Are you someone who struggles with sleep? Maybe you have trouble falling asleep because your mind hasn’t turned off yet, or maybe you just wake up and can’t get back to sleep. If you are like me, those nasty night sweats may be waking you up.
Sleep disturbances and insomnia issues are very common, and have become even more of an issue with the stress we have all be under from the effects of the pandemic. Neurologists who specialize in sleep disorders are seeing an increase in sleep disorders associated with COVID-19 and are even calling if COVID-somnia.
Relaxation is your primary task
If you struggle with sleep issues, paying attention to good sleep hygiene can help. I suggest you start by winding down before you go to bed so you are relaxed and in the right frame of mind for sleep. Relaxing your body and mind before you go to bed makes a huge difference!
You need to take the time to relax your body so you can fall asleep with good thoughts. I encourage you to avoid activities that are too engaging before bed. It may be hard to put down a good book or stop watching a show. I would also avoid watching the news just before you go to bed. You want to end your day on a positive note, and the news is filled with things that are not positive.
I remember times I would be working on my computer until late and then thinking it was time to go to bed. My husband would say, “You will never get to sleep if you don’t settle yourself down first.” I knew he was right, and if I took some time to relax, meditate, or listen to music or a guided meditation, it would be so much easier to fall asleep.
How many of us go to bed thinking about the things we didn’t do that day, the things we have to do tomorrow, the things that have us worried, or whatever didn’t go well that day? If you’re not careful, those thoughts can consume much of the time right before sleep. These thoughts can lead to bad dreams or even nightmares. I call them anxiety-laded dreams.
The subconscious mind works out things while we sleep
Unlike our conscious mind, the subconscious mind doesn’t stop working when we fall asleep. The subconscious mind is like your autopilot; it keeps your heart beating, your breathing regular, and your body functioning. It also keeps working on what we were thinking about as we were falling asleep. This can affect our dreams and how well we sleep.
You want to end your day in a positive way. Spending just a few minutes in gratitude is an excellent practice to help you end on a good note. Noticing what you are thankful for that day or recalling something you appreciated and makes you feel good will help you rest well and wake up feeling more refreshed.
Note: These suggestions are not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Certainly get help from a professional if you think you may need a sleep-disturbance evaluation.
Some people with sleep disturbance or insomnia issues benefit from a medical checkup, but here are some things you can do on your own:
- Don’t go to bed if you are not ready for bed. Working on the computer or watching TV before bed can be too engaging.
- Take some time to disengage and unwind before trying to sleep.
- Be aware that a really good book or movie also might keep you engaged and not prepared for sleep. Avoid intense dramas, thrillers, and even the news just before bed.
- Create an evening habit. Brushing your teeth, washing your face, combing your hair, whatever you do in the evening can become a routine. When you do these things in the same order and same way, it retrains your brain to expect that going to bed and sleeping comes next in the sequence. Going through this sequence of events every night makes it easier to sleep.
- Avoid reading, eating, or watching TV in bed. Over the course of time, this gives your body the wrong message. It tells your body it’s time to watch TV (or whatever) when you go to bed. If you want to read or watch TV in your bedroom, sit in a chair rather than lying in bed.
- Strategies such as going to bed only when you’re sleepy and getting out of bed after fifteen to twenty minutes if you’re unable to sleep, and then returning to bed only when you feel ready have been shown to re-establish the psychological connection between the bedroom and sleeping.
- Meditation, listening to relaxing music, or doing imagery can be helpful in falling asleep.
Your action step is to make some changes in your sleep hygiene so you can get to sleep, stay asleep, and truly feel rested when you wake up.
Bonnie Groessl is a best-selling author, podcast host, holistic nurse practitioner and success coach. Her mission is to educate, empower and facilitate your well-being while nurturing the mind-body-spirit connection. You can find links to her books, guided meditation audios, blog and podcast at www.bonniegroessl.com