Need More Sleep? Who Doesn’t? 67% of Canadians wish they could get more sleep and better sleep! We are a tired bunch! Maybe getting a good night’s sleep is on your To Do List for 2017. Well never fear, our Olivia Pawluk, M.Ed. Registered Psychologist (Provisional) comes to the rescue with 19 Sleep Tips & Tricks to get us snoozing!
19 Sleep Tips & Tricks – by Olivia Pawluk, M.Ed. Registered Psych (Provisional)
1. Shut It Down and Turn it off!
This includes any and all screens (TV, laptops and smart phones, too!) at least 45 minutes before bedtime. These activities rev you up, keeping your brain wired when you should be winding down. In addition, the glow of the screen actually delays the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Try reading a book or magazine instead.
2. Lights Out
Twinkling stars are dreamy however studies show that light signals our brain to be awake. We get the best sleep in the pitch dark. Use Black Out liners behind your curtains or shades. Cover your alarm clock if it has a blue or red light on it…or turn it away from you.
3. Sleep Sounds
White noise machines produce low level soothing noises that tune out everything from noisy neighbors to barking dogs. There are apps that you can download to get those ambient sounds that will help you sleep, or try a noise machine.
4. Essential Oils
Essential oils such as lavender, ylang-ylang, and chamomile promote relaxation. Satchels, mists and diffuser sticks also get the scented job done.
5. Belly Breathing
Take slow, deep breaths from your belly (as opposed to your chest). Inhale for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts. Repeat this a few times until you feel a sense of relaxation overcome you.
6. Jot it Down
If your thoughts ruminate and interfere with your ability to sleep, it can be very helpful to keep a notepad and pen by your bed, and jot down pestering. When they are on paper (instead of in your head) it can help you to feel relaxed, knowing that you won’t forget about them and you’ll be able to deal with them in the morning.
Melatonin is a hormone produced and found naturally in our bodies. It is associated with our sleep and wake cycles. Taking an oral form of melatonin can help when we have difficulty falling asleep. It does not have addictive properties or harmful effects.
8. Consistent Sleep & Wake Schedule
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time everyday (even weekends) can be helpful for your sleep hygiene. Having a consistent routine helps your body to know when it is time to unwind and prepare for sleep, and when it is time to wake up. When you go to sleep and wake up at varying times, your body become confused about when and how much sleep you need.
9. A Bedtime Routine
Having a defined and practiced routine can also help your body and mind to associate these activities with sleep time. Maybe its having a snack, followed by a shower, followed by brushing your teeth, followed by reading a chapter of a book.
10. Wind Down with a Hot Shower or Bath
Steam and moisture relaxes the body and mind. Having a bath for the purpose of relaxation only helps you to unwind.
Let your self talk reflect this, as well.
11. 3 Gratitude’s
As you lay in bed, take a couple of quick moments to reflect on 3 things you were grateful that day. It could be relationships, the food you ate, the roof over your head, successfully dealing with a challenging situation; the list of possible things to be grateful for is endless!
12. Don’t Force Yourself to Sleep
If you haven’t fallen asleep after 20-30 minutes, get up and do something calming. Read a book, journal, or draw. Avoid bright lights/ screens and anything else that might activate your body and wake you up more.
13. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, & Nicotine
Consuming these substances can affect your ability to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep. Do not consume them after 3 pm.
14. Say No to Naps
Napping during the day can affect your body at night. Naps that are over an hour long or later in the day are especially harmful to sleep hygiene.
15. Use Your Bed For Sleeping
If you reserve your time in bed for sleeping (and not other activities) then your body and mind will begin to associate your bed with sleeping.
16. Coping With Bad Dreams
When you wake up from a bad dream, remind yourself that you are at home and that you are safe. You can prepare yourself for bad dreams by thinking of a bad dream, but then picturing a different ending for it. Practice your new ending many times before you go to sleep. Imagine your street, buses, local shops, etc. You could also put a damp towel or bowl of water by the bed to splash your face with. You could place a special object (e.g., photograph) by your bed or have lavender oil on hand. Try to move your body in order to reorient yourself, for example, you could get up and go to the window to see your surroundings.
17. No Late Night Meals
Try to avoid large meals late in the evening, and snacks that may give you heartburn or indigestion (e.g. spicy, fatty, or garlic-flavored foods). A snack that is high in tryptophan has been found to promote sleep. Milk, eggs, cheese and chicken are some foods that contain this naturally occurring amino acid.
18. Fear of Not Being Able to Fall Asleep, or Return to Sleep After Awakening Can Worsen the Situation
The more you fixate on not sleeping, the more difficult it will be to sleep. Practice shifting your thoughts from your worry about insomnia (e.g. imagine yourself engaging in a pleasant activity). Covering your alarm clock to avoid watching the time pass can also help.
19. Don’t stay in bed too long!
The longer you stay in bed beyond your average sleep time (typically about seven to eight hours), the worse your sleep can be. Over time, your sleep can become shallower and less restorative as you try to “catch up” by spreading your sleep over a longer period. Therefore, extending the time you spend in bed will not likely be helpful.
If sleep is an issue…we can help! Book an appointment with Olivia or any of our other excellent Counsellors to learn relaxation tools, sleep hygiene techniques and more. Sweet Dreams!