Sleep, oh Sleep, Where Art Thou Sleep???
Whoever wrote, “Tossing and turning, can’t sleep a wink tonight” must have had trouble sleeping or ‘miles to go before I sleep’. Can’t fall asleep? Can’t stay asleep? Wish you got better sleep? Wake up at dark o’clock and can’t return to sleep? I feel your frustration.
With ‘over the counter’ sleep aids, it’s easy to take a pill in search of elusive dreamland. But could you become dependent on this drug? Although the box claims otherwise, I found whenever promised ‘marked drowsiness’ made me I felt I was swimming in molasses the next day. Yet when I finally felt sleepy, I’d stare at the walls or ceiling waiting for dreams which never came. There is such a thing as being ‘too tired to sleep’, that feeling your eye lids are so heavy you are too exhausted to close them because it takes too much effort.
To make matters worse, not sleeping affects your body and mind. I earned the nickname, ‘Grumpy’ at work. I had no patience with friends or family trying to help me or with the simplest tasks such as buttoning my shirt. My relationships began to fray. I gained weight because I was too exhausted to work out. Since I was awake at 2AM, my stomach growled with demand and I’d hit the frig. (Warm milk, by the way, tastes like hot liquid chalk and the smell lingers for days if you burn it.) My mind stayed in a constant fog where nothing made sense or it took triple the time to solve the problems. I needed better sleep, and my body knew it.
Not getting enough quality sleep is one of the worst things a body can endure. As someone who’s been there, done that, I have a few tips I tried that might help you get better sleep as well.
1. Set a Routine and Stick with It: As many parents will tell you, they can’t just pick up a playing child, toss him or her into bed, and think he or she will immediately go to sleep. Children get better sleep and sleep longer with a set bedtime routine. They eat dinner, play for an hour, finish homework, get a bath, have story time, and then fall asleep.
Adults are the same. Our inner child needs a routine. Make a nightly ritual and stick to it, no matter what. Research says an adult needs seven to eight quality sleep hours every night. Nine or ten hours ahead of waking with the alarm, start your routine. Watch your favorite show, take a shower, and then read in bed until time to turn off the lights. Whatever feels the most comfortable and fits your lifestyle, start and stick. This routine signals your body and brain it’s time to ‘downsize’ and relax. It takes many of us a few weeks to accustom to change (think about when we ‘spring forward’ or ‘fall back’ each season) so give this routine time to work.
2. Self Hypnosis or Meditation: There’s a difference in these two methods, although they share similar qualities. Both assist your mind and body in relaxing and both have been proven to deliver better sleep. Self hypnosis is like a guided tour for your mind, containing messages designed to help you achieve desired changes with greater ease and effectiveness than can be achieved through conscious effort alone (excellent reviews are on this site along with self hypnosis downloads). Meditation is using your body’s own ‘life force’ or energy to promote relaxation and calming of the mind, body and spirit, usually without suggestions.
For each, go to a quiet room where no phones, television, or other noises interfere. (I highly recommend no cats, dogs or kids who will jump on your lap in the middle of your session!) I suggest playing the recording completely through a first time so your ear, body, and brain become accustomed to it. Playing the course through lets your conscious mind wander then focus when you start again.
Here’s an episode of my radio show, The Hypnotic Radio Hour, that is dedicated to sleep.
It includes a complete hypnosis for sleep session in the second half of the show. You can use this now, or come back and use it when you want to get to sleep. This is a different session than those available in the Complete Sleep Solution program, and you’ll be able to get an idea of how hypnosis for sleep works.
Meditation works in much the same way. You’re asked to visualize a calm place or color, hear ocean waves, or take a walk through a meadow. Relaxing the entire body is key. Focus on relaxing your toes and work up your body until you naturally fall into sleep.
Get better sleep with our best-selling Complete Sleep Solution.
3. Take a Bath: Mix 2 cups of Epson salt, 1 cup of baking soda, and 5-7 drops of your favorite scented oil (lavender or vanilla work wonderfully). Dissolve in a tub of hot water. Soak for at least twenty minutes (I read during this time) with as much of your body submersed in the water as possible. After, take a 3-5 minute cool (not cold) shower and drop into bed. Your body will be relaxed. Plus the Epson salt is great for relieving muscle aches.
If you’re not a bath person, try a warm shower. Invest in a massager shower head to relieve the kinks in your shoulders and neck. Take the time to let your mind wander without care or worries (stop doubting, it can be done with practice).
4. Take a Chill Pill: No, not something you buy in a store. Minimizing stress is like telling the ocean waves to stop flowing. But similar to quality sleep studies, dozens of cases prove stress is responsible for illnesses including heart attacks, high blood pressure, and you guessed it, failure to gain quality sleep. While I have no idea how to eliminate all stress, (if anyone ever solves that problem, he or she will be a millionaire in days) there are ways to tone it down. Ask yourself, ‘Will my worrying solve it?’ The bills are still going be due whether you worry or not. It may take a while, but free yourself from over thinking problems and give your mind a much needed break.
5. Take a Walk: While many doctors advise not to exercise right before trying to sleep, sometimes a moderate walk is just what you need. Don’t try to speed walk for an Olympic medal, just wander at a sedate pace and let your mind and body decompress. Your dog will love the time to walk with you.
If you do need to exercise after work, make it a part of your nightly routine. Exercise before six o’clock if possible. Grab a shower, eat dinner, and relax with a book or movie. If you’re not a regular exercise person, you may want to fall immediately into bed after that Zumba routine or treadmill (I sometimes do). Do whatever is most comfortable for you.
6. Discuss the Problem with Your Doctor: It might feel hard to say, “I can’t sleep.” Doctors are there to help you (and you pay them to help). There may be a physical reason you can’t fall or stay asleep such as sleep apnea (where your breathing tries to sleep, too). Your doctor can run tests, perhaps even a sleep study (where you sleep in a room while monitored to see what happens) to figure out why sleep is elusive.
In addition, being frank with your doctor lets him or her know you are having a problem and need expert advice. Many doctors have a vast network of help and answers for your medical needs.
7. Three Resists: Resist these three things in the search for better sleep: Avoid the temptation to over eat. Feeling too full is a main reason sleep can’t happen. This includes raids on the fridge at 2AM. Avoid taking naps during the day. Remember the routine I mentioned in #1? If you get in the habit of napping every afternoon, your brain and body think that’s rest time and will boycott evening sleep. Avoid caffeine. Some people swear a good strong cup of coffee is a sleep aid but for me, coffee is morning life blood not evening sedation. Check the labels of your drinks. Many have ‘hidden’ caffeine and could be why sleep won’t happen.
8. Eat a SMALL Amount of These Foods: Chocolate lovers rejoice, sort of. In addition to lowering blood pressure, dark chocolate actually helps you get better sleep. Note dark chocolate is considered the unsweetened 85-100% cocoa bean kind, not the most popular, and least nutritionally beneficial, milk chocolate type (sorry Snickers and M & M’s fans). Bananas, almonds, popcorn (air popped without added butter or oil), honey, milk (just don’t overheat/burn it), chickpeas, oatmeal, decaf green tea, potatoes and edamame can also aid sleep. Just eat only a couple of ounces.
Food for thought: A day without sleep is like a cupcake without frosting. Hope your cupcake is iced with the best sleep ever. Improve your sleep with our best selling Complete Sleep Solution. Give your insomnia the one-two punch of brainwave entrainment and hypnosis!