Several clients have approached me with concerns over their ability to sleep, both to get to sleep and then to remain there for the recommended 7-8 hours. Some people feel hopeless and helpless, and yet there’s so much that we can do to improve our chances of reaching this goal!
In an earlier blog, I focused on the presence of electronics – in your bedroom and in your mind space towards later hours of the evening. Many of you won’t like this, so I’ll be blunt: there’s no place for electronics of any kind anywhere near your bedroom. This includes TVs, computers, readers, games, and probably even alarm clocks. And to help your brain shift into night mode, it is recommended that you retire your phone and other devises a full hour before bedtime, so your brain has a chance to get the signal, literally, that it’s dark outside and therefore time for rest.
Other areas that can have huge impact on sleep-ability include the following. I would encourage you to take an inventory of your sleep patterns and routines within each of these areas, modify or tweak your environment and/or behavior, and monitor the result.
Environment includes facets of your room and the bed. Things like the age and firmness of the bed, age and condition of your bedding, room temperature (ideal sleep temperature is in the mid to high 60s), brightness and lighting (should be kept to a minimum), and the presence of pets. As a general rule, as mentioned above, allow no electronics into your bedroom space.
In-Bed Activities is a little self-explanatory, but worth mentioning because many people allow a wide range of activity. Generally speaking, the only activities that should be “allowed” in bed are relationship-building with a partner and actual sleeping. Say “no” to everything else including reading, working, journaling, TV watching, and so on. The reason is because of the associations you create in your subconscious mind. If your bed is also for reading or working, your mind associates it with reading and working, despite your desire to sleep. If you must read or work in your bedroom, use a separate chair.
Food/Substance includes things like alcohol consumption, the timing of when you consume caffeine and other stimulants, timing and type of food consumed before bed, and medications and sleep aids. Every one is different, particularly when it comes to this category, so you may have to play around a bit with these items to find what works for you.
Ritual/Routine is really about the consistency in your process for shutting down. Do you go to bed at the same general time every night, do you do any soft yoga to calm your body, or a warm shower or bath to begin the relaxation process? Perhaps night time journaling or reading (not in bed) is part of your routine. A really important factor here is consistency, because, again, of the association your routine has to sleep.
I hope this outline helps you evaluate your situation, and that it helps maximize your probability of success (by sleeping better)!