Zzzzzz... Sweet Dreams!

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that I am currently doing and leading a mind and body detox this week which targets the fundamentals for physical and emotional health.  If you don't follow me, go do so now and join in on the fun!  One of the areas this detox targets is sleep (do less and sleep more!).  Why?  Because sleep is ridiculously important for your wellbeing.  Sleep is restorative, and a lack of good sleep can lead to depression, anxiety, stress, and irritability.  Depression, anxiety, stress, and irritability can also lead to poor sleep.  It goes both ways.  

It's normal to get a bad night of sleep here and there.  Sometimes we have things that need to get done, we have to wake up early, children wake up screaming, dogs or cats need to go out (emergency style!), something is on our mind, or maybe we had too much caffeine.  It happens.  The issue really becomes a problem when lack of sleep becomes chronic.  I don't have scientific research to back this up, but I truly believe that most of us are frequently walking around sleep deprived.  When I am tired, I know that everything in life seems to suck.  I'll be miserable at work, I'll struggle to focus, I won't want to eat healthy, I'll pick a fight with a loved one, or I'll feel really anxious and moody.  My intentions go out the window.  

The number of hours of sleep you need is roughly 8, but it varies per person.  I truly feel my best when I get around 9 hours.  Maybe you function best with 7.  This week, however, for the mind and body detox, I am making a conscious effort to go to bed early and get the rest my body and mind needs.  What keeps me up?  Most nights I just want more "me time."  If I work a long day, I'll want time to just relax.  The problem is, by Wednesday I'm really really tired.  I don't recommend this!

Do you get enough sleep?  Do you struggle to fall asleep?  Wake up in the middle of the night? Wake up super early?  Here are some tips to help you get the zzzzzzz's you need:

1) Turn your smartphone off!  The light in your electronic devices actually stimulates the brain to wake up!  If you're scrolling through Facebook in bed, your brain is going to think it's time to be alert, not sleepy.  

2) Cut out the booze.  Yes, a glass of wine might make you feel sleepy at first, but drinking yourself to sleep makes your sleep quality poor and increases the chance of you waking up in the middle of the night.  Drinking does not replenish you.  It basically goes against the point of sleep!

3) Cut out the stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine.  Especially nicotine!  Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your health!  

4) Relax and do less before bed.  A relaxing routine with dimmed lighting will signal the brain to sleep.  Stimulating your brain by doing work, watching TV, doing chores, working out too late, etc. will only keep you awake.

5) Take off the pressure.  If you don't sleep, it's okay.  The worst thing you can do in the middle of the night is get upset and anxious about not sleeping.  Stop staring at the clock.  Keep your eyes closed, and try meditating instead.  Relax your shoulders and loosen your jaw. Focus on your inhales and exhales.  Notice the gap between the breaths.  Relaxing in bed is beneficial and restorative in itself.  It's okay if you're not sleeping. 

6) Keep your bedroom orderly, and dedicate your room for sleeping and sex only.  Your sleeping space should be calming and soothing.  I recommend not having a TV in your bedroom.  

7) Get up early.  If you sleep until noon on a Sunday, you're going to be up all night on Sunday.  Try to stick to a routine with when you wake up in the morning.  Be careful of naps as well!  A 10  minute catnap can replenish you in the afternoon, but sleeping for two hours is likely going to prevent you from falling asleep at night.  

8) Try showering, washing up, and brushing your teeth earlier in the evening, such as after dinner.  This way, when you start to get sleepy later on you'll just go straight to bed.  Washing up could potentially wake you back up!  This is always a problem for me, and an easy one to fix.

9) Work out in the morning or during the day.  I recommend practicing yoga.  Also, some gentle stretching and deep breathing right before bed can help calm you down and relieve stress to set you up for a good night's rest.

10) Set up multiple alarms and keep a notebook next to your bed.  Worried about oversleeping?  Two alarms will decrease that worry.  Thoughts racing in your head about what needs to be accomplished tomorrow?  Jot them down quickly rather than thinking about them all night!

11) Develop a ritual that works for you.  Maybe you sip on some chamomile tea and read with dimmed lighting.  Maybe you light some candles and put your legs up the wall.  Experiment until you find something that works for you.

Always be nice to yourself, and please don't panic!  As much as I emphasized how important sleep is, it's not the end of the world if you can't sleep.  Yes, you'll be tired, but that's okay.  Stay positive.  Lastly, if you have tried all of these strategies and still can't sleep, it might be time to work with a doctor and/or therapist to better help you.  There may be an underlying medical problem that is keeping you up.  Also, cognitive behavior therapy have been shown to be highly effective in helping people overcome sleep disturbances.  

Are you sleepy yet?  Do you feel like you get enough sleep?  Feel free to comment if you'd like to share what works for you!  And now for some ridiculously cute photos of my dogs sleeping (because it would be creepy to show you pictures of me sleeping!)...