Does this sound familiar:
The kids are finally down, and you look at the clock. Hmmm... just about 2 hours before I am supposed to get in bed. What can I get done before total exhaustion hits?
Sleep is a very strange behavior. Many people think of it as a battery re-charge, some as a vacation, and still others as a waste of time. Which one are you? How do you value your sleep? When it is not on your list of priorities that can increase your health, energy, and well being, why would you bother with it? Many people value sleep, but they have such a hard time getting it, they just give up and accept that they will be sleep deprived forever.
I would argue that great sleep starts with a reasonable attitude toward sleep. How much do you think you need, and how do you think you may be able to get it? Some nights you will get more, and some less. There are many mysteries to sleep but here are a few things that are known that we can all use to our advantage to get better rest:
So what does all this mean? Your body must be ready for sleep. And you should sleep when your body tells you to.
These days, it's far too easy to push bedtime aside with countless distractions, including those from the television, computer, telephone, belated responses to email and text messages, the messy kitchen, the dirty laundry, restless children, or even an engrossing mystery book.
But sleep is not a luxury that you can push aside or save for later. Sleep is critical.
Having more energy is among the top five requests people make at their doctor's office each year. More energy allows us to do more, be more effective and efficient in what we are doing, and enjoy it all when it is done! What better way to obtain energy than from its natural source...SLEEP?
In my last post I answered many of the common questions we all have about sleep and gave some tips to help you sleep. In this post, the focus is on the pre-bedtime (aka warm-up) routine. Getting your body and mind ready for bed.
Once you know your bedtime, and your sleep window, it is time to get ready for bed. You can warm up for sleep with my Power Down Hour™ - here are the basics:
This routine accomplishes several different goals.
First, if done regularly you are working with your circadian rhythm and going to bed regularly.
Second, if done with enough time it allows for you to have the opportunity to get your 5 cycles.
Third, it should land about the same time as your "window" of opportunity for sleep.
Finally, it allows you to slowly pull your foot off the gas, and slowly push on the brake to allow you to cruise into sleep.
Now the first two 20 minute steps are fairly simple (some would say not easy), but the last one is where many of my patients want some help, so let's also think about several different ways to relax your body and your mind.
We know that by the end of the day, the body has been used and abused, and generally on edge, so here are some of the many things you can do:
We also know that an active mind while trying to fall asleep can prevent you from getting good quality sleep. So here are some ideas to consider:
Everyone's personal sleep routine will be a bit different. And you can break the rules if they help you to sleep better. Some people need a television to lull them to sleep because they have become conditioned to fall asleep in front of it (just make sure you use a timer so that it turns off after you are asleep).
And for some people, exercise right before bed can actually be very sleep-friendly. Don't be afraid to experiment and go with your instincts as to what makes for a good night for you. Most of us will be able learn quickly what's good for us when it comes to getting a good night's sleep.
The secret to sleep is already within you. You just have to pay attention to what you're doing in those precious hours before bedtime, and capitalize on the habits that will tuck you soundly into bed.
Michael J. Breus, PhD, FAASM
The Sleep Doctor™
Follow Dr. Michael J. Breus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thesleepdoctor