Mind Matters — Tips To Sleep

Most of us would agree that these are very stressful times. However, how we respond to stress is up to us.

One aspect of our lives that we need to attend to, in tense times, is our sleep. There is a two-way street between stress and sleep. While stress can negatively affect our sleep patterns, our sleep patterns themselves can exacerbate stress.

The American Psychological Association, in the online article, Getting a Good Night’s Sleep: How Psychologists Help with Insomnia” lists several steps to better sleep. For starters, ensure that your bedroom is “dark, cool, and quiet” without any electronic lights or hums! The APA reminds us how melatonin levels that we need for sleep are negatively affected by such light and noise. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain when it is dark. Light inhibits such production.

Setting a sleep schedule is also important. “Late afternoon naps can interfere with nighttime slumber” notes the APA. Instead, develop a regular bedtime routine, going to bed and awakening the same time on a daily basis. Going to bed too early and before you’re ready for sleep can be problematic as well.

Exercising or engaging in stressful discourse or anxiety producing activities should be avoided before bed. While we shouldn’t avoid necessary discussions or activities, it is best to plan on them way before we hit the hay. Likewise, regular exercise, while beneficial to sleep, shouldn’t be undertaken before bed. Heated discussions and heated exercise both increase body temperatures and energy levels. For restful sleep, we need to be calm, cool, and centered. In face, the APS recommends taking time to unwind and get quiet. For example, meditate, take a calming bath, listen to relaxing music.

We may think that alcohol or heavy meals may aid sleep, but the opposite is true. While alcohol may at first seem to help, it can disrupt sleep during the night. Stimulants, such as caffeine (and nicotine), if consumed late in the day, are also disruptive.

The APA suggests writing down your stream of thoughts if you find you can’t sleep.

I often recommend to folks to do a “worry list” before going to bed—to take twenty to thirty minutes to write down free floating thought—all the anxieties and worries bumping around in the brain. It helps to get the rattlings going on in the head onto paper. This can be very freeing to set you on your way for a good night’s sleep. (Note: best to write with pen and paper, not type onto a computer screen.)

The full APA article can be viewed at Getting a Good Night’s Sleep.