime routine, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. These practices can help calm your mind and body, and then will send the signal to your brain that you are ready to sleep.
Create a comfortable sleep environment: Make sure your bedroom is helping you sleep by keeping it dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature (your nose should be cool, but the rest of your body can be kept warm under the blankets). Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows to improve sleep quality.
Avoid caffeine and heavy meals: Avoid consuming caffeine or large, heavy meals close to bedtime, as they can disrupt your ability to fall asleep. Cut out all caffeine by noon, and refrain from eating much after 6/7pm.
Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality. However, try to finish your workout at least a few hours before bedtime to allow your body to wind down (your body temperature and metabolism have to lower in order for you to sleep well).
Limit daytime naps: While short power naps can be beneficial, long or late-afternoon naps may interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night. It is never a good idea to nap for longer than 15/20 min of sleep time (30 min or so for whole nap period).
Stay consistent with sleep schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Consistency helps regulate your internal clock and makes it easier to fall asleep.
Steer clear of over-the-counter melatonin, unless it is just for a few nights. Synthetic melatonin is only half as effective as your body’s natural melatonin. And your brain will produce less melatonin naturally if you are using other sources. There are many other ways to increase your own production of melatonin – there are certain foods that you can eat about 1.5 hours before bedtime; exposure to natural light during the day is extremely helpful; Magnesium supplements (taken at supper time) can be an excellent support; and there are wide variety of activities that also boost your body’s production of serotonin, which increases natural melatonin.
Seek professional help if necessary: If you consistently struggle with sleep and find it difficult to quiet your mind, consider talking to a healthcare professional or a therapist that specializes in sleep disturbance issues. The longer you go with the poor sleep patterns, the longer it will take to improve them!
Remember, everyone’s sleep patterns and needs are different, so it may take time to find the routine that works best for you. Be patient with yourself and keep experimenting with different strategies until you find what helps you relax and shut off your mind at bedtime.
If you would like to learn more strategies to help with your sleep patterns, please join us for a FREE online How To Get A Good Sleep Workshop, which is being offered twice in the upcoming weeks – on November 1st at 7:00pm (in partnership with the Strathcona County Library) and on November 7th at 6:30pm (in partnership with the Stoney Plain Family Resource Network). Everyone is welcome to attend – the information being provided is relevant to people of all ages! You can find details about registration for both workshops on our Tacit website (at www.tacitknows.com), under the Events tab.
Have a question? Please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com. Your answer will be provided confidentially.
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