Updated: Nov 8
Before You Go to Sleep
When we don’t get a good night’s sleep, we are tired, irritable and have difficulty focusing. Not sleeping well can also affect our health and even increase the chance of getting dementia.
It’s important to sleep at least 6 hours, preferably 7 1/2 hours a night, but recently I discovered that many women have difficulty falling asleep and/or wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep.
I have periods when I sleep well and nights when I also lie awake. This week, perhaps because we moved the clock forward, I had several nights when I woke up and couldn't fall back asleep. I decided to use my sleeplessness to experiment and find the best way to fall back to sleep by using hand reflexology and breathing techniques. I’m still improving this method, which has surprised me by how well it improved my sleep, and I promise to share it with you next week, but today I’d like to share some tips of what you can do before you go to bed to help get a good night’s sleep. I hope one or more of these tips might help you.
Sleep Tip #1 - Be Timeless
Clients who aren’t sleeping well often tell me that they wake up at the same time each night. How do they know this? They look at their alarm clock, smartphone, or watch.
What often happens, is that people start to program themselves to wake up at the same time because they keep looking at the clock. The brain says – oh, it’s 3:00 AM, time for me to wake up.
My suggestion is to not check the time when you wake up at night. If you have an alarm clock by your bed, turn that clock around so you won't know what time it is when you wake at night.
Once clients stop noting the times that they woke up, the wake-up pattern changes and many begin to sleep through the night.
Sleep Tip #2 - Keep Yourself in the Dark
Our bodies developed thousands of years before Edison invented the incandescent light bulb and we are designed to sleep when it is dark and be awake during daylight hours. When there is an absence of light, the hormone melatonin is secreted which makes us sleepy.
Even a faint light from the adjacent room, a computer screen or a digital clock (another good reason to turn your alarm clock around) can affect our sleep.
Turn off all light sources, close blinds or drapes to block out streetlights, and/or sleep with an eye mask. An extra benefit is that research shows that sleeping in darkness may also reduce chances of getting cancer since melatonin impedes the growth of cancer cells and strengthens the immune system.
Sleep Tip #3 - Put the Phone (and Computer) Away
I know – it’s hard to not look at our phone before going to sleep – but I know personally that my sleep is much better when I put my phone away and turn off my computer at least half an hour before going to sleep. I sleep even better if I am off of both an hour or more before going to bed.
Checking our messages or reading posts and articles may be affecting our sleep by overstimulating our brain. The blue light may suppress the production of Melatonin that we need to fall asleep. You can learn more by reading: 3 Reasons Why Looking at It Before Bed Is a Bad Habit
Also make sure you turn off the volume and message notices on your phone. I only recently realized that I was waking early because of the beep of incoming messages from my husband’s phone!
Also don’t sleep with the phone close to you when you go to sleep. I also find that if I forget to turn off the Bluetooth on my phone it affects the quality of my sleep.
Sleep Tip #4 – Background Noise
I always sleep well on the plane. I can force myself to fall back asleep when I know I’m arriving early to my destination, but it’s much harder for me to get myself to fall back to sleep at home.
The background noise can help us fall asleep by blocking out disruptive noises or even blocking out the silence that sometimes makes our mind think too much.
A quiet fan or air conditioner can hum us to sleep and keep us asleep. You can also buy a white noise machine and hear sounds like ocean waves or rain. There are also phone apps available with white sounds that you can put on with a timer. Just make sure you don’t keep the phone close to your head.
Sleep Tip #5 – Adjust Temperature
For those of us who live in hot climates we know that heat and humidity can make it very difficult to sleep, but even warm temperatures can disrupt our sleeping patterns.
For the past few months I started sleeping only 6 hours a night when I used to sleep 7 ½ hours. I began to wonder if perhaps our sleep patterns do change with age.
Then we went on our trek to Bhutan last month where the temperatures were below zero. We slept 9 – 10 hours a night! This made me realize how much temperature does affect our sleep.
According to the sleep foundation, you should set your bedroom temperature between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius) for the most comfortable sleep.
I always got angry at my children who would put the air conditioner on so high in the summer that they would need to cover themselves up with blankets – but now I realize they may have found a good way to sleep.
Sleep Tip #6 – Gratitude List
We all l have so much on our mind, whether it is worrying about a family member, something at work, a relationship, or politics.
When we go to sleep, we take a whole day of stress and worry with us. By taking a moment to write a gratitude list we can switch gears and go to sleep feeling lighter and happier. There are several ways to make a gratitude list. One way is to keep a notebook next to your bed and every night, before going to sleep, write a list of things that you are grateful for.
The list can be endless, but here are some examples:
· I have a roof over my head
· I have clean running water
· I have a washing machine
· I have food to eat
· I enjoy freedom of speech
· My children are healthy
· My dog is happy to see me
· My cat sits and purrs
· I heard the birds sing today
· I saw the sunset
· I enjoyed the beautiful clouds
· I like the book I’m reading
· I enjoyed the movie
· The TV show made me laugh
You can decide how much you want to write, but I suggest finding 3 things every day to write. This way it is easy to do and you can repeat this each night. Try to find different things to be grateful for each time you write your list.
You might be surprised how many good things happened to you during the day that you may have forgotten. You can also lie down and just think about all the things you are grateful for. This often leads to very good sleep too.
To help you cultivate more gratitude, watch Louie Schwartzberg’s wonderful short film Gratitude
The film itself begins at 3:45 after Louis Schwartzberg explains how he made his film
I highly recommend watching this clip often to remind all of us how much we have to be grateful for.
Sleep Tip #7 - Exercise
Once upon a time we moved much more. We had to walk everywhere, and we had to do manual labor to get our food and make out homes.
Our body developed to support our physical movement, but today we can easily pass the day barely moving at all.
Physical activity is important for us and can help us sleep better Even only 30 minutes of physical activity during the day can affect our sleep:
“People who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise may see a difference in sleep quality that same night.”
For some people it is hard to fall asleep right after a physical workout, so you might need to exercise earlier in the day. Fresh air can also improve sleep patterns, so if you exercise outside you may sleep even better.
Sleep Tip #8 – For Cramps
If you find that cramps wake you up during the night, discuss with your health practitioner if you should take a magnesium supplement. Many athletes take magnesium supplements regularly, before going to sleep, to prevent muscle pain and cramps.
Personally if I don’t take magnesium for several nights my legs cramp at night.
There are several types of magnesium supplements. Magnesium glycinate and magnesium malate are the two that were recommended to me, because they are supposed to be easier on the digestive system (read less soft stools.) You have to see which supplement works best for you. Another plus is that many magnesium supplements also help you sleep better. Please discuss taking any supplements with you doctor or health practitioner. There may be contraindications to take supplements with certain medications and with certain heath conditions.
Sleep Tip #9 - Weighted Eye Mask
I learned this trick from my Functional Anatomy teacher, Eyal Shemesh.
When you put a weighted pillow or mask over your eyes, it allows you to go into a deeper meditative state or into deeper sleep. I have a small pillow made filled with grains that I put on my eyes that helps me fall asleep quickly for a power nap during the day. I have not tried sleeping with it at night because it would fall off of me while I sleep, but a weighted eye mask could work very well.
Sleep Tip #10 – A Hot Bath
Whenever I meet someone over 90 who is in good physical and mental shape, I always ask them what their secret is. One woman told me her grandmother taught her to take a hot bath every night before going to sleep. She said it helped her relax and sleep. Several years ago I visited a friend of mine in London. She didn’t have a shower, only a bath. I took a bath each night while there and I slept well every night.
Sadly most of us don’t have time to enjoy a bath each night – but perhaps our lack of time may help explain why we aren’t sleeping well at night.
Summary of the 10 sleep tips before going to sleep:
· Be Timeless – don’t look at the time
· Stay in the dark
· Put the phone away
· Have a background noise
· Adjust temperature
· Make a gratitude list
· take Magnesium supplements from cramps
· wear a weighted mask
· Take a hot bath
Check out these sleep tips and please let me know if they help or if you have you own tips that helped.
Maybe you’ll be sleeping so well you won’t need to read next week’s method to fall back to sleep.
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