By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, Owner, Working Well Massage, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach
My favorite site for sleep advice though is a website called helpguide.org. It’s a not-for-profit website that produces great tips on a variety of conditions. Click this link for their excellent breakdown of ways to improve your sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has these great tips for getting a good night sleep. Click here for their list. And the University of Maryland Medical Center has these tips for restful sleep. Click here for their webpage and sleeping tips.
Overall, getting a good night sleep is tough for many people, not because of poor sleep hygiene but because we do not budget enough time for actual sleep. If you have to wake up at 4:30am and your family and work obligations mean you don’t get into bed for sleep until 10pm, then you can only sleep for about 6.5 hours. And that’s 30-90 minutes shy of the optimal 7-8 hours of sleep most of us need.
So, if you’ve made all the sleep hygiene changes you need to get good sleep (from the links above), darkened the room, keeping the TV off, using the bedroom only for sleep and intimate relations, keeping the room cool at night, getting enough exercise, not eating right before bed, etc., and you still feel tired and run down, it may be you are not budgeting enough time for sleep. For those with very young children and babies, you have the added issue of being awakened a few times a night and in the early morning by your kids. Fear not, it should be temporary.
For the rest of us, getting enough sleep may be a matter of changing your night-time habits.
• Turning off the TV an hour or half hour earlier so you have time to unwind.
• Doing some form of medication or relaxation before bed. Get your kids into it too if you have children. It’s a good way to role model good sleep hygiene with your kids.
• Listening to a sound machine in bed for 20 minutes before you would normally go to bed. The machines simulate nature sounds like ocean waves, crickets, waterfalls, rain and similar sounds. Home medics makes a number of great sound machines. I like this one: HoMedics SS-2000 Sound Spa Relaxation Sound Machine with 6 Nature Sounds, Silver. Home Medics make a number of sound machines with clocks as well, but I find that the blue or green light from the clock can keep me up. So the no clock version is a better machine in my book.
• Setting boundaries for your self as far as when you stop working for the day. If you really need to sleep by 9pm, make the work cut off time at 8pm. So, no emails, texts or phone calls after 8pm.
• Being disciplined about accepting obligations that keep you up too late. Telling friends and family the window of time you have for phone calls or outings. When I worked a corporate job, I learned that if I only took phone calls between 7pm and 9pm, I felt less stressed and had time to do yoga and prepare a healthy meal when I got home. This practice also trained my friends to only call when I had time to talk. Unless it’s a real emergency (someone is in the hospital or is bleeding on the side of the road), I don’t view a phone call/email/text as an excuse to keep me up at night.
• Learn to disengage from potentially stressful people, situations and places that can keep you up at night with worry or anxiety. For example, television news. TV news is designed to get your attention. News teams get ratings based on how many viewers they have. So if they don’t cater to our fight or flight mechanism, showing violence, confrontations and crime, they think we won’t watch. And maybe we won’t. But why fill your head with violence and crime, stories of fires and disasters right before bed? Save it for the morning when you can be anxious right before work. Same thing goes for people who tend to stress your out. Why talk to them or read their emails right before bed? Can it wait until morning? If so, sleep well and deal with the call or text or email when you’ve had a good night’s rest.