11 game-changing tips to Re-Gain Precious Sleep
As a Sleep Science Coach, I’ve worked with many people who have terrible struggles falling sleep, staying asleep or both. Not only does insomnia pose serious health risks and threatens overall longevity, it can bring years of psychological angst and despair.
What follows are 11 game-changing tactics you can use to outmaneuver insomnia and its dreaded effects.
1 - Pick a consistent wake-up time that works for you every day of the week.
a) by waking up at this hour, let’s say 6:30am, you’ll have enough time to get to work, school, etc.
b) even when you don’t need to wake-up at this time, i.e., weekends, you still should get up since sleeping-in creates a form of chronic jet lag which throws your body’s sleep rhythm off.
2 - Expose yourself to natural daylight within the first hour of waking for 15 minutes or more. Additional sun exposure throughout the day totaling 45 - 60 minutes, helps to keep your master clock’s rhythm on the right track.
Getting morning light lets your brain knows it’s daytime. This sets the very foundation for your brain to get into the rhythm of the sun rising in the mornings and setting or winding down in the evenings. And, when it’s dark and the sun goes to sleep, that’s a cue to your brain to do the same.
3 - Eat/drink well throughout the day starting with breakfast.
The more nutritious you eat/hydrate, the better off your sleep will be. Excessive processed foods, sugar, caffeine and alcohol all interfere in getting restorative sleep. That’s the kind of sleep that makes you feel great, be healthy and thrive!
4 - Be physically active throughout the day.
If you generally feel exhausted when you wake up in the mornings, one of the first and best things to do is to roll out of bed and move your body for 5-minutes. Planks, wall-sits, dancing, etc. will help cortisol to kick in and make you feel more awake. And rather than exercise for an hour straight at the gym, then be stagnant throughout the remainder of the day, it’s better for your sleep and overall wellness to move throughout the day wherever you are. Walking, standing vs. sitting, biking, using the stairs, dancing, playing, etc., are all effective!
5 - Avoid napping whenever possible.
Napping may help you feel better momentarily, but in the long run it prolongs insomnia. If you’re dying for a nap, make it quick and early. Try to keep it tops to 20 minutes and no later than 2pm. Better yet, go for a walk outside and take in the daylight to re-charge and energize!
6 - Maintain social connections.
Being connected with people and feeling happy greatly reduce stress, racing thoughts, feelings of isolation and loneliness. Just try your best to connect with people, places and things that provide energy, support and positivity vs. stress and drain. Your sleeping self will thank you.
7 - Stop eating at least 2 hours before going to sleep.
A lot of body and mind healing should take place while you sleep. Growth hormone, which helps with body repair and strengthening, is released. Moreover, your brain literally has a chance to clean out, process information, recuperate from the prior day and get ready for the day to come. However, if you eat shortly before bedtime, your brain will not have nearly as much ability to recover since digestion and your GI system are demanding attention. Ultimately, neither your brain nor gut end up with their needs met.
8 - Create a sleep prep ritual.
After dinner, dim the lights, wear blue-light blocking amber-tinted glasses, (I use Uvex brand), avoid doing or watching things that are overly stimulating, play relaxing music, soak your feet in warm lavender-scented water, meditate, lightly stretch, wash your face, brush your teeth, get into pajamas, etc. Whatever actions you choose, make them consistent each night, so your brain realizes it’s almost time to sleep.
9 - Go to bed only when you’re sleepy.
Don’t get into bed and engage in awake activities. This means no reading, looking at or talking on your phone, watching television, doing work, etc. (Engage in those things in another room.) Actions in bed should be limited to sleeping and sex. You want to habituate your brain to associate the bedroom with darkness, calm, cool temperature, quiet, comfort and sleep. This consistency establishes a reliable sleep routine your brain can count on and settle into with ease.
10 - Leave your bed/bedroom, if you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes.
As hard as it may feel, if you haven’t fallen asleep after 15-20 minutes, get up and go to another room where it’s dark, quiet and calm. Do something you enjoy that’s relaxing. Watch television – wearing your blue-blocking glasses - read, meditate, deep breathe, etc. Your goal is to relax. Only go back to bed when you feel sleepy. After going back to bed, if you’re still awake after 15 more minutes, get out of bed again and repeat above. Do this for however long you need to in any given night. The worst thing is to stay in bed and insist that you have to fall asleep. Not only won’t you fall asleep, but this is a real set-up for insomnia-related anxiety.
11 - Get to bed earlier in increments of 15 minutes once your sleep becomes more regular.
Let’s say your consistent wake-up time, (see tactic #1 above), is 6:30am and you feel sleepy by 1am, then go to bed. Once you’re able to sleep soundly during those 5.5 hours for at least several consecutive nights, then get to bed 15 minutes earlier, i.e., 12:45am. Maintain your new bedtime until you experience consistent sleep for another 3 to 4 nights. Continue doing this until you reliably achieve 7 hours or more of deep sleep nightly.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful! Please feel free to share with anyone who may be in need. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know.
Susan D’Addario, Author, Certified Sleep Science Coach, and Founder of Back-To-Sleep, helps people struggling to get a good night’s sleep so they can finally sleep soundly again and feel rested and ready to take on the world.