I tend to have some sleep problems from time to time, whether it’s taking too long to fall asleep or repeatedly waking up at night. Lately, though, I’ve had a much harder time, so I decided to do some research into getting a better night’s sleep. I found some great information and wanted to share what I learned, because a good night’s sleep Works for Me!
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
- How much sleep do you need? Obviously, if your body needs 8 hours of sleep and you’re only getting 6, you need to make some changes. However, the opposite is also true: Trying to sleep 8 or more hours when you only need 6-7 will not only be difficult, but can make you groggy during the day.
- Have a regular sleep schedule. This means going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, including weekends. I’m sorry.
- The bedroom is for sleeping. (And, ahem, other things…) Using the bedroom for working, paying bills, watching TV, etc. can make it difficult to fall asleep later. You want your mind to associate the bedroom with sleeping.
- In what condition is your mattress? If it’s sagging in the middle, or just plain old, you might need to save up for a new one. Also, take into account whether you prefer a softer or harder mattress. While you’re at it, make sure you’re sleeping on a comfy pillow that provides enough support.
During the Day:
- Get enough sunshine. Your body uses the daily cycles of light and dark to figure out when it should be asleep. (I know, that’s a very technical explanation!) I’ve found that if I don’t get much sunlight during the day, I don’t sleep as well.
- Be active! I can see this very clearly with Chickpea, and I have no doubt it works for us adults, too: Getting plenty of movement during the day helps you sleep better at night.
- Clean your room, young lady! Make your bed in the morning, and keep your bedroom neat and clean. Visual clutter can be stress-inducing, and climbing into an unmade bed surrounded by mess can certainly make it hard to relax.
- Don’t nap during the day. I’ve been guilty of this lately, and it’s easy to fall into a vicious cycle. Sleep poorly one night, then take a nap the next afternoon, and then you can’t fall asleep again that night! Unless you’re a newborn, daytime is not for sleeping.
A Few Hours Before Bed:
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol. This will be different for everyone. Maybe you can tolerate a cup of coffee an hour before bed, while someone else needs to steer clear of coffee for at least five hours.
- Eat a light dinner. Or at least, don’t eat an exceptionally heavy meal. It’s no fun trying to sleep when dinner is heavy like lead in your stomach.
- Don’t snack right before bed. Same reason as above.
- Or, have a snack! Sometimes having a little something (key word: little) can keep you from being too hungry to sleep.
30 Minutes Before Bed:
- Avoid the screen. This means TV, movies, and (gulp) the Internet. It’s way too easy to get caught up in it until it’s suddenly way past your bedtime. Plus, the bright light of the computer screen isn’t exactly conducive to sleep.
- Dim the lights. The idea is to get your body to realize that it’s almost bedtime. Try turning off the overhead lights and just using a bedside lamp.
- Get the temperature right. In general, people sleep better in a slightly cool room. If possible, turn the air conditioning down a couple degrees at night. Try using ceiling or floor fans to keep the air circulating. Use lightweight sheets and pajamas. (In the winter, of course, you’ll want to use quilts and blankets.) Take a cool shower if you need to.
- Have a relaxing before-bed routine. This will be different for each person, but the key is to start winding down in preparation for sleep. Here are some ideas:
- Turn on some soft music or hymns.
- Take a shower or bath to relax.
- Read a magazine or book (nothing intense, though).
- Have a cup of (decaffeinated) tea or a glass of warm milk.
- Work on a relaxing hobby, like knitting or crocheting.
- Write in a journal.
- Read the Psalms.
- Perform some relaxation exercises (for example, yoga).
- Use aromatherapy: lavender and chamomile are very relaxing.
- Avoid arguments. Tense discussions should be saved for another time.
- Pray! Ask God for help, and pray for a good night’s rest. Also be sure to thank Him for the blessings He’s given you!
- Turn out the lights. Remember, you want your body to know it’s time for sleep. If necessary, use a sleep mask to block out light.
- Don’t look at the clock. Face it away from you if necessary. You don’t need to be constantly reminded of the time.
- Make it quiet. Get rid of ticking clocks and other noise-makers. If this isn’t possible, try using a “white noise” machine.
- Get comfy and relax. Keep your eyes closed and focus on relaxing all of your muscles. Try tensing and then relaxing your muscles, starting at your feet and working your way up.
- Breathe. Focus on your breathing, and make sure you’re breathing from your stomach and not just your chest.
- Don’t force it. Don’t think things like, “If I don’t fall asleep right now, I won’t be able to get up in the morning!” Trust me: That doesn’t help. Instead, focus your thoughts on how comfortable you are and how sleepy you feel. Relaxing, empty sorts of thoughts. Try pretending you’re somewhere relaxing, like alone on a beach.
- Find out what’s bugging you. If thoughts or worries tend to keep you awake, then keep a notepad and pen next to the bed. Jot down any tasks you want to remember. If you’re stressed about something, try making a list: “Things That Are Bothering Me.” Write down everything that comes to mind. It sounds silly, but it often helps to simply identify what’s on your mind.
If You’re Still Having Trouble:
- Don’t just lie there. If you can’t fall asleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Keep the lights low and stay off the computer. Even sitting in a comfortable chair with the lights off may help.
- Write it all down. Sometimes it’s just hard to turn your mind off! If you just can’t clear your mind, try stream of consciousness writing. Grab a cheap notebook or some paper and start writing. Forget grammar, spelling, and even complete sentences. Write down your thoughts as you have them. Don’t worry if it’s sloppy or doesn’t make any sense. The point is to get it all out of your head so you can relax.
- See a doctor. If you’re having consistent trouble falling or staying asleep, it might be best to see your doctor. Sometimes insomnia can be a symptom of an underlying condition.
If you have some advice for getting a good night’s sleep, I hope you’ll share it in the comments! A lot of people have trouble sleeping from time to time, and it’s really helpful to have a “plan of action” to help get your sleep back on track.