Dear Sleep,

I know we had our problems when I was younger, but I love you now. 

When I begin work with someone on taking a closer look at their self-care practices, SLEEP is often one of the very first items we tackle. Quite often, the women that show up to get a bigger dose of self-care love are showing up depleted, exhausted, run down and downright tired of life and more often than not, they are struggling with quality sleep. Because sleep plays such a significant role in literally every single other thing we do in life, it needs immediate attention because poor sleep quality is a chronic issue in our fast paced, hustle and bustle lives.

I have a certain segment of friends who say that ‘they will sleep when they die’. Not cool. Don’t be like them. They are hurting themselves more than they can possibly know. Here’s what you need to know to get on track . . .

Sleep, like nutrition and physical activity, is a critical determinant of overall health and wellbeing. Good quality, regular sleep plays an essential role in your self-care practices. I’m sure you already know that sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes way beyond just boosting your mood or banishing under-eye circles. Sleeping well is absolutely essential to your physical health and emotional wellbeing. It also improves concentration, memory, and has tremendous restorative qualities. Nighttime sleep helps the body mend cell damage that occurred during the day and can refresh the immune system, which helps prevent disease and infection.

How you feel during your waking hours hinges greatly on how well you sleep. The cure for sleep difficulties can often be found in your daily routine. Your sleep schedule, bedtime habits, and day-to-day lifestyle choices can make an enormous difference to the quality of your nightly rest. The following tips will help you optimize your sleep so you can be productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy all day long. 

 

The Secret to Getting Good Sleep Every Night

Well-planned strategies are essential to deep, restorative sleep you can count on night after night. By learning to avoid common enemies of sleep and trying out a variety of healthy sleep-promoting techniques, you can discover your personal prescription for a good night’s rest. The secret, as it is for any other self-care practice, is to experiment. What works for some might not work as well for others. It is important to find the sleep strategies that work best for YOU. While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night to function at their best. Keep your personal sleep target in that range as well.

Set a sleep schedule. Getting on a sleep schedule is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep. If you keep regular sleep hours, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, you will feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times. Consistency is vitally important here. If you are getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you find that you need an alarm to wake you on time, you may need to set an earlier bedtime. When is your ideal bedtime and wakeup time? Also, try not to break this routine on weekends, when it may be tempting to stay up late and sleep in.

Develop a toolbox of relaxing bedtime rituals. One of the key ingredients to getting a consistent good night’s sleep is establishing a relaxing bedtime ritual. This is especially important if you find it difficult to shut down for the day. Slowing down with a specific bedtime routine can promote the relaxation you need to wind down. If you make a consistent effort to relax and unwind before bed, you will sleep easier and more deeply. A peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses.

Every small effort you make to calm your body and mind will add quality to your sleep time and help you create an environment that will allow you to relax and ease into a sleepy state.

Here are some ideas:

  • Read a book or magazine by a soft light
  • Take a warm bath
  • Listen to soft, calming music
  • Do some easy stretches
  • Wind down with a favorite hobby
  • Listen to books on tape
  • Sip on a warm cup of herbal tea
  • Try some deep breathing techniques
  • Lower the lights to induce production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall, and stay, asleep

Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Make your bed as inviting as possible with cozy, comfortable bedding and pillows. If your mattress is old and tired, consider an upgrade. Keep noise down. If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from barking dogs, loud neighbors, city traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan, recordings of soothing sounds, or white noise. Earplugs may also help. Keep your room cool. The temperature of your bedroom also affects sleep. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 65° F) with adequate ventilation. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep. And last, but certainly not least, reserve your bed for sleeping and sex only. Identifying that space with anything else can impede your ability to relax.

Unwind early. If you know you need to get to bed by 10:00 p.m., it won’t do your sleep efforts any good to be moving at lightning speed until 9:59 pm. It’s important to shut down the television, computer, smart devices, or other high-stimulus activities at least two hours before sleep. Allow your mind to shift gears from work mode to rest mode.

Eat and drink with sleep in mind. Your body is a machine that stays fired up as long as you give it food and drink to metabolize. Avoid big meals at night. Eat dinner as early as possible in the evening and avoid heavy foods or any food you know could upset your system later. Limit your alcohol intake. It may help you fall asleep faster, but it reduces the quality of sleep. You might also wake up in the middle of the night with a dry mouth and headache. Not desirable. Cut down on caffeine. Some people can have sleep problems from caffeine they drank ten hours earlier! Switch to water or herbal tea after lunch. Hydrate, but not too late. If you drink lots of tea, juice, or water into the evening there’s a good chance you’ll be up in the middle of the night for a bathroom break. The goal is to avoid sleep disruption.

Take smart naps. Napping is a great tool to make up for lost sleep. If you need to make up for a few lost hours, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping in late. This strategy allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm, which often backfires in insomnia and can throw you off for days. If insomnia is a problem for you, consider eliminating napping. If you must nap, do it in the early afternoon and limit it to thirty minutes.

Clear your head. A quick journaling session at the end of the day is a great way to clear your head of worrying thoughts or lingering to-dos. Before lights out, allow yourself five minutes to write down all your stressors, which could include things like work challenges, conflicts with others, or financial concerns. Also, write down one or two steps you can take toward resolving the stress. Before you put the journal away, write down at least three things you are grateful for. All of this helps to put your stress to rest.

Use calming scents. Specific aromatherapy oils can have a calming and sedative effect when inhaled. You can put them on your skin (wrists, bottoms of feet, temples) or place them in a diffuser so the scent spreads throughout your room as you fall asleep. Breathe in the relaxing fragrance as you drift into dreamland. The diffuser will continue to provide scented relaxation as you sleep.

There is a vast amount of research on the subject of creating restful sleep patterns. If you are seriously sleep deprived, it may be time to address it with additional homework. Make it a priority to research this topic further and discover ways to honor yourself by getting the sleep you need. If none of these strategies work and you are not getting enough sleep, it’s most likely time to get serious and see a professional to have a sleep study done. The quality of your life literally depends on it.

 

As a revolutionary in the art of self-care, Shelley Hunter Hillesheim founded A Nourished Life where she is a self-care coach, published author, inspirational speaker, workshop leader, sisterhood builder and maverick for ambitious, driven women. She rescues depleted high achievers from overwhelm and helps them create the spaciousness and simplicity needed to nourish themselves with sustainable self-care habits.

Learn more about Shelley, her book titled Self-Care 101: A Guide to Nourish & Flourish Team YOU and her programs at www.ANourishedLife.net and www.SelfCare101Book.com.

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Join Shelley's WILDFIRE Sisterhood Tribe on FB get connected to other amazing women and learn about awesome upcoming self-care and sisterhood related live and virtual events.

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