Each time a woman walks into my office we spend some time exploring her goals before we dive in, things she wishes would look a little different in her life or dreams she has. A majority of the time sleep is involved in some way. She can’t fall asleep, stay asleep, or sleep is restless. She would love to sleep better, and not dread night approaching. It impacts her mood, choices and in general how good she feels. Sound familiar?
Sleep is a big deal. A poor night sleep tends to throw off the next day, leading to less than ideal dietary choices (i.e. extra cup or two of coffee or sugary treat around 3pm), a lack of motivation to make it to yoga or trouble completing projects. When you're tired it’s harder to get things done and to stay balanced and healthy.
Sleep is the way your body heals. Everything that happens during the day is processed and repaired as you drift deep into slumber. Even our brain needs rest. A consistent lack of sleep could impact the way the receptors in your brain operate which could impact how you feel, both emotionally and physically.
Changing the quality of your sleep is one of the three major ways we can adjust your lifestyle to better support your optimal health. Your routine not only impacts that evening, but the next day as well. It is cyclical. Yes, that glass of wine after work really does matter depending on the current state of your health. During sleep your cells are working hard to repair damage done during the day caused by simply living in our world. This is why sleep can’t be made up. Today matters. You can begin interrupting the current pattern by observing your rituals before bed.
What are you doing during the few hours before bed? What time did you eat dinner? How much and what did you eat? Any snacking? Are you watching tv, on a computer or device?
Our brain doesn’t like us to make major changes, especially more than one at a time, it interprets them as dangerous. Have you ever decided you wanted to create a healthier routine, started new practices and been super overwhelmed? This is that danger monitor. It registered as too much too fast. To support the needs of your system you can make tiny adjustments, one at a time.
Tonight begin by looking at your current routine (without judgment) using the questions above, this is an exercise for collecting information. From there we can thoughtfully build upon that foundation as we continue to explore the origins of ineffective coping skills or overwhelming thoughts that lead to unhelpful and unhealthy habits around sleep. I also encourage you to use the list below to enhance the way you are supporting yourself during restless nights.
Sleepless Night Plan
Check my environment:
Sense of smell: Oil in diffuser?
Sense of hearing: Fan on?
Sense of touch: Temperature - Do I need another blanket? Am I too hot?
Sense of sight: Is it too bright? Have my eyes have enough time to rest from a screen?
Check in with my body:
Do I need to use the restroom?
Do I need to move? Gentle stretches?
Check in with my mind:
Do I have worried thoughts? Do I need to brain dump in journal? Write about a prompt? Practice visualization?
Check in with my heart
Identify feeling and notice where it is in the body
Now check in with mind and body (see above)
After checking in lay back down, close your eyes and try meditation, hypnosis practice or breathing exercise.