Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite
Are you feeling stressed today, will you have trouble sleeping tonight?
I am sensitive to caffeine in tea, coffee, cola etc, and the caffeine and theobromine in chocolate. If I have any, not only am I very likely to get a migraine, but it will probably keep me awake until 4am or 5am.
At various times in my life, I have been worry worting over something or other. When it was a big thing, homelessness, no money, ghastly times in the business, or whatever, I experienced that horrible wakefulness. Churning over in the wee small hours whatever it is, going over and over and over the same thing. Not solving anything, just worrying. Maybe dreaming about it too, or more likely having a nightmare. Then the next day, I would be washed out, exhausted and even more stressed. No condition at all to do whatever needed to be done to try and solve the current horribleness.
If you are struggling with debt or a low income on a long term basis, stress is even more of a possibility than usual in our generally stressed out society. And an inability to sleep well is a possibility to go along with it.
There are some things that could help you sleep better, and thus, cope better. Here are some that might.
1. Your sleeping environment needs to be on the cool side. Keep it too hot and our brains and bodies do not want to sleep properly. Taking a warm bath or shower just before bed is helpful. The warm water gently warms the body, relaxing you, and as you cool a little, the temperature drop helps to trigger sleep.
2. The bedroom needs to be dark. We are wired to respond to sunlight, and the lack of it. When our eyes register light, we assume it is day time and we secrete cortisol, the wake up, get on with the day, hormone. When light is dim, or dark, we assume it is night time and we secrete melatonin, the time to sleep hormone.
If you have thin curtains or blinds and live where there are streetlights outside, it would probably be a good idea to line the curtains/blind. Or failing that, maybe use a sleep mask over your eyes.
3. The bedroom needs to be quiet. Noise will keep our brains in an alert state. So no music playing to distract you, no radio on, and definitely no telly. Use earplugs if necessary, the wax ones work well.
4. Avoid stimulants for several hours before bed time. This includes, tea, coffee, cola, chocolate, tobacco, and some pain killers have caffeine in them. Alcohol too will disturb your sleep. It is recommended that all these are avoided for 4 to 6 hours before bed.
5. No screens in the bedroom. Modern screens on iPads, e readers, mobiles and tv’s give out some of their light on a blue wavelength which keeps our brains set to ‘alert’ and awake. Our brains need at least half an hour without it to be able to use our bodily rhythms to sink into sleep. This means that all devices need to be switched off, and preferably not in the bedroom at all.
A mobile will ping and vibrate as messages and notifications come in. This will rouse you and maybe get you thinking about whatever we are trying to get you to put to one side overnight.
There’s a longer article here about being online, devices, and the effect they may have on our sleep.
6. No disturbances. We can’t do too much about small children squirming into the bed. Pets however, need really to sleep elsewhere. They are likely to get on the bed in the night, if they are not there already and their movement is likely to disturb you. Love your pets in the day time. You need to nurture yourself right now. You can always have your pets back into the bedroom when you are less stressed.
7. Clear your mind. Early in the evening, write down whatever problem is worrying you. Make a note of anything you need to do about it the next day, then put it to one side until tomorrow.
Get comfortable in bed and read for half an hour. Nothing too challenging, too scary or too exciting, and definitely not work.
8. Use the half hour rule of thumb.
If you aren’t asleep in half an hour, don’t try and force it. Get up and do something undemanding until you feel sleepy, then go to bed. Read something unchallenging, as above. Now is not the time to catch up on any work either. No distracting yourself with a screen, so no phone or ipad use at this time.
If you wake in the night and are awake for more than half an hour, do the same. A warm drink may help, not too much, don’t want any bathroom breaks waking you up, and of course, no caffeine.
9. Tire your body. When we worry, it uses lots of brain power and is exhausting, like doing some hard learning. It is tiring, but not conducive to sleep. Try to do half an hour, or more, of something moderately physically active each day. So a brisk walk, vigorous chores or a bit of a workout with some favourite music playing. Finish this 3 hours before going to bed to allow your system to relax down from the stimulation of the exercise.
10. Try some simple meditations.
When lying comfortable in bed, breath in slowly and deeply for the count of 4, gently hold for the count of 6 and gently and slowly breath out for the count of 7. Concentrate on the feeling of the breath entering and leaving your body, this helps to distract your mind from your worries. Continue until you forget to do it, when, with any luck, you will be falling asleep.
If you need something definite to do to stop you thinking, starting at 300, subtract 3, and continue. So 300, 297, 294 etc. this is just hard enough to engage the part of your brain that would otherwise be scurrying around a worry cycle, but not so hard you need to be alert. Don’t worry about keeping your place, just start again from wherever you want to if your thoughts have drifted off.
There are some great ideas and meditations here
This Wiki describes how to use a guided meditation to help your sleeping.
More tips on sleep hygiene here
These are just a few ideas on practical help to get that vital proper rest. There are plenty of other resources on the internet too. Have a little look around, preferably not in the middle of the night when you are unable to sleep.
Good night, sleep well, zzzzzzzzzz