"To sleep, perchance to dream..." Even though this quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet is taken out of context, it speaks to most of us. We all want a good night's sleep with possibly some good dreams. Unfortunately for many of us sleep eludes us. Why is that? In some ways modern society has all the accoutrement for achieving sleep: mattresses that adhere to the specific preferences of the individual sleeper even if there is a shared bed, room darkening equipment to keep light at bay, white noise machines, pills, all types of natural or synthetic bedding-pillows, blankets, sheets for any medical or social preference.
Not getting a good night's sleep is sometimes the cure for many of our modern day ailments. Certainly they have found that poor sleep contributes to high blood pressure, diabetes, weight issues, depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorders and poor physical and intellectual performance.
Why can't we get a good night's sleep? I think one reason is that we usually don't see the initial cause/effect of a poor night's sleep, so we think we can "catch up" at another time as if hours of sleep were a bank and one can withdrawal and deposit without any implications. We develop a habit of skimping on our sleep and perform many unhealthy sleep practices so that it becomes difficult to get a good night's sleep. Certainly all of us have times when due to unforeseen circumstances we cannot get our needed seven-eight hours of sleep at night. But that should be the exception not the rule.
Here are some tips to help you get a good night's sleep:
1) Assess your sleeping habits. Keep a journal of your sleep habits- when do you fall asleep, what helps you sleep, do you snore, do you fall asleep easily but wake up later in the night, do you fall asleep during the day? Talk to your physician about your sleep habits. If there is any question, you might want to see about a sleep study- check for sleep apnea.
2) Assess your bedroom. Do you have electronic distractions? Television, computer, phones? Is your room too light, too noisy, too warm or too cold? 58 degrees (F) is considered the ideal temperature for sleep. Use thick curtains, blinds or an eye mask to stop you being woken up by light. Try earplugs to stop any noise disturbing you. Charge electronic equipment in another room so the glow of the item doesn't disturb you.
3) Prepare to sleep. Avoid eating two to three hours before bedtime. Avoid caffeine later in the day. Avoid alcohol as this is known to disturb sleep. Stick to a regular schedule for bedtime and for getting up (even on weekends and holidays). Take a warm bath an hour before bedtime. Determine bed is only for sleeping and sex. Avoid watching TV or utilizing mobile devices in bed.
4) Exercise. Many times we are mentally worn out but our bodies feel agitated and other times we are physically tired but our minds won't stop. Regular exercise can help in preparing your body and mind for sleep. It is best to stop exercising at least three hours before bedtime.
5) If still cannot sleep: What is keeping or waking you up? Worry? Things pop into your head and you are afraid you will forget by morning? Keep a little pad and pencil by your bedside and write those worries down. Get up and fix yourself some warm milk and read a book. Try listening to calming music. Go back to bed when you are feeling sleepy. Practice visualization methods: Focus on your feet and toes. Consciously feel that they are heavy and then light as a feather. Work you way up through your body until you have reached the top of your head. Try slowly counting to 100. Pray. Think of all the people in your life and say a prayer for each one.