9 RULES FOR BETTER SLEEP
Sleep is the elixir of life. Inadequate sleep is a major stressor on the body and has been implicated in obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease, impaired cognitive function, reduced testosterone in men and numerous other health complaints.
Do you have trouble sleeping? Make sleep a priority by following these nine tips that will help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
1) Lie down to go to sleep ONLY when you are actually SLEEPY. This may mean going to bed later than usual (30 mins to several hours later).
If you go to bed too early, you may:
a. Have trouble falling asleep
b. Sleep for a while and then lie awake for some time
c. Have broken or light sleep for much of the night.
If you stay up until you are extremely sleepy, you give yourself the best chance of falling asleep quickly, staying asleep and sleeping more deeply.
2) Bed is for sleeping only. Do not use your bed for anything except sleeping. Do not watch TV, use phones or laptops, listen to music, or eat in bed. Sex is an exception to this rule. The idea behind the rule is simple: when you have a sleep problem, it can cause you to have negative thoughts such as, “I’m afraid I might not sleep well tonight.” A more positive approach is need like “bed = sleep, sleep = bed” etc. The exception is if you think that reading or some other in-bed activity helps you to fall asleep or helps you to get to sleep once you have woken up. You may break this rule and read in bed, but for no more than 30 minutes.
3) If you do not fall asleep within 30 minutes after turning out the light, get up, go to another room, and do something that won’t make you too alert, eg. read a magazine, newspaper, watch TV, or do some ironing. Stay up until you start to feel sleepy again and then go back to bed. The idea is to associate your bed with falling asleep quickly. The exception – if you do not fall asleep within about 30 minutes after turning the light out and you are lying in bed resting peacefully or thinking peaceful thoughts, you may want to get up, or you may want to simply lie there and keep resting. LYING IN BED RESTING PEACEFULLY IS NEARLY AS RESTORATIVE AS SLEEP, whereas lying in bed worrying (including worrying about ‘not sleeping’) is not restorative at all.
4) If you go back to bed and still cannot sleep, repeat rule 3. Do this as often as necessary until you fall asleep in about 30 minutes.
5) If you wake up during the night and can’t go back to sleep, follow rules 3 and 4.
6) Get up at the same time every morning, seven days a week, regardless of how long you have slept. This will help your body develop a regular sleep rhythm.
7) Do not nap during the day or early in the evening. Even a minute nap in front of the TV can take the edge off your sleepiness and can make it harder to sleep well that night.
8) Do some form of relaxation each day (physical relaxation).
9) Learn to reduce thinking and worrying in bed (mental relaxation).
Ways to reduce thinking and worrying in bed:
• Most of the thinking and worrying that we do in bed needs to be done – it simply should not be done in bed. When it is done in bed, it can interfere with sleep. Learn to devote some time during the day for your thoughts, instead of at night in bed.
• Some people fear that if they don’t get enough sleep, they will go crazy or have a nervous breakdown. This won’t be the case. They will simply be very tired!
• It has been said that more sleep is lost through worrying about not sleeping than any other cause. People will often lie awake in bed saying to themselves, “I’ve got to sleep now! If I don’t sleep now, I’ll be very tired tomorrow.” This sort of mental talk will keep you awake. It is better to say to yourself, “I’ll just lie here and rest now, and as long as it is peaceful rest, that will be nearly as good as sleep anyway”.
• It is normal to wake up once or twice during the night. It is important to tell yourself if you wake up, “this is normal, I’ll just get back to sleep now”. Try not to be negative in thinking that you’ll never get back to sleep.
• Try actively letting go of thoughts and worries in bed and instead think of something that you find peaceful and relaxing.
• Make a list of pleasant thoughts so that you will have something handy when “thought switching” is needed at night.
• Listen to a relaxation tape or peaceful music or anything else that you find peaceful. This helps to block out attention or other thoughts or worries about not sleeping.
• Let go! It is not helpful to ‘try’ to fall asleep. What is needed is for the unconscious mind to let go.
• Write down thoughts and worries during the day and keep a pen and paper near the bed at night for any new thoughts, and then let them go.
• Make a list of things you didn’t get done today, that can be done tomorrow, next week, etc. Once this list has been written, you no longer need to worry about things that you shouldn’t forget or that you have to do. Tell yourself, “It’s on the list. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”
• Don’t work or study during the last 2 hours before bedtime. This will give you mind time to let go of work and study thoughts.
• Remember to treat yourself gently. If you get upset with yourself, this will only make it harder for you to sleep.
• Affirmations can help you to reduce your thinking and worrying in bed. They are positive things that you say to yourself out loud in front of a mirror, eg. “I’m willing to let go of worrying about not sleeping.”
• If you worry or have bad feelings about the past, you might find it useful to say to yourself, “It has happened now, I can’t change it now, it’s time for me to move on.”
• If you are worrying a lot about problems you face, you might try asking yourself, “Is it a problem, or is it a challenge?”