Considering all the tasks adults have to complete every day, sleeping should be the easiest and least labor intensive. It seems logical – and fair – that after a long day’s work, coupled with driving, juggling personal and family obligations and making small and big decisions that you should just be able to walk into your bedroom at day’s end, climb into bed and instantly go to sleep. But, as usual, fairness has nothing to do with it.
Your mind is not your friend at bedtime. All the aforementioned parts of your day live on in your head as night falls. Some people turn to medications or alcohol to induce sleep, both of which can have dire side effects. The best solutions take a little work on your part, but the rewards are well worth your efforts.
Convert your bedroom into a utopian paradise that encourages deep sleep and good thoughts and dreams. Cover the windows with blinds or curtains that provide total darkness, turn off anything that makes noise or emits light and keep the temperature moderate and conducive to comfort. Use earplugs and a sleep mask if necessary.
Some time in the latter part of your day, make a list of what’s been on your mind all day. Whether it’s something as frivolous as what to cook for Sunday dinner with the in-laws or as serious as how to deal with teenage angst, writing it down makes it real and easier to deal with. These lingering thoughts are typically what spin around in your head when you are trying to fall asleep.
Before you retire for the night, tell yourself you’ve solved the problem or are on the brink of doing so. Don’t wait until you are putting on your PJs to make the list. Dealing with it hours earlier distances those thoughts by bedtime.
Regularly exercising is not only part of a healthy lifestyle, it also helps you sleep better because it reduces anxiety. Don’t exercise right before bed; it stimulates your brain and can cause insomnia. For best results, schedule your physical activity several hours before going to bed.
The world can be an ugly place, full of violence, despair and lost souls. If you find yourself dwelling on such topics, try to change your focus to more positive aspects of life.
This may take time so start by just banishing your depressing thoughts from the bedroom. Concentrate on happy memories. Visualize people who make you laugh or feel safe. Happy thoughts right before drifting off to sleep are akin to being serenaded with a soft lullaby.
Reserve your bedroom for sleeping and intimate relations. You’d never think of sleeping in the kitchen or eating dinner in the garage, so give your bedroom the same respect. Reading before bed is acceptable, but you should do so in a chair. Avoid computer activity, watching television, texting or talking on the phone while in bed. Reserve that bed for two things.
After you’ve mastered putting your problems aside and concentrating on happy thoughts before bedtime, if you still can’t sleep, look closer at your habits.
Heavy coffee drinkers often suffer from insomnia simply because their bodies are riddled with caffeine, which can linger in your system four to seven hours after your last cup. Having an alcoholic drink or two before retiring helps you fall asleep, but it can also affect your brain and make your slumber fitful and unsound. If you take prescription drugs, ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of them can cause sleeplessness and adjust your intake times or try a different medication with fewer side effects.
With all of the commitments you have during the day, it's sometimes easy to overlook the importance of sleep. But, sleep is an essential part of your life. Slow down, relax and enjoy the sounds of silence. You'll find the resulting sleep will be exactly what you need to get you ready for the various commitments and challenges ahead.