I knew I had to get my sleep sorted out when I almost fell asleep driving to work one morning. My problem was stress and anxiety related to my job as a teacher. For me, the solution was to quit. Although I had various professional issues, improved sleep may have kept me in the job.
Keep reading to learn five things that will absolutely help you to sleep better.
A report by the RAND Corporation this week showed that sleep deprivation cost the economies of developed countries billions a year in lost productivity. It can also result in earlier death. Plenty of reasons there then, to take the bull by the horns.
Whilst surviving on five hours sleep or less a night can be a badge of honour in many professions, including teaching, the science says that a lack of sleep can lead to poor concentration, accidents, anxiety and obesity. Chances are, it will also make us miserable. Here are five things that you should implement to ensure a better night’s sleep.
Give Up the Caffeine
Like a lack of sleep itself, overuse of caffeine has become a boast in our time poor society. Coffee does have its place and can help you fire through that report as a deadline looms. You will pay for it though a few hours later.
Caffeine will stay in our system for many hours. Drinks high in caffeine make it harder to fall asleep or can result in less time in the deeper stages of sleep. Your brain and body need these deeper stages to fully rejuvenate.
Cut down on coffee as an everyday beverage and start to think of it as an occasional booster. Like all of the changes listed here, a switch to herbal teas in the evening might not be enjoyable at first but keep trying. Your palate will adapt and your body will enjoy dealing with less chemical stimulation on an evening.
Sleep in a Cool Room
Our core body temperature drops by a degree or so as we sleep. If a room, or covers are too warm we might struggle to sleep or be restless. We then deprive our brain of the deeper stages of sleep that it needs to consolidate memories, rationalise our experiences of the previous day and repair itself.
Turn Off your Devices
Many adults are now checking email us to seventy-nine times a day and teenagers are impulsively checking social media all day and well into the night. Unsurprisingly, our screen time now has a huge impact on sleep patterns. Not only is the content likely to keep our brains stimulated but the blue light emitted by devices supresses the production of melatonin, the hormone which not only promotes sleep but might also slow the progression of cancer.
I now turn off devices and screens about an hour before bedtime. This is going to be one of the hardest things you have to do when creating a new sleep routine so go easy on yourself, aim to do it little by little and reward your own successes.
If you can’t make a huge leap on this, try researching the filters and apps which cut down the amount of blue light that your devices emit.
Now we’ve got some of the physical aspects of good sleep (sleep hygiene) covered, let’s look at a couple of the emotional and psychological reasons for disturbed sleep.
Off Load your Worries
Many people who’ve already got all of the above cracked will wake up tomorrow morning at 3am and not go back to sleep. There may be a dozen different things on their mind. And by “things,” I mean irrational worries; what if I lose my job; what if my boss yells at me; what if I’m not good enough?
In a Buddhist’s eyes all worry is irrational because it can’t solve our issues, it only makes us unhappy. Furthermore, Buddhists often refer to this frenetic mental activity as monkey mind. When I was a teacher, monkey mind kept me up constantly but a couple of techniques can make a huge difference.
Spend a few minutes thinking about these potential sources of worry before sleeping. If you can, simply recognise and acknowledge them as thoughts. If this isn’t enough to tame the monkeys, then devote a few minutes to writing down your fears and worries before bed. There is scientific evidence that this can invoke better sleep. To go even better, begin a regular regime of meditation, the scientific evidence for it is vast.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Using a journal to record three things you’re grateful for every single evening, can improve sleep in just ten nights. Gratitude teaches your brain to be more positive, satisfied with what you have and also reduces worry and anxiety. It can even reduce physical problems. If you haven’t noticed, gratitude is huge right now.
As I’ve said above, the best way to implement these things into your night time routine is to go easy on yourself. Good habits can take a long time to form but the reward will be sleeping like a baby for most nights, for the rest of your life.