The power of plentiful sleep
The most frequent complaint I hear from patients is struggling to get a good night of sleep. This symptom varies from trouble falling asleep, to being restless throughout the night, to waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep. This is a really BIG problem considering that sleep is one of the most important things for our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing! A good night of sleep sets us up to the best version of ourselves each day.
It’s important to rule out potential medical issues that may be causing restlessness at bedtime such as cardiovascular problems or hormonal imbalances, but it can also be a form of anxiety. For many, the time when you lay down at night is one of the few opportunities in your chaotic day that you are quiet enough to hear your thoughts. There are no distractions to push away your worries.
It’s not an uncommon issue in our future-oriented culture where we praise individuals who can do the most, do it the best, and get it done the fastest. This mentality makes it difficult for us to give ourselves permission to “turn it off” for fear we will fall behind in the race. Unfortunately, lack of quality sleep makes it harder for you to keep up with the many balls you are juggling, which feeds the cycle of stress and negatively affects your mental and physical health.
Make it routine
An effective strategy for conquering nighttime restlessness is to establish a bedtime routine. Determine what time you want to be asleep and begin planning your routine for an hour prior. Write down what steps you will take in that hour to begin unwinding and practice those exact steps every night.
Avoid high stimulus activities such as watching tv, projects, games, exercise, or use of phones or computers. Consider incorporating calming strategies such as a hot bath/shower, hot tea, journaling, or reading. The longer you stick to the routine, the more effective your mind and body becomes at responding to bedtime cues.
Data dumping is an important technique to consider adding to your bedtime routine. This technique helps to put the brakes on the growing “to do” list and/or the worries that are cycling in your head. Keep a notepad at your nightstand and set aside time each night to list all the things you need to do tomorrow. This helps dump all those details out of your head and on paper so you can rest easy knowing they will be there in the morning when you wake up.
It relieves your brain from feeling it needs to keep replaying this list over and over to prevent the tasks from getting lost and forgotten. Additionally, writing out your thoughts or feelings about the things that are causing you to worry is a powerful exercise to help you organize and process those racing thoughts outside of your head.
As you lay down to unwind, try adding some essential oils to your space. There are very affordable oil diffusers and cool misters on the market you can place right on your night stand. Lavender can be added to your diffuser or topically applied as instructed for an additional relaxation tool. I like to add a few drops of oil into a spray bottle of water and spray in the room or just over my pillows.
Yoga and meditation are great practices that are growing in popularity due to the increased research in showing the many layers of positive effects mentally and physically. These practices help to train your brain to be quite. If you were going to play in a tennis tournament and had never played tennis before, you would need to commit to practicing a variety of drills on a daily basis to effectively train your body to respond the way you would need it to in a game of tennis.
Make it routine
Training your brain to be quiet works the same way. If you are used to going a mile a minute and you decide to pick up yoga or meditation, don’t be discouraged if you find it challenging at first. However, if you can commit to the practice long-term, you will be pleasantly surprised by the effects it has in your day-to-day life….as well how helpful it is for restful sleep!
All of these strategies work best when you maintain healthy levels of stress in your daily life and address underlying emotional challenges. Along with good nutrition and exercise, sleep is one of the most important needs of a healthy mind and body.
As with any change in life, the motivation to start and maintain these new habits can be difficult. Take some time to reflect on the potential outcome. If you were to put these strategies into practice and begin to have consistent quality sleep at night, what would life look like? Consider your unique gifts and personal strengths. How would they excel if you were no longer experiencing fatigue? What impact would that have on you personally and those around you?
Each night when you choose to practice the strategies noted above, be mindful of these points as your purpose in making sleep a priority. When you feel tempted to get off track, make a commitment to yourself to nurture your potential by making healthy choices.
Kristin Woodling, a licensed mental health counselor and certified marriage and family therapist, is the owner of Pamper Your Mind, LLC in Satellite Beach. She is devoted to providing a confidential and elite therapeutic experience to professional women seeking healing, clarity, and balanced lifestyle for optimal health. Woodling promotes strong mental health services in her community and teaches counseling at Webster University and Eastern Florida State College. She is a graduate of the 360 Ignite program offered through WeVenture at Florida Institute of Technology and enjoys volunteering as a mentor to help other professionals excel personally and professionally.
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
~ Benjamin Franklin