Some of us are great sleepers, some of us not great sleepers and most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Sometimes we sleep well, sometimes we have a hard time falling asleep, or staying asleep, or we wake way too early, or feel restless all night, and sometimes all of the above.
Stress, pain, mental health, and hormone levels all affect how we sleep. It’s hard to get better or feel good if we are chronically under slept. Also often the worse we sleep the worse we sleep. We can get in a vicious cycle of sleeplessness, so sometimes we need some pretty direct, concrete measures to help get us back to sleep. Here is a little list of some things you can do to help you get a bit or a lot more shut eye.
- Eat for sleep- have a decent dinner and don’t go to bed hungry- make sure you have complex carbs and protein in your evening meal for the simple reason that it is hard to fall asleep when you are hungry and a blood sugar crash in the middle of the night will wake you up, often in a panicky state from which it is hard to fall back asleep. And on that note, if you do find yourself in a hungry and/or low blood sugar state in the middle of the night, there is nothing wrong with a midnight snack- and again think complex carbs and protein. Nut or seed butter on whole grain something is an easy option.
- Cut out booze. I know it helps you relax, feel good, and fall asleep, but if you are waking up in the middle of the night, or even sleeping through the night, but not feeling rested when you wake up, cut out the evening drinks and see what happens.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine. Some of us are very sensitive to the stuff. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be forever. Once you get your sleep back on track you can probably drink it again.
- Get some helper herbs- do a google search, go talk to someone at your local herb shop, or even better, go see a herbalist and find some herbs to help you. Adaptogens are great if your insomnia is coming from high stress and burnout. And there is a slew of sedative herbs that will help you sleep. If you are using a tea, make a second cup and keep it by your bed, so you can drink it if you wake up in the middle of the night.
- Have a sleep-positive evening routine: don’t look at screens up close for a couple of hours before bed. Seriously. And then find some things that help you relax, quiet your mind, and prepare you for sleep. Here are some ideas: hot bath (relaxes you and the subsequent drop in temperature after the bath can help put you to sleep), reading (nothing too exciting or scary), meditation, some easy exercise, like some gentle stretching or an evening stroll, if your mind is busy, writing about the things that you are thinking or worried about, and or whatever else you find that may help you. Experiment. Try different things
- Try to not worry too much about not sleeping. This is hard, but a bit a bit of a game changer if you can swing it. Worrying about not sleeping definitely doesn’t help you sleep. And the sleepless night and the next day will be much better if that night is spent peacefully lying in bed, or restfully reading on your couch than if you get angry and worried and in a tizz about the fact that you are awake at 3 am.
- Be gentle with yourself- this kind of goes with the last one, but it is so important to well being in general that it gets its own entry. Just be nice to yourself, about sleep and everything else. You are doing your best. Appreciate it, even if it doesn’t seem like enough.
- Get regular acupuncture treatments. Come in at least three times a week if you are sleeping really badly and it is making your days unpleasant or you are getting other adverse health affects from it. And come in once or twice a week if you are not sleeping well. Acupuncture works best if you get it often and regularly.
Learning how to sleep better can be a long game. Sometimes it can take some pretty big healing and making some pretty big life changes to get sleep on track. But doing the things on this list will help you sleep better, and should make those transitions and healing smoother and easier.