I've been obsessive about sleep my whole life. 7 to 8 hours is not negotiable, it is the minimum I'm willing to get. I fail sometimes. My kids knew that sleep was a battle I would choose every time. I made my oldest write a paper in 8th grade about why I should make his bedtime later. It was extremely important to me for him to realize how important it is for him.
I LOVE when I am proven right. Yesterday while sitting in a doctor's office in Houston that specializes in male hormone treatment I picked up a hand out they were giving to every patient that walks in. This little gem says that poor sleep negatively impacts hormone function!!! This particular paper was focused toward men, but ladies, especially if you are in midlife, your hormonal health is CRUCIAL! We need balanced hormones for optimal health. Sleep is one part of that puzzle and one that we can give our efforts to.
Here is the advice that was given, with a little adaptation.
-Go to bed at the same time each day and get up at the same time each day.
-Try to maintain a similar schedule on weekdays and weekends.
-Get regular exercise each day, preferably in the morning.
-Keep the temperature in the room comfortable.
-Keep the bedroom quiet when sleeping or have white noise but do not have television or radio.
-Keep the bedroom dark enough to facilitate sleep.
-Use your bed only for sleep and sexual activity. This helps your brain only associate it with those things.
-Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine.
-Use a relaxation exercise just before going to sleep. (I love meditation/gentle yoga/prayer.)
-Keep your feet and hands warm. (I have to stop picking on the hubby for wearing socks to bed.)
-Designate another time to write down problems and possible solutions in the late afternoon or early evening, not close to bedtime.
-Don't exercise just before going to bed. Do so at least 3-4 hours before you plan to go to sleep.
-Don't engage in stimulating activity just before bed. Examples: Looking at social media during a political season, having a discussion with a loved one that involves controversy. (Whoops, no wonder my man hates when I tell him a problem right before bed!)
-Don't have caffeine in the evening. (Chocolate has caffeine!)
-Don't read or watch television in bed. (Unless the reading is really boring.)
-Don't use alcohol to help you sleep. It actually interrupts your sleep cycle.
-Don't go to bed too hungry or too full.
-Don't take another person's sleeping pills. (Duh!)
-Don't take daytime naps. WHaaaa. Okay, no naps longer than 20 minutes and be sure they are 8 hours or more before bed.
-Don't command yourself to go to sleep. This only makes your mind and body more alert as it causes stress.
-Don't watch the clock or count minutes, this causes more anxiety.
-Don't lie in bed awake for more than 20-30 minutes. Get up and go to a different room or a different part of the bedroom, participate in a quiet activity, then return to bed when you feel sleepy. Do not turn on lights or sit in front of a bright TV or any other screen! Sit in a quiet, dark place. Do this as many times as needed.
-Don't succumb to unhelpful thoughts like: "Oh no, look how late it is, I'll never sleep". This causes stress. Stress prevents sleep.
-Don't change your daytime routine the next day if you didn't sleep well. This is one I struggle with. I always want to "catch up" and take a nap. The problem is that you will continue to have difficulty sleeping at night when you do this.
-Don't increase caffeine intake the next day. This can keep you up later the next night.
I've pretty much done all of the "don't"s in the past. I am planning on remedying that and putting, even more, intentionality into getting a really great nights sleep. One of the things that work really well for me when I cannot sleep is breath work. As soon as I realize that sleep is going to be hard to find I may take passion flower, an herb that supports relaxation, and inhale to the count of six and exhale to the count of eight. This helps me forget what my mind is buzzing about, focus on my breath, and drift off.
I am planning to really focus on my nighttime routine. I have mornings down. What are nighttime routines that create a great nights sleep for you?