9 Little Known Ways to Sleep So It Counts
“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.”
- Dale Carnegie
Can’t sleep? You may have tried medication. You know you have to stay away from bad guys like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. And you’ve probably heard it’s not wise to exercise too vigorously or eat too big a meal a couple of hours before bedtime. Perhaps you’ve even tried to stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule. Still have problems getting a sound sleep? Try these snooze tips you may not have heard before.
1. Let go of your concerns and worries.
Anxieties often seem magnified in the still of the night. Dealing with them can help you sleep. Write down your worries and possible solutions before you go to bed, so you don’t need to ruminate in the middle of the night. A journal or “to do” list may be very helpful in letting you put away these concerns until the next day when you are fresh.
2. Do some deep-breathing exercises.
Find yourself constantly yawning? Some experts believe it may be linked to not getting enough oxygen to the brain. Deep-breathing exercises, in which you focus on taking long, deep abdominal breaths, may help relieve pent-up tension and the yawns.
3. Cut the light at night.
Avoid bright light, which signals the brain to be alert, within 2 to 3 hours of bedtime or if you wake up during the night. Using dimmer switches in living rooms and bathrooms before bed can be helpful. And consider blackout shades or an eye-shade to keep out early morning light.
4. Hide your clock.
A big, illuminated digital clock may cause you to focus on the time and make you feel stressed and anxious. This is very difficult for most of us, so turn the clock away from your eyes so you would have to turn it to see the time. You may decide not to make the effort and go right back to sleep.
5. Follow the 20-minute rule.
If you can’t fall asleep in about 20 minutes, whether at bedtime or after awakening in the night, don’t just lie in bed. Do something else, like reading, watching television, or listening to music, until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to insomnia.
6. Do some visualization.
Do not torture your mind with troubled thoughts which will not allow you to sleep. Instead focus all your attention on your toes or visualize walking down an endless stairwell. Thinking about repetitive or mindless things will help your brain to shut down and adjust to sleep.
7. Get up and eat some turkey.
Turkey contains tryptophan, a major building block for making serotonin, a neurotransmitter, which sends messages between nerve cells and causes feelings of sleepiness. Note that L-tryptophan doesn’t act on the brain unless you eat it on an empty stomach with no protein present, so keep some turkey in the refrigerator for 3am.
8. Redo your bedroom.
Make your bedroom more sleep-friendly. Make sure it is well ventilated and the temperature consistent. And try to keep it quiet. You could use a fan or a “white noise” machine to help block outside noises. Also replace a sagging mattress and deflated pillows. If you must keep a computer in the bedroom, cover the green light on the monitor with black electrical tape. And eliminate clutter, another possible anxiety inducer.
9. Wake up with the sun.
Sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself each day. So if possible, expose yourself to bright light within an hour of waking up for the day, either by taking a 30-minute walk outside or by lingering in a part of the house that gets a lot of sunlight.
The bottom line is sleep is more important than you may think. So be aware of the critical role sleep plays in your performance, productivity, and health. You’ll be healthier and happier.
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