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Let Me Sleep On It...8 Ways to Improve Your Quality of Sleep

Sleep-related disturbances are probably listed as the number one general complaint my clients express. Some have a hard time falling asleep. Some can’t stay asleep. Others feel that they can fall asleep and stay asleep, but when morning comes they still feel exhausted. If you have ever experienced a pattern of sleepless nights, you know exactly why quality sleep is recommended for optimal functioning. We all know sleep is important. However, what many people don’t realize is how other problematic symptoms they may be experiencing could be a result of sleep deprivation. Some of those symptoms may include, “making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.” (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) Hence why I believe it is so important for every single person, especially those that feel they are struggling with anxiety, depression, or any sort of mental health concern, to evaluate the amount of sleep they are getting every night, and the quality of that sleep. If individuals do not take this step, it can lead to a sense of feeling like nothing is working, even if that person is trying everything in their power to help themselves. They have consulted with their physician, their therapist, and even a psychiatrist but are still struggling and not gaining symptom relief. Unfortunately, that person will most likely continue to struggle if their sleep is not where it needs to be. Even with this information, some people express some resistance to the idea that there is a correlation between their sleep patterns and their emotional health. Why is that? Two reasons come to mind that I’ve heard clients mention. Number one is the frustration that occurs with setting the intention of getting a good night’s sleep and then feeling like it is an impossible task to complete. It can feel like we have no control over our sleep cycle so it can bring on a sense of anxiety and hopelessness just thinking about it. The second reason is that it almost feels too simple to imagine if we just start sleeping more, it will alleviate many of our symptoms. It’s similar to the disbelief some people feel when they are told that what they put into their bodies can have a significant effect on their emotional health. It’s not surprising that we feel this way. After all, we live in a society that promotes consumerism and highly values technological advances. Hence why we are often made to feel that the answer to our problems lies in something external rather than the internal abilities we possess to heal ourselves. The good news is that through some minor adjustments to our evening routines, we have the power to make some positive changes to our sleep cycles. Here are eight things you can begin to do to improve your quality of sleep: 1. No screen time one hour before bed – Okay, so maybe this one doesn’t feel so minor. The thought of not having access to T.V, Ipads, laptops, or phones at night might induce a sense of panic. As much as we don’t like to admit it, there is a definite correlation between excessive screen time and sleep deprivation. This seems to be the common denominator in folks who complain of not being able to fall asleep and not being able to stay asleep. While this may be the hardest adjustment for you to make, it is the most important to do out of these eight tips. The good news is, once you get in the habit of turning off those screens an hour before bed, you can fill that hour with things that are much more nourishing for your mind/body/soul. 2. Wash away the stress of the day – Whether it’s showering or taking a bath, both are a great stress reliever. Additionally, you are taking care of your basic hygiene needs so you can cross off another thing from your checklist. While in the shower, take a moment to imagine the water washing off any stressors, heavy energy, or anything else that you feel you are hanging on to from the day. If you are taking a bath, try adding some essential oils and imagine them drawing out anything that you are hanging onto from the day that are weighing heavy on you. 3. Get it out and onto paper – Journaling is one of my favorite exercises for both myself and my clients to practice, especially before bed. There’s something so therapeutic that occurs when we take all the emotions, thoughts, and feelings that may be overwhelming us and getting them out onto a piece of paper. If writing isn’t your thing, drawing whatever is on your mind can also bring a sense of release. 4. Meditate – Since most of us spend our days inundated with tasks or worries, it’s no wonder that our brains are having a hard time switching off at night. Meditation is the perfect way to facilitate this powering down that is needed before bedtime. I highly recommend starting with a guided mediation if you are new to this practice. Headspace is a favorite app of mine. Just make sure if you are using your phone for the guided meditation, you don’t also sneak on Facebook or check your text messages. Remember, we are in the no screen time phase of the evening! 5. Setting the scene – Making sure that your bedroom is as comfortable and relaxing as possible is probably the second most important thing you can do on this list. Does your bedroom feel inviting and comfy or cluttered and overwhelming? As a mom, it’s not uncommon for my bedroom floor to start looking like the inside of a toy store. However, since I know my brain will be hyper-focused on the toys all night and them needing to be cleaned up, I make sure my bedroom is a toy free zone before my final hour of the evening. In addition to making sure your room feels inviting, temperature plays a huge part in our sleep cycles. Research shows 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for many but you may have to experiment with some different temperatures to see what is best for your body. Lastly, make sure your phone is out of the bedroom or at least on airplane mode if you must keep it in your bedroom. 6. White noise – I never knew about the power of white noise until I had kids. I was amazed at how much better they both slept once they both had white noise machines in their rooms. It makes total sense that white noise helps people sleep as it masks other noises that would probably wake us up (car doors shutting, cars starting, someone in the house getting up to use the bathroom, etc.) If you don’t feel like going out and purchasing a white noise machine, there’s an app for that! However, just like if you are using your phone for a guided meditation, make sure your phone is set to airplane mode and you’re not tempted to check Facebook or your text messages. 7. Oils are your friend – It seems like everywhere you go nowadays, essential oils are all the rage, and for good reason. I’m a big advocate of trying natural remedies for our health concerns as much as possible. If you are curious about how exactly essential oils can assist with sleep, click here. The most popular essential oil for sleep and relaxation is lavender. A few others that have also been known to help are rose, geranium, and jasmine. There are many diffuser options out there or you can even make your own essential oil mist. 8. The power of mantras – If after the other seven tips you still notice your brain is wandering, try replacing your anxious thoughts with a mantra. Mantras allow us to set the intention and focus our minds on one thought versus the many thoughts that are typically in or minds. Maybe saying it once doesn’t help. Try repeating it to yourself for a full minute and you most likely will notice a calmer state of being. For some bedtime mantra ideas, click here. If after a few weeks of trying these tips leads to zero success in altering your disrupted sleep patterns, I highly encourage you to visit your general physician. Some physical conditions can contribute to sleep disruptions so it’s very important to rule those out. Sleep well!