Sometimes I hear people bragging about how little they sleep. I believe that's a holdover of the American rugged, fierce self-sufficiency that is so valued culturally. It's really not a badge of honor. In fact, lack of sleep is just as much as a risk factor for good health as eating well, exercising, watching your weight, and abstaining from unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking in excess.
Sometimes we just can't sleep. There are lots of reasons this could be, but one that I often see in my therapy office is related to anxiety. You know, when you're lying there and you can't get out of your head. Maybe you can't unwind from the previous day or you are so busy thinking of all the to-do's. Thinking, thinking, thinking.
Why are we sleeping less or poorly? Often sleep difficulties are tied to stress: life stress, existential stress.
Tips to Combat Sleep Issues
Know your bedtime and stick to one sleep schedule, most specifically your wake up time. I know, I know, However, if you sleep in more than 30-minutes, your whole circadian rhythm gets off. If you sleep in Saturday and Sunday, and come Monday it’s like your body experiences a bit of jet lag and doesn’t want to get up.
No caffeine after 2 pm. Caffeine has a half-life between 6 and 8 hours, so if you stop by 2 pm, you will be ready for good sleep around 10. Some people assert, oh I can drink a cup of coffee and go straight to bed. Yes, but coffee is a stimulant, and if we could take a look at the brain, caffeine is a stimulant so you will not get quality of sleep even if you get the correct quantity.
Drinking before bed is fine as long as it's in moderation. It takes the average person one hour to metabolize one drink. Alcohol, too, impacts the quality of your sleep and doesn’t allow you to get into the deep, restful sleep, so limiting the evening drinks to one or two will work best.
Exercise-about half of people can rest after exercising in the evenings and about half get energized. If you are someone who is energized and it impedes sleep, try to find another time to exercise. However, exercise is the single best tip that can lead to better sleep. And no need to run a half marathon; twenty minutes will improve the quality of your sleep...walk more at work, take the stairs, etc.
Morning light helps to turn off the melatonin faucet in your brain so you don’t get brain fog. So open your shutters or curtains and let that morning light in!
The single worst invention for sleep is the SNOOZE button. Either get up or set your alarm for the last possible time when you can get up. Those 7-9 minute snooze cycles never allow you to get back into good sleep, so you are just getting repeated, short, crappy sleep. No bueno!
If you find that you wake in the middle of the night, every night, you may have low blood sugar. If you wake at 2:30-3:30 each morning, there is a 30% chance it is blood sugar. Remedy this with guava leaf tea or a teaspoon of raw honey. This will keep your blood sugar stable.
About the author: Melissa Hudson, Ph.D.(c) is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Plano, Texas specializing in couples and marriage therapy, anxiety, and depression. She also works with adults and families on a full spectrum of psychological concerns. Have more questions? Want to learn more about how anxiety and sleep work hand in hand? Give me a shout! firstname.lastname@example.org | 214-235-8175 | www.counselingsolutionstexas.com