We live in a world where it’s increasingly hard to relax. With everything that’s going on around us, it’s hard to switch our brains off and get a good night sleep. Our lives are spent staring at screens, with a majority of work involving computers, a plethora of digestible shows and movies on TV, and an increase in connectivity due to social media apps. For me, I don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day so I wake up early and go to sleep late. I definitely don’t get enough hours of sleep but with all the things that need to be done, that’s my only option right now.
With all this surrounding our every waking minute, it’s no wonder we’re finding it harder and harder to get a solid seven to eight hours of sleep. Even when we do get to sleep, it’s often not as heavy or restful as it should be. As a whole, we’re chronically sleep deprived.
Lack of sleep really isn’t a good thing…
We have to take it upon ourselves to end the cycle to benefit of our overall health before it’s too late. The compound effects of a lack of sleep are pretty serious, beyond the typical headaches, sore eyes, and lack of focus; it can lead to diabetes, obesity, heart disease and more. When our bodies are sleep deprived our metabolism and organs take a real hit along the way. Before all this external stimulus, we were wired to sleep from dusk ‘til dawn, with some research suggesting a short wake cycle in between.
Let’s set ourselves straight to ensure we get a good night asleep from here on out. It might take a few days of consistency to create the habit but trust me, it’s worth it. With these seven simple tricks, you’l be on your way to a good night’s sleep before you know it.
1. Cut The Caffeine
Caffeinated food and drinks, such as tea, coffee, and chocolate, are stimulants that keep us awake. Just a small amount of caffeine can cause stimulation in our body for hours on end! To counteract this, caffeine should stop around midday, like 2 or 3pm. For any tea or coffee fan like myself, this can be crazy hard to do, so just start stopping your caffeine intake back an hour every few days to slowly adapt. Caffeine headaches are the worst!
I also like to drink sleepy tea at night to help me wind down. It helps with the habit of drinking coffee and promoting a better night’s sleep.
2. Have a Late Night Handful of Cherries
I’ve spoken a lot about my love for tart cherry juice and tart cherries because they really work! Tart cherries and tart cherry juice really help me get a better night’s sleep. Cherries help promote your bodies natural production of melatonin proving to help you sleep 85 minutes longer. I drink about 4oz (2 shots) of tart cherry juice or eat a handful of tart cherries an hour or so before I’m going to bed. Just make sure it’s not that ‘from concentrate’ crap because it won’t have the same effects.
3. Switch Off The Screens
At least two hours before you plan to go to bed, you should avoid any screen time. I like to call this “cuddle time” with Cash. We stop the electronics and either wind down with a movie or some of his favorite books. Cell phones emit blue light that mess with your circadian rhythm, fooling your brain into thinking it’s daytime. Some other ideas for “cuddle time” could be: sitting and talking to your loved ones, taking a casual stroll, or having a nice hot bath. These activities help you to unload the stresses of the day, and clear your mind of everything so you can begin to relax.
4. Try Some Light Reading
Around an hour before you should be getting to sleep, grab a book off the shelf. Nothing to make you think too much, so avoid philosophy, self help, psychology, and things of that nature. Fiction works best before bed. You can open it up, jump into the lives of some characters, and pick up where you left off the next night. Not only will you settle your mind and get your eyes all tired, you’ll also pick up all the added benefits associated with reading! Win/win.
5. Journaling To Calm a Busy Mind
This is very important if you have a busy mind like myself. In the couple hours before getting your head down, get out your own personal journal and dump all your thoughts and worries into it. Write out each of your worries, thoughts, and anxieties as a heading, and leave room for some notes underneath. Write out the absolute worse case scenario of whatever is on your mind, and show yourself that it’s not worth losing sleeping over. Let your pen carry you and just write whatever flows and comes out. Don’t worry about structure, style, or any of the rest of it. Just let your mind explore itself in its entirety, and then read it back and laugh at yourself!
I’m worried I wont get a good night sleep.
If I don’t, I’ll be tired and groggy tomorrow. I’ll have a headache and I’ll be in a bad mood. I might miss my alarm and then look rough as hell, and then Danny at work will think I’m ugly and he’ll never ask me out on a date.
If he never asks me out on a date, I might not ever meet anybody! How can I? I don’t go anywhere apart from work, I don’t have the time.
Wow, I really need to get out and do more. There’s more to life than work and Danny. I need to get a grip of this situation. Danny isn’t the only guy in the world. And if someone can’t take me art my sleepiest, scruffiest self, they don’t deserve me.
I like the idea of archery. That girl Merida from my daughter’s favourite movie is an archer, and she’s a total badass! I want to be a total badass too.
Note to self: Book an archery lesson.
Exploring your mind like this and putting it out on paper really helps to give your mind less to think about when it’s trying to switch off. At first, you may need to get out of bed some more and add more to your list, but stick with it. Over time, you’re training your brain to know that bedtime means bedtime. On top of that, you’ll have less on your mind since you are dealing with your stresses, worries, and anxieties in a positive way.
6. Stretch for Sleep
Most of my sleepless nights come from back pain. Once I actually get my mind to want to sleep, then I have the back pain to keep me tossing and turning all night. Along with the tart cherry juice, I found that stretching before bed for 5-10 minutes really helps the quality of my sleep. I typically stretch my hip flexors, hamstrings, and quads because those are key to alleviating low back pain. It’s hard to walk you through my routine but I created a YouTube video so you can see it.
7. Schedule The Next Day
The final technique we’ll speak about today involves thinking about tomorrow. Scheduling the next day, and even the week ahead, is a great way to cut our thoughts and stresses in half. We’ll know exactly what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and when we have to be there. My favorite way to schedule in advance is to use a free app called Wunderlist. It syncs from my computer to my phone and to my laptop. So no matter where I’m at, I can edit, add, and see what I need to do. I will create different lists for different “to-dos”. You can add people to lists and check things off as they’re completed.
If you really want to take this further, you can schedule prep time 30 minutes before each event, to make sure you have all your thoughts stilled with regards to that thing. Of all the things in the world that rattle around in our thoughts at night, worrying about tomorrow shouldn’t be one of them. Schedule it out, and take the stress away!
Give these techniques a try tonight and watch your sleep patterns improve. Some added benefits of a good nights rest and planning is increased productivity, overall health, and energy. Give it a real shot, and stick with it for a while. Isn’t it something like 21 days to form a new habit? We’ll shoot for that. Stay consistent for 21 days, then come back and tell me how your new sleep habits worked!