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Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep

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Most people I know have had a difficult time getting  restful sleep at one time or another, myself included. Through the years I have tried different things and have narrowed it down to a few simple ways that are the most powerful in getting me at least a few good hours of snooze, which is key for good living.  Even on nights when we get a few good hours of sleep, I venture to say that given our busy and fast-moving lives that most of us have a sleep debt that leaves us yawning, tired and less alert during the day.  The good news is that we can pay off this sleep debt with a bit of awareness in how we go about our sleep routines long-term.  This short list consists of simple things we can do to change our sleeping habits by starting a practice right now.

  • Feng Shui your bedroom.  Basically, this just means cleaning up the clutter and beautifying your sleeping area.  Disorganized papers, clothes everywhere and too many things thrown about making a collage of your bedroom tells the brain that there is unfinished business. Along these lines, rid yourself of items you don’t love or colors that don’t soothe you.   TIPS for bedroom: 1. take anything heavy hanging on top of you bed away.  Subconsciously, it is difficult to sleep peacefully with a picture that could  fall on your head in the middle of the night.  2. Arrange all books and papers neatly to the side or in an attractive box.  Make unfinished business look finished.  3. Take electronics out of your bedroom.  This may not be so easy in smaller places so at least limit the size of the electronics. A huge flat screen tv staring back at you with electromagnetic fields will zap the snooze away. 4. Try soothing colors on your walls such as light greens, warm light yellows and lavenders.  5. Add a few flowers in a vase to bring nature and beauty.  If you wanted to redecorate the bedroom, this is the opportunity.
  • Stay away from electronics at least one hour before bedtime.  Researchers believe that artificial light in electronics disrupts sleep patterns because it alters the body’s production of Melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle.  Besides the science behind this, if your brain is busy busy thinking about the last email, the item you just purchased on your iPad or the show you just watched, you brain will have a difficult time getting into rest mode.  It’s a mind-body connection thing.
  • Write in a journal before bedtime.  Our minds are bombarded with media, technology and life worries in general.  It is no surprise that we are always thinking at a thousand miles a minute.  This is the case for me anyways.  When you are in bed, reach for your journal and write down whatever thoughts come to your head.  These writings need not be organized or thought out.  Just free write.  You will find that your worries, ideas and also surprising thoughts will unload from your brain and on to your pen and paper making way for a serene head.
  • Refrain from drinking caffeine at least a few hours before bed time. Caffeine is an insomniac all on its own.  It is meant to keep you awake and alert artificially and disrupts sleep patters.  The more caffeine you ingest the more your sleep is altered.  Perhaps this is the time to stick to one cup of caffeine in the morning and that’s it. Let your body have the rest of the day to rid of as much caffeine as possible before bedtime.  Moderation with caffeine is key.  This includes coffee, strong black teas, sodas and general caffeinated drinks.
  • Moderate alcohol intake. Some people use alcohol before bedtime as a sleeping sedative and I can see why.  Initially, alcohol causes drowsiness and sleep is the natural chaser to this.   But alcohol disturbs sleeping patterns by throwing off your brain waves and not allowing for a deep sleep. In the long-term, alcohol can affect sleeping patterns that are then difficult to regulate.  Have your happy hour drink at least 6 hours before bedtime if possible.  Besides bad sleep, alcohol will cause dehydration and you’ll have dry mouth and be dreaming of anxiously reaching for a water hose the whole night.  Definitely not restful.
  • Practice a bit of gentle stretching yoga and breathing before bedtime.  Poses such as Uttanasana (forward bend), Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) and  Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) can calm the brain.  The stretching releases tension held in your muscles and the breathing helps to release any worries by clearing your brain.  Try Supta Baddha Konasana with support such as with bolsters or blankets if your muscles are very tight.  Hold the yoga positions for three to five minutes or as long as you can and breathe gently.  If you feel dizzy come back up immediately. You can also just breathe by sitting straight up in a comfortable sitting position on a chair with your feet grounded or with crossed legs on the ground with a cushion underneath your bum.    For breathing technique:  Inhale deeply,  fill your chest cavity, hold for a few seconds and breathe it all out.   Thoughts may wander through your mind but just watch them come and go without judgment. It’s all in the practice.  If you have heart or blood pressure issues or are pregnant please always check with you doctor first.

All in all, moderation, awareness and self-care are key to getting a restful sleep. Namaste.

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