The Dalai Lama, a leader of Tibetan Buddhism, once said, “Sleep is the best meditation.” I agree! There is nothing like getting a full, uninterrupted eight hours of sleep, but that is not something I really valued until after having children. When they were babies they were up every two hours on the dot and it seemed like I never got a full night’s rest.
Why Can’t We Sleep?
Why do people have trouble doing to sleep? In my case it was a new baby keeping me up at night, but the answer could be one of many reasons but the plain truth is that we are over-thinkers. There is always something on our mind that prevents us from either falling asleep or staying asleep. Even after my children started sleeping through the night, it seemed I would lie in bed going over the next day’s schedule.
And I am not the only one unlucky enough to have suffered from this kind of problem. In fact, a study by the Centers for Disease Control reported that in adults over the age of 20, nearly 40% had trouble sleeping because they were concentrating on things or remembering things. (www.cdc.gov) If we can’t relax, then it’s doubtful that we will have a good night’s sleep. Here are some tips to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep the whole night through.
- DO USE A BEDTIME – Make a bedtime, and stick to it. When we were children, our parents gave us bedtime so that we would be well-rested for the next morning, and ready to face whatever challenges life might throw our way in the day ahead. The need for this has not changed now that we are adults and in fact, because adult challenges are more stressful, we are in even more need for a decent bedtime.
- DO NOT EAT OR DRINK – If you go to bed on a full stomach or after drinking the wrong kinds of beverages, then you will most likely have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Caffeine is a stimulant, and drinking coffee, soda, tea, and other beverages that contain the ingredient can be responsible for a poor night’s sleep. In addition to eating too late, eating the wrong kinds of foods, like anything spicy or loaded with MSG, can keep us up with indigestion or migraines.
- DO CREATE ATMOSPHERE – Creating a relaxing atmosphere is optimal for a good night’s sleep. You may have to use blackout curtains to make the room dark enough. Some people are able to sleep through anything, even sunshine streaming through their windows. However, other people sleep better in a room that is not affected by any kind of nighttime light pollution like street lamps that shine through their bedroom windows.
- DO NOT SMOKE – Smoking is a filthy habit. Just don’t do it! If you are having trouble giving up cigarettes completely, then at least cut out all nicotine products at least three hours before bedtime. That is because nicotine, like caffeine, is a stimulant as well. People may say they feel more relaxed after smoking a cigarette, but that is an illusion because their bodies are on edge for hours afterwards.
- DO USE WHITE NOISE – If you can’t afford an expensive sound machine to produce calming noises such as babbling brooks, cozy thunderstorms, or the sound of ocean waves slapping against the warm sand on a tropical island, then all is not lost. Apps available for your smartphone or tablet device produce the same kind of relaxing sounds to help you get to sleep every night. My son prefers going to sleep listening to the simulated sounds of city traffic while my daughter prefers the gentle strains of a tinkling, music box melody.
- DO NOT CONSUME ALCOHOL – Sleepiness is a side effect of alcohol. However, if you have ever awoken in the middle of the night due to an alcohol-induced migraine then you know that drinking before bedtime is just a rotten idea. And even if you do not wake up from a headache, there is always the possibility that going to bed with alcohol in your system can cause you to wake up sick in the middle of the night, which is even worse.
- DO USE PROPER BEDDING – Proper bedding doesn’t have to mean expensive bedding. While my husband and I really enjoy the pillow-top mattress at a particular hotel, we agree that the discount mattress sets found on sale through a local retailer offer just as much comfort for nightly sleeping needs. Using organic sheets and allergy-free pillows and blankets further help us make the most of a good night’s sleep.
When it comes to the do’s and don’ts of getting a good night’s sleep, the important thing is to do what is comfortable for you. Of course there may be times when you break a rule or two about bedtime. Holiday parties, late nights at the office, or having family stay with you during extended visits can all encourage bad bedtime behavior. The important thing is that you get right back to your routine as soon as possible to avoid any more missed sleep.