Let’s talk about sleep. Sleep is being mentioned everywhere in the news these days: getting enough sleep has been linked to increased happiness and productivity, weight loss, lower diabetes risk….you name it!
Due to all of this research, however, there’s also a plethora of “how to sleep better” articles and tips around the web. The problem I always run in to when reading these articles is that sleeping problems are not created equal! Some nights, I can’t fall asleep easily because I’m agitated or stressed. On others, I’m blissfully happy, but (being in North Carolina), my belly is full of barbeque and I just can’t get comfortable. These two causes are completely different and require different techniques to overcome!
Luckily, taking some time to figure out what is underlying your sleeping issues can make it much easier to take the right steps to bring you closer to some happy Z’s.
When you think about your current sleeping issues, what comes to mind? Read below to learn tools to get you a good night’s sleep:
What time is it? Our bodies have a circadian rhythm that’s driven by light, hormones, and other stimuli. Have you ever had a wave of exhaustion at 9:30pm and powered through it, only to find that when you try to go to bed at 11:30pm, you can’t manage to sleep?
In the ancient Indian medical system of Ayurveda, the cyclic rhythms that govern the seasons also govern the times of day. 6 to 10 o’clock is ruled by Kapha, and is a time for slowing down and relaxing…a natural time to go to sleep. Starting from 10 to 2, however, is Pitta time: pitta is fire, energy, and movement. By ignoring your bodies signals to go to bed during Kapha time, you unexpectedly wandered right into Pitta time, which makes it that much harder to rest! Plus, doing all of that work to defeat your body’s natural “go to sleep!!!” warning signs puts your body into hyper-drive, sending signals that you need to stay awake. Even if it feels really early, try going to bed the first time you feel those pangs of sleepiness. Especially if you’re chronically sleep deprived, your body may be sending you signals “early” in the evening because it’s trying to get you back on track.
Are you overstressed? Take some time before bed to relax, and help your sleep along with a calming beverage (that’s not alcohol!!). Some great pre-bed drinks include:
Do you feel overstimulated or still active? This is a great time to take the advice often touted in articles: turn off the screens (phones, TVs, computers) and take some time to either read a book or newspaper, talk with friends or family, play an instrument, or do something that is completely opposite of what we do for most of our day (i.e., look at screens).
Even if you can’t totally turn off from the screens, pay attention to what you are actually watching/engaging in. Don’t watch your super violent or drama-filled shows right before bed. Wedding Crashers, or something light, is much more likely to help you calm down before you turn out the lights.
Are you understimulated? The amazing thing that is rarely talked about: sometimes you can’t get to sleep because you’re not tired enough! Our bodies want to move, and if life is pretty sedentary, we may have some excess energy that needs to get out. Start adding some aerobic or other higher intensity exercise to your day, and you’ll be begging for sleep as soon as you can get it. Some people don’t like exercise right before bed because it gets their heart rate up too high. Play around with the time of day and see what works best for you!
Did you overeat? Overeating, especially late at night, can make it uncomfortable to go to bed. If you’re feeling some rumblings in your tummy, a glass of water with some lemon, fennel tea, or mint tea are all great options that have helped me out in the past.
Once you’ve figured out why you are having sleeping issues, it becomes so much easier to take the means to correct it and get a good nights sleep. The bonus: by sleeping well – tomorrow, you’ll be recharged and ready to continue making choices that support your health and happiness.