Are you among the millions of sleep-deprived humans who may be endangering their lives by burning too much midnight oil? In Arianna Huffington’s new book, The Sleep Revolution, she discusses how she healed her poor sleep habits and changed her life.
Sleep is a subject of deep concern for everyone. You absolutely need it, and most want it desperately. There’s so much to do in this busy, busy, busy life that the twenty-four hours which has been allotted to us each day just isn’t enough anymore. Arianna Huffington collapsed from exhaustion in 2007. In her latest book, she discusses the science behind the human need for rest.
Sleep is essential for life
As a coach and corporate trainer for almost 30 years, I have heard over and over the statement “I need to create more balance in my life!” When I ask what that means, the number one answer is, “I just don’t get enough sleep.” Or, “I don’t sleep very well.” Or, “I can’t seem to turn my brain off at night.” Sleep is a vital component of good health and well being.
I, too, have had my challenges with sleep, monkey brain and feeling exhausted after a restless night of sleep or not sleeping! Maybe you, too, are working too many hours and having trouble winding down when it’s time to get some sleep. Not getting enough sleep has a profound impact on our health, our job, our relationships and our happiness!
8 steps you can take to wind down and get better sleep
Create a Bedtime Routine
Everyone can benefit from a comforting routine to ease them into sleep. Know how much sleep is ideal for you and plan to get that amount as often as possible. Design a soothing haven in your bedroom by creating a bedtime ritual of reading, prayer, music, guided meditations, deep breathing or other relaxing practices.
Turn Off the Lights
Do what’s needed to make your sleeping space completely dark. Wear an eye-mask if you think it might help. Light at night interferes with the body’s biological clock and the secretion of melatonin. Research shows that blue light, like that emitted by electronic screens, suppresses melatonin. Red light has the least power to affect melatonin. The greater the dark, the deeper your sleep.
Keep It Cool
Researchers have found that people sleep best in a room that is on the cool side—mid to upper 60’s. We turn the heat down to 61 every night, and I definitely sleep better when it is cool.
Create a Quiet Sanctuary
Needless to say, you’ll sleep better away from any noise that might wake you. If there are occasional sounds in the environment that disturb you, try creating some “white noise” with a fan or a recording that makes a soft and steady sound. It’s the same principle as driving around in the car until the baby falls asleep.
Step Back from Chaos and Negativity
Sleep experts will tell you not to watch the news, violent TV shows or read a horror novel before going to sleep. Anything that gets you stressed, up tight or worked up can prevent you from winding down and getting a restful night of sleep. In addition, steer clear of heated, upsetting discussions with your spouse, relative or child as this will get your system revved up and your mind going as well. As you prepare to power down for the night, turn your focus to the peaceful and the positive.
Disconnect from Technology
Technology is seeping into our bedrooms through televisions, laptops and the phones under our pillows. Did you know that 95 percent of people use electronics within the very same hour of going to bed? The problem with this is that using a self-luminous display even two hours before hitting the pillow can suppress the melatonin in your body, messing up your natural clock (essentially making you feel less tired). Televisions and video games don’t help much in the relaxation department either, often increasing your heart rate and lowering your quality of REM sleep.
If you have the opportunity to journal for a few minutes before going to bed, this can be a great way to get some of things that “bothered” you during the day, or thoughts that are still churning inside your head – out of your head! Oprah talks about her dedication to journaling for five years straight, where she committed to write in her journal, every night, five things she was grateful for that day (healthy body, good work out, great tasting food, a meaningful conversation, beautiful day, etc).
Use Essential Oils
Natural aids, such as relaxing essential oils, are a great alternative to more traditional sleeping pills that often leave you sluggish and feeling hung over in the morning. Using aromatherapy treatments at bedtime can often help you overcome periods of insomnia in your life. There are several essential oils that are helpful with insomnia. Here are some of the most popular ones: Lavender, Chamomile, and Marjoram. I use Bare Oils, which are USDA certified (the only 3rd party certified essential oil) from ground to bottle essential oils.
Where to go for more ideas
I also recommend that you watch the National Geographic documentary, Sleepless in America. The full version has just been released online. There is a tremendous amount of information, statistics and ideas on getting sleep at http://www.mhealthtalk.com/sleep-statistics-sleepless-america/.
Working in harmony with nature is the secret to getting good sleep. Your body is part of nature, so you can’t thrive without respect for your internal programming—going to bed when it gets dark and waking when the light returns. When morning comes, head outside to greet the day and absorb the sunlight. The light of day will shut down your melatonin production and boost your wakefulness and mental clarity. Sleep is your good friend, and if you need a refresher any time, power naps are highly recommended!