The value in restful sleep
Most of us do not get restful sleep these days. Why does this happen? Gosh let me think. Here’s a brief list of some of the many, many possibilities.
- We’re too stressed
- We’ve wired from hours spent on our electronics
- We carry our work into the bedroom on our laptops, tablets and phones
- We eat too much stimulating sugary foods and foods that turn into sugar in the body
- We’re allowing too much light in the bedroom from electronics or city lights
You get the idea? We’ve got a lot going against restful sleep. And this list is just the tip of the iceberg.
We expect ourselves to automatically power down once it is time for sleep. And that probably worked for our ancestors who didn’t have artificial light, electronics, or the option of a bowl of ice cream before bed. But we’ve got to manually turn off.
A Manual Shutdown
When we manually turn off for the day, we need to shake off all the things that we’ve piled on during the day. These are all the things that can stimulate our brains (whether consciously or unconsciously) and make it difficult for our bodies to move into sleep mode. And we can’t just expect this to happen because we crawl into bed exhausted.. We need to consciously do this to help achieve the best quality sleep.
And please note: manually shutting down isn’t just for those who suffer insomnia. There are many people who sleep 8 hours and wake not feeling completely rested. Most people need help achieving truly regenerative sleep.
10-minute Practice for Restful Sleep
1. Drink a small cup of bedtime hot tea
Make a small (6 ounce tops) cup of tea. Some helpful, sleep promoting herbs are chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, peppermint, rose blossoms, orange blossoms, cinnamon, skulcap and valerian) If drinking before bed makes you “go” in the middle of the night, you might want to try a small snack of a slice of turkey or a small amount of plain yogurt for sleep promoting tryptophan instead.
2. Viparita Kirani (leg-up-the-wall pose)
Here’s a great yoga pose to help re-balance and get ready for sleep. Fold a blanket to the length of your spine. Lie on the back on the blanket and scoot your buttocks as close to the wall as possible. Then lift your legs straight up the wall while still lying on your back and focus on the breath. Stay here for 2 to 3 minutes. If this causes discomfort in any way, adjust it to a place where it is comfortable.
3. Spray your pillow with essential oils.
You can make an easy aromatherapy spray that promotes sleep using essential oils. Take a small glass bottle and add 15 to 20 drops of both chamomile and lavender to distilled water. Shake and then spray over your pillow.(Make sure to shake each time before spraying) The scent should help quiet your brain for restful sleep.
4, Put aside your worries.
Start by focusing on whatever might be holding your attention. It might be something that excites you, something that stresses you, something you know you need to do in the morning or whatever else is on your mind. Once you have a good picture, write down your thoughts on paper Then fold the paper and put it away, either in a little box, in a drawer or anywhere else you can keep something safe. You can pick the note back up again in the morning. For now, your worries are being kept safe while you sleep.
5. Turn off all the lights.
You probably know to turn off your bedroom light when going to sleep. But what about the other light to your room? If you have an electronic clock that emits light, turn it away from your bed. Try to block any other lights from electronics (laptops, cable boxes, wifi, etc.) that might shine throughout the night. Close the curtains to block city light. And if it’s impossible to block all light out of your room, consider getting a face mask.
If you are planning to read before bed, purchase a book light or turn your electronic reader to the dimmest setting.
With your worries put aside, close your eyes and take 10 deep cleansing breaths. Breathe slowly into the diaphram and then slowly exhale.
Now you’re ready for bed!
This whole routine should take only about 10 minutes. And the result? You’ve just manual turned off your brain and your body and readied it for restful sleep.
Deep, relaxing sleep isn’t just for babies. You can achieve it too. But you just need to give your sleep some focus and 10 minutes of your time. Gone are the days when most of us can just flop into bed and wake refreshed on a regular basis. Most of us need a little assistance in getting the best, most restful sleep.
So take 10 minutes to help your mind and body prepare. You’ll thank yourself in the morning!
Sabrina Quairoli says
Great tips, Erica. I can’t sleep in the summer because our home is very bright. So, we got room darkening shades and I make sure the door is closed too because our hallway has two large double windows that shine light into the bedroom in the morning. Just by making these few changes, I am able to sleep longer in the morning. Thanks for sharing! Now, you make me want to go to bed. =)
Sabrina, it really is difficult to sleep when it is hot. Getting the room as cool as possible definitely helps.
Ken Dowell says
I usually am busy doing something, mostly on my laptop, right up until the time I go to bed. I’ll try some of this stuff. Thanks.
Ken, that is pretty common. It definitely helps if you can give yourself a few minutes to wind down.
Good tips Erica. I agree with you, our stress and work are one of the primary factors to affect our sleep. I my self too before going to bed as well have my laptop by my side with my eyes glued to the screen.
The absence of light though works very well. I also tried the aromatherapy using one of my favorite essential oil. Both together and i had truly amazing results.
Thanks for the post.
Sushmita, it is good to hear that you’ve had positive results with aromatherapy. The absence of light is the biggest factor for me.
Jeannette Paladino says
Another technique that works for me is to set aside an hour before bedtime to read. I need to set an alarm for the hour, though, as sometimes I’ll fall asleep sitting up on the couch and more than once I’ve woken up in that position the following morning!
That is so funny Jeannette. I always doze off while reading at right, but I’ve never slept like that the whole night!
RoseMary Griffith says
I’m good at dumping the electronics about an hour before bed, but guilty of reading something exciting–a good mystery–and that’s not a good idea. I do sometimes have chamomile, but never thought of trying the plain yogurt, so I’m real happy to read that tip. I just had lunch today with a 17 year old who gave me some tips on finding the right black out blinds. How awesome is that. Will give all these things a whirl and let you know.
Oh, and the lavender scent? I finally indulged in some of Lenie’s sachets. Perfect!
Teenagers know everything these days, don’t they? Black out blinds are amazing. I have blackout curtains in my living room and they really make a difference. They also make the room cooler in summer which I’m really appreciating around now.
I sleep too few hours – five to six a night. Once my head hits the pillow, I am out for the count!
We do not have a television in our bedroom, only electronic device is our mobile phones and they are stored away from our bed. I have read a drink of camomile is soothing and lavender on the pillow.
I intend to allocate one or two nights to sleep early.
Yes, definitely try to give yourself a couple extra hours of sleep when you can. We go into different stages of sleep over the night, and if you don’t allow for a full sleep cycle, you miss out on vital stages of rest and repair.
Though I do understand the desire to stay up late for sure!
William Rusho says
These are wonderful tips. Sometimes I get into bouts of insomnia for several weeks. I will try this suggestions. they seem logical and I hope they work.
William, I’m sorry to hear you have bouts of insomnia. I hope some of these tips help.
The constant drain of being on electronics has really impacted my sleep schedule. I tend to work into the evening, and doing so puts a toll on my wind down time. I do a tea routine from time to time, and it really does help. I also put my modem to bed at night by throwing a hand towel over it. For various reasons, it ended up in my bedroom and I curse its little blinking lights all the time.
I love that you throw a towel over your modem. That is really smart.
Doreen Pendgracs says
Hi Erica and thx for the tips! I do block out light from electronics (the digital clock) right by my bedside. And I do enjoy a small cup of chamomile on occasion (but yes, it’s important to make it small in order to avoid that during-the-night trip to the washroom) but I really dislike the scent of lavender and will try the chamomile essential oil on my pillow instead.
Yes, don’t use lavender if you dislike it! Glad to hear that the chamomile has helped you in the past and good for you for blocking out the electronics.
I can’t speak for other insomniacs, but I’m willing to bet that a majority of them find the process of initially falling asleep to be relatively easy and that staying asleep is the real challenge. Sleep for me is a fragile condition, somewhat akin to a house of cards: all kinds of things can disrupt it, as you point out.
To your recommendations above I would add:
(1) Do what it takes to block out ambient noise.
(2) Get a good mattress; a substandard mattress will increase the amount of your tossing and turning during the night, and you don’t want that.
Those are good tips Andy. I myself sleep with a white noise machine and ear plugs. I think anyone who sleeps with a partner or in a city could benefit from those tips.
Very good tips! I usually don’t get to sleep till 2 or 3 am, which I know is really really not good for my health, but I can’t seem to help it. I’m just so much more productive at night… and of course I wake up the next day not feeling refreshed at all. So I’m definitely gonna try out some of your tips to get to bed earlier. Thank you for sharing!
Rosary, I used to stay up all night too for that reason.. I definitely feel better now that I give more time and focus to sleep.