Some nights I fall into blissful sleep a few minutes after lying down, sleep peacefully through the night and awaken refreshed and ready to roll. Some nights. More commonly I toss and turn as my body and mind unwind and relax. I wake a time or two during the night to cool down, warm up, or traipse to the bathroom. I am not alone. The Centers For Disease Control report that 50 to 70 million adults have some sleep disorder or wakefulness problem. I’m surprised the number is that low given that every other person I talk to seems to either use a CPAP machine or sleeps with someone who uses one (a CPAP machine is a common treatment for sleep apnea). NOTE: Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder and if you think you have it, definitely, research and seek treatment for the condition.
If, however, your sleep problems are less serious and not diagnosed, you may be able to manage your sleep with lifestyle changes. Here are three actions that I find helpful in getting to sleep, staying asleep, and waking refreshed:
Exercise. I especially like to exercise about 4 hours before bedtime. This doesn’t always work given my work schedule, especially during the winter months of darkness. Nevertheless, an after dinner walk is my favorite. Gentle yoga stretches before bedtime also seem to calm my system and encourage sleep.
Ritual. When my children were small we created ritual to ease the bedtime process. A warm bath, calm storybook, and then lights out provided comfort and continuity as bedtime approached. Find what works for you. Experiment with different rituals to see what helps you. Try soaking your feet in warm water. Turn off all electronics several hours before bedtime. Drink a cup of herbal tea, meditate, journal about your day, read a book. Whatever you choose, allow your thinking mind to disengage, be mindful and present to what you are doing. Mindful presence will prepare you for the journey into the sleep world.
Guided Imagery/Music. You have done your ritual and now you lie in bed. Try imagery that supports nourishing sleep. Imagine yourself heavily sinking into the bedding while feeling gratitude for the softness of the sheets. Focus your mind on the present comfort of your bed. If your mind continues to roam, try a guided imagery or musical CD or MP3 created to support healthy sleep.
There is a lot to process in our busy 21st century lives. Integration of memory and understanding ourselves and our lives is supported by a good night of sleep. Our sleep time is important to our physical, emotional, and intellectual health. Slow down as night time approaches to allow yourself the best sleep and best health possible.