Tired of tossing and turning at night? These simple tips may help you sleep better and be more energetic and productive during the day.
1. Beds are for Sleeping, Toilets are for **** ing
If you just thought of a stinky way to complete that sentence, great news! You’re familiar with the powerful force of mental association. Just as you would probably not make a gourmet meal and then eat it on the porcelain throne, create a similarly strong association for your bed.
BED = Sleep, Sickness, Sex. Nothing else! Don’t check your phone or even read in bed if you’re having sleep problems.
2. The Mean Fifteen
Tossing and turning? Worrying? Daydreaming? Planning? These are not the same thing as sleeping. Train your brain for instant snoozing: follow the 15-minute rule. If you’re not asleep within 15 minutes of getting into bed, Get out of bed, no matter what time it is. Do something relaxing elsewhere and return to bed when you feel sleepy.
3. You Are Not an Owl
As much as possible, make cupcakes while the sun shines and sleep when it’s dark out. Avoid bright lights and screens such as TVs or cell phones before trying to sleep.
4. Cozy Counts
Create your ideal space… Soft blankets, a supportive pillow and mattress, a cool temperature, etc. Want to fall asleep to the sound of waves or rain? Make it happen.
5. Routine, Routine, Routine
Your internal clock prefers a stable sleep and wake-up time. Routine also means a series of relaxing activities that you regularly do, with the last step being sleep, e.g., shower, brush teeth, put on PJ’s, read on the couch, go to bed, and fall asleep. Your mind and body will learn that after A, B, C, and D, sleep is the next step.
6. Energize Early, Relax Later
Exercise and caffeine boost energy; do these earlier in the day. Near bedtime, try sleep-inducing habits, such as having a bath or herbal tea. Nicotine and alcohol also disturb sleep. While alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it disrupts the quality of your sleep, which means you may fall asleep, but may not wake up feeling rested.
7. Cognitive Offloading
Keep a notebook beside your bed and write down thoughts that keep you up; let the paper hold your ideas, so you don’t have to.
8. Don’t Force it
It’s like “trying” to laugh at a joke. The only way to really laugh at a joke is to listen to it, and let your body respond. Same for sleep: close your eyes, relax, and let your body (not your mind!) do the rest.
9. Less Siesta, more Fiesta
While some shuteye during the day has many health benefits, naps that take longer than 20 minutes can affect nighttime sleep quality for adults. Keep them short but sweet!
10. Practice Mindfulness
Minds are thought machines and will try to ruminate about all the bad things that could happen if you can’t sleep. Try to focus your attention on the relaxing sensations of the present moment… the softness of your pillow, the heaviness of your body on the mattress, the warmth of your blankets. Focus on your breathing: with your eyes closed, slowly breathe in, and let your stomach fill with air. Then slowly breathe out. Breathe relaxation in… and tension out…
This post is part of the blog series "Love Your Life", mental health advice by Dr Emily Blake, Psychologist.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Emily Blake, Psychologist
Dr. Blake is the owner and director of the Blake Psychology clinic and a regular contributor to the blog.
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