Many of the people I have worked with over the years have struggled with sleep. The most recurrent problem is the inability to fall asleep at night. Why is this so? Often the mind is planning the next day’s schedule, worrying about finances, sorting through an interpersonal struggle, or teasing through an argument. The funny thing about these thoughts is that they tend to build off one another while the clock ticks by the hours. The effects of sleep deprivation influence the ability to function the next day as people are more irritable with partners and children, less productive at their jobs, and exhausted. So, let’s review some tips and tricks for proper sleeping hygiene.
First, a consistent sleep pattern is paramount. Try to establish regular bedtimes, even on the weekends, so that sleep becomes part of your day-to-day structure just like going to work. Also, make the bedroom your sleeping sanctuary. That is, use your bedroom for sleeping and not for reading, watching TV, or browsing the internet on your tablet. Many of us use our phones for the alarm clock feature, which is fine, but make sure you are not playing games or reading the news in your bedroom. Create a sanctuary conducive to your sleeping by setting a comfortable room temperature, having socks or extra pillows nearby, or turning the ceiling fan on to the appropriate speed.
Now that we have set the stage for sleeping let’s focus on nighttime brain activity. One trick for when your mind is activated at night is to leave the bedroom and read a book or work on a crossword puzzle until you feel tired. You can also practice diaphragmatic breathing in bed by breathing from your stomach instead of your chest. If you can solve the problem that is keeping you up in a few minutes, solve it. If it is a long-term problem that can’t be fixed tonight then leave it for the morning because nothing will be accomplished except for higher levels of exhaustion. Remember not to beat yourself up over not falling asleep. Remind yourself that all those thoughts and worries is your brain working just like it works the other 16-18 hours of the day. Treat these tips and tricks like an experiment. If one trick helps you fall asleep that is fantastic! But if a trick doesn’t work for you, try the others until you find one that helps you get the rest you need.
Interested in shaping up your brain for better sleep, visit our Neurofeedback page to find out more information about training your brain to improve sleep problems.