"Sleep is the best meditation." -- Dalai Lama
Living the hectic, stressful lives we live, we often forget how to push the "off" button. We work hard and are anxiety-ridden to distraction. We manage to power up each morning because we have a lot to do. Yet we might not be as good at powering down at night and getting the sleep we need to support our full lives.
A few months after my mastectomy, I met another survivor who was an exercise instructor. She was extremely upset that she couldn't exercise during her disability and was gaining weight. When her doctor cleared her to exercise, she threw herself back into it with a vengeance, causing a lot of pain. Obviously, she had the drive to return to exercising once she let herself heal. What she wasn't able to do was relax.
It's hard to relax when our minds are in turmoil. But without relaxation we can't get the sleep we need to recharge and focus productively. I've posted about how to turn your bed into a refuge and a soft place to land. But what if you still can't get to sleep?
Here are 10 tips to help you get the sleep you need:
1. Set a regular bedtime and time to get up each morning. Follow through on the weekends. A regular sleep schedule will help ease you into the routine of good sleep.
2. Have quiet time before bedtime. Avoid television, smartphone and computer screens because the light they throw off can act as a stimulant. Plus, how many times have you watched a particularly violent episode of a TV show, or been disturbed by the news? Let only good thoughts come your way before going to bed.
3. Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool and quiet.
4. Don't drink alcohol, caffeinated beverages, or eat or drink too much before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant and, although alcohol may initially make you sleepy, it may also act as a stimulant and you will find yourself wide awake a few hours later. As for other liquids, no one likes to make frequent trips to the bathroom when they should be sleeping.
5. Focus on relaxation if you still can't get to sleep after about 15 minutes. In my experience, the more you focus on "not sleeping" the more likely you are to experience insomnia.
6. Relax by listening to guided imagery or calming music. I started doing this before I had my mastectomy because my anxiety was keeping me up at night. It usually worked wonders.
7. Try journaling or writing. Putting your anxieties and worries down on paper may be all you need to do at 3 a.m. to feel more in control of the situation. If you are awake because your head is full of ideas, write them down. Visualize the ideas out of your head and on the paper, where they can sit and wait for you to get back to them tomorrow.
8. Drink herbal tea and honey and curl up in a blanket. A little bit of TLC in the middle of the night goes a long way to making you feel more relaxed and nurtured.
9. Embrace the silence. The middle of the night is like no other time of the day (especially if you have a busy job, family life, etc.). Sometimes I realize I'm awake because I need to hear silence.
10. Breathe and meditate during the day. If you practice mindful meditation during the day, you will be that much more adept at quieting the "what if?"s at night. Anyone who has ever dealt with insomnia knows that the more upset you get about it, the more likely you are to stay awake. Mindful meditation keeps you from panicking, and that may be all you need to eventually get yourself to sleep.
Enjoy a good night's sleep and then let me know here and on my Facebook page how you power down.
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