Making Sleep A Priority To Improve Your Well Being
Do you want to….
…be more energized and relaxed?
…be more productive?
Making sleeping-well a priority could hold the key. Getting enough continuous quality sleep helps the body to repair itself, helps the mind to process the days events and contributes to how we feel and perform daily. If we sleep soundly we wake up refreshed, able to face our day. If we don’t every area of our lives can suffer.
In my psychotherapy practice I have found that many people seeking help for their symptoms of anxiety or depression have trouble with sleep. Some people report that they:
1. Don’t get enough sleep.
2. Have trouble falling asleep or they wake up frequently and can’t fall back to sleep.
3. Often wake up tired or feeling very anxious.
Often feeling as if there is something terribly wrong with them many people worry that only relief can come from medications, that can have negative side effects. What I have found is that for most people sleeping well at some point became so low on the list of priorities that it was easy for an unhealthy pattern of behavior to be established, leading to more trouble sleeping. Lack of good quality sleep fuels unhealthy patterns and unhealthy patterns fuels sleep problems. The good news is that often these patterns can be turned around with a few simple steps.
Steps to Better Sleep
Step one: Recognize how important sleep is to your wellbeing. Remember lack of sleep will negatively impact every area of your life. Just as food, air and water are necessary for your survival, so is sleep. Proper sleep strengthens the immune system and is necessary for our nervous systems to work properly. Sleeping well contributes to emotional stability and can improve relationships. In our culture we tend to think sleep is something that can be put off for more active pursuits without significant consequences.
Step two: Set a schedule for sleep. Have a regular bedtime and a regular wake up time every day, even on weekends. Early is better. Going to bed before 10pm and waking before 6am is ideal. Consistency trains your brain to know when to sleep. It also helps you stay in tune with nature rising with the sun and going to bed at an ideal time for your body to be best able to process what you consumed during the day, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Step three: Prepare for sleep. Make sure you limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine as these substances can negatively impact your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. One hour before bedtime “unplug” from all those electronics. Instead of staying connected to your TV, computer or phone develop a tranquil routine before bed. Try a warm bath, drinking warm milk, light yoga stretches, listening to soothing music, reading or other relaxing activities. Make your bedroom a quiet sanctuary for sleep. Pay attention to the environment. Make it cozy and relaxing. Asking for help may be necessary if you are having trouble with any of these steps.
Erin, a successful 32 year old business executive felt desperate. Tired, irritable and overweight Erin (not her real name) was sleeping less and less every night. When she did sleep she tossed and turned until she finally got up to get a snack or get on her computer. Because work demanded so much time and energy that was what became her priority. She often stayed up late and slept as late as she could in the morning, changing her schedule day to day. Although Erin knew she needed sleep to feel better she had let sleeping well fall to the bottom of her long list of priorities years before and was more inclined to prepare for a presentation at work than get a good night’s rest.
Once I was able to help her understand that she could be more productive but more importantly she could be happier, less driven if she made getting better sleep a priority. Over time she was able to take the steps necessary to put sleep at the top of her to-do list. As part of an overall improvement in self care, Erin has lost weight feels more relaxed and is enjoying her life more than ever.
Let’s review the key points of making sleeping well a priority.
• Recognize the importance of sleeping well.
• Make a sleep schedule.
• Prepare for sleep.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Medication is not the only answer for this type of problem.
Step by step you’re moving towards sleeping your way to a better quality of life.
Elle Garfield, ACSW