Business advisers, including me, are always touting the benefits of a good night’s sleep. However, when you lie awake with thoughts abuzz like pesky flies (and aren’t late-night bedroom flies the worst?), it’s almost impossible to sleep.
Insomnia is a common complaint, affecting as many as 70 million Americans.
In fact, one in five of us sleeps less than six hours per night. When your brain refuses to cooperate with the clock, here are some ways you might try to seduce your brain to follow your body into La-La Land.
- Lower your body’s thermostat. A cooler body means a slower heart rate which increases the likelihood of drowsiness. If you don’t favor a cold shower (and who does?) then make it cooler or take a nice warm shower or bath, which causes your temperature to drop rapidly once you step out of it.
- Sleep unencumbered. What catches your attention during the night; binding pajamas or twisted nightie? Sleep naked. Wake up due to night sweats? Invest in a standing fan that you can position within reach and flip it on. Is there a dog panting on your pillow? Buy a nice doggie bed for the floor and insist your pet move. Awakened by a barking neighborhood dog? Turn on the fan or another form of white noise to mask it. Your partner snores? Invest in quality earplugs or pick two nights during the week when you (or they) might sleep better on the couch. Over the next few nights, pay attention to what disturbs your lighter sleeping periods and address those distractions to help you stay asleep longer.
- Learn breathing bio-control measures. This is a good exercise during periods of high anxiety as well as at nighttime to lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Inhale for four seconds and then hold your breath for seven seconds. Then exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you feel calmer and more at peace. This should help facilitate a feeling of sleepiness.
- Mindfully relax your body from core outward. Relax your chest; what does real and total relaxation there feel like? Now concentrate on your neck and then your head. Relax your shoulders and then your arms. Do this in a very mindful way. Relax your stomach and keep going down your body, purposeful relaxing every muscle group. Then do the breathing exercise above. At the end of this, let your relaxed body sink into your bed – feel that? Close your eyes completely and see how dark everything can be (if it isn’t, invest in an eye mask). Think about how heavy your eyelids are and drift off.
- Stop concentrating on how you aren’t sleeping yet. Don’t turn on an electronic device; this won’t help you sleep! Don’t turn on television or pick up a book. Keep your eyes closed and just let your mind go. Remember your best times or mentally review your day. Just “be” in the moment, until the moment takes you away to someplace else.
- Accept that today is over. There is nothing more to be done about today’s worries, and tomorrow will bring its own worries. This is your grace period to rest so you can find the strength to rise and shine tomorrow. Remind yourself of the importance of sleep; it boosts your immune system and lowers your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. It aids in memory retention and increases focus.
Forget over-the-counter medications for anything beyond the very occasional night’s use; they become crutches that you then will need long-term, which will interrupt your body’s natural process. If none of these measures help you sleep better or longer, consult your doctor to make sure you don’t have obstructive sleep apnea.
Meanwhile, remind yourself, as you relax, that you’re getting sleepy, very sleepy….