Sleep Better: guest post by Kenny Kline.
Everyone wants – and needs – to sleep better. When I started my first business, I thought about prioritizing sleep from day 1. I had read about the big impact sleep has on productivity, so I promised myself that I would get eight hours a night. However even when making sleep a priority, I was waking up groggy, and experiencing a number of low energy points throughout the day. That’s when I realized I didn’t need to sleep more, but rather sleep better.
Anyone who’s ever tossed and turned in bed while their mind races with worries can attest to the fact that nighttime anxiety can wreak havoc on sleep. It’s a negative feedback loop: Anxiety can provoke trouble sleeping, and a lack of sleep can contribute to feelings of anxiety. You don’t need to have an anxiety disorder in order to suffer from this cycle; everyday stress can trigger it just as easily as a full-blown disorder.
The good news is that this feedback loop can also function in a constructive way: Addressing your anxiety can lead to better sleep, which can in turn lead to decreased anxiety in everyday life. Here are several strategies that I have employed to reduce anxiety before bed and sleep better every night.
Make time for downtime.
Our bodies need transition time between wakefulness and sleep, so rolling into bed right after sending work emails is a surefire way to lie awake fretting. I avoid mental preoccupations that detract from sleep by giving myself some time to unwind before hitting the sheets. If it helps, go ahead and schedule this time on the calendar so that it becomes non-negotiable in your mind.
Identify and address your worries.
If you find yourself lying awake consumed by worry, it can help to identify where that worry is coming from. Are you fretting about an upcoming work presentation, a fight with your partner, the possibility that you might get cancer someday? Locating the source of your worry can empower you to address it. Start by determining whether the worry is solvable or unsolvable: Is the thing that’s causing anxiety currently happening in your life, or is it simply an imagined scenario? Is there anything you can do to address the issue, or is it beyond the realm of your control?
If the former, then jot down a list of ways that you can take action on the issue, and tell yourself that you’ll implement some of those strategies over the next few days. If the issue is simply the result of generalized anxiety, then try to acknowledge that and allow yourself to move on. I find that categorizing my anxieties in this way helps me feel more in control of them, thereby limiting their ability to provoke bedtime stress.
Occupy your mind.
When our brains are unoccupied, they can easily turn to worry as a means of passing the time. Avoid this issue by giving your brain something to do. In the hour before bedtime, turn off any screens and engage your mind via activities such as reading, drawing, writing, playing cards, and so on. You can apply this same principle if your mind is racing once you’ve gotten into bed: Instead of worrying, occupy your mind with mental exercises such as reciting a favorite poem or song lyrics, naming produce items that start with a particular letter, or thinking through the alphabet backwards (my personal favorite).
Ditch alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.
While many folks turn to these substances for stress relief, all of them can provoke anxiety and/or insomnia. If you must imbibe, try to do so in the late afternoon or early evening; abstain in the hours leading up to bed in order to sleep better whenever you hit the sheets.
Give relaxation exercises a try.
Many people swear by meditation or breathing exercises, which have been shown to promote relaxation and ease the transition into sleep. Progressive muscle relaxation is also a great way to release tension in your body and promote restfulness before bed.
Counting your blessings (literally) before bed can help induce a positive mood and promote better sleep by helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep once you’ve drifted off to dreamland. Jot down a few things for which you’re grateful for before turning out the light, or turn your thoughts toward gratitude if anxiety strikes once the lights are out.
Journal it out.
A few hours before hitting the sheets, write down any anxieties or unfinished business that have been plaguing you throughout the day or that frequently crop up whenever you’re trying to fall asleep. Simply releasing these thoughts onto a piece of paper may help you feel calmer; if you want to take things a step further, consider writing down potential solutions to each of the worries. (You don’t have to make this a big to-do—10 or 15 minutes should do it.) Then, if the worries start to crop up once you’ve gone to bed, you can remind yourself that you’ve already addressed them, so you don’t need to ruminate on them any more.
Address chronic snoring.
If you sleep with a partner who’s frustrated by your chronic snoring, then you may feel anxious about falling asleep and keeping them awake yet again. Snoring has been shown to harm relationships by provoking resentment and reducing intimacy, so it stands to reason that chronic snoring might become a source of anxiety. Luckily, there are plenty of anti-snoring devices that can help you tame snoring so that it ceases to stress you out every time you attempt to sleep. Bonus: Getting your snoring under control will help you—and your partner—sleep better.
Give your senses a break.
Creating a relaxing environment for your body can help your mind relax before bed. Practice good sleep hygiene by keeping the bedroom cool and dark, turn the clock away from your bed so you can’t stare at it and fret about the passage of time, and consider turning on soothing music or a white noise machine to help your mind stay present and calm.
Though trial and error I crafted a personal bedtime routine that takes about 30 minutes to complete. I follow this routine consistently, and since starting it I have experienced a much higher quality of sleep. I suggest testing out a number of the recommendations above to see what actions you can take to improve your personal nightly sleep experience.
What routines or techniques have helped you sleep better?
Author Credit: Guest poster Kenny Kline is a serial entrepreneur and online marketing consultant based in Brooklyn. With a degree in physics and an MBA, he brings a unique perspective to his blogs on business, productivity and health. Find him on Twitter at ThisBeKenny.
Image Credits: “Taking a Nap” from The Print Shop 2 Collection. Not for download or reuse.