By Amy Brightman, LCSW
March marked a big month for sleep — springing forward for Daylight Saving Time and celebrating National Sleep Awareness Week and World Sleep Day. Despite all of this focus on sleep, it has seemed like many people are complaining about being tired. We know that losing an hour of sleep takes about a week or two to adjust after the change, so why does it seem like people are still reporting feeling overly tired? Here are five quick tips to help you gain mastery over your sleep:
- Develop a Routine
Our sleep is based on a cycle, so the more you can maintain a schedule, the more the cycle will work correctly. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Of course, treat yourself on the weekend, but try to avoid having a significant difference with your sleeping schedule on weekends. Also, pair your routine with a ritual like taking a shower, reading, or practicing relaxation skills. I often suggest trying a progressive muscle relaxation exercise and using a lavender scented body lotion before bed.
- Avoid Alcohol, Nicotine, and Caffeine
Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that will interfere with falling asleep. If you are particularly sensitive to caffeine, I recommend not having any caffeine after 2pm, including chocolate! When it comes to alcohol, many people think that alcohol helps with falling asleep. However, it actually will disrupt your sleep in the night, interfering with the cycle of sleep. So, avoiding alcohol four hours before bed is recommended.
- Don’t Watch......Your electronics or the clock
The blue screen from electronics, like your phone or television, will disrupt you about two hours into your snoozing. Try engaging in a less activating activity, like reading or listening to soft music. If you are one of those people who look at the clock and think, “If I get to bed now, I’ll only have five hours of sleep,” then turn your clock around so it does not face you. This will help reduce the thoughts about getting to sleep which increase anxiety and keep you awake. I don’t even have a clock in my bedroom and it’s made a big difference.
- Care about Your Comfort
Make your bedroom and bed a comfortable place for you. Keep it cool and dark for good sleeping conditions. Have scents and sounds that generate calmness, such as lavender oils and nature sounds. Treat yourself to nice sheets and cozy blankets, and enjoy what you sleep in. Remember the three C’s for comfort: cool, calm, and cozy.
- Exercise and Eat
Exercising in the day can help people feel ready for sleep when the time is right. It also helps people manage stress, which is always helpful when trying to sleep. Avoid exercising right before bed as it can be activating. Similarly, eating before bed should be avoided. A light snack in the evening can be helpful to get you through until breakfast, but avoid heavy meals late at night.
These strategies help promote good sleep habits and reestablish a healthy relationship with sleep. Many people get anxious about going to bed because they have such a difficult time with sleep. Care about your sleep and your sleep will be good back to you. It can take time to get into healthy sleeping habits, but once you’ve gotten into a steady schedule, it will have long term benefits. Sweet dreams!
Amy Brightman is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you are looking for support in finding solutions to enhance your overall wellness, visit cobbpsychotherapy.com to see how therapy can help.