You know how sometimes your day just doesn’t seem to want to cooperate and no matter what you try you can’t get out of a funk? We’ve all been there. It can happen. But what’s important is to be able to reset and there’s no better way to do that than to get a good night’s sleep.
Now if you’re someone who struggles with sleep, that in and of itself may be contributing to your bad mood because we process emotions while we sleep and if you’re not sleeping, well, you can figure out what’s not happening.
But sometimes the reason we’re not sleeping well is because we’ve had a bad day. Now you’re in a bind because sleep is what’s supposed to help you hit that reset button and you just can’t fall asleep. What can you do? I’ll share some tips with you so you can optimize your sleep and reap all the benefits that sleep can give you.
I’ve already mentioned the importance of sleep on your mood, so I know you’ve bought into the idea of better sleep, but just in case you need more convincing — especially if you’re an overachiever and you’re sacrificing sleep to get more work done, hear this.
Getting adequate sleep affects your energy so if you’re skimping on sleep, your productivity will suffer the next day.
Other effects may not be as immediate, but they will catch up with you over time. For instance, insufficient sleep can decrease your immune system, so you’re more likely to get sick. Do the math on that one when it comes to your productivity.
And if you need to rely on any sort of creativity for your work, good luck. You’re much less likely to be able to access that creative bone if you’re tired.
As if that weren’t enough to go on, for those of you who actually care about your health or your image for that matter, guess what else happens when you don’t sleep enough? Sure, you’re tired, right? So you need fuel and guess what we’re more likely to do? Eat. So in a simple math equation we can say low sleep equals weight gain.
Now I get it. You may be staying up late because you have so much to do. And even if you’re not working on your to-do list, you may have a hard time falling asleep because of the stress of everything on your plate. You may have worried thoughts about something coming up the following day. I know that usually on the night before a big trip that requires me to wake up early the next morning, I have a hard time falling asleep.
If that’s you, there are tons of things you can do. I’m going to walk you through these and I encourage you to mentally note at least one tip that you’re going to implement by the end of this episode. And if you want to quickly access all the tips, go to the show notes.
Perhaps the most important takeaway about sleep that I can share with you is you have to be in tune with your body. Let’s walk through a typical day.
You wake up in the morning. What do you do next? The best thing to get in sync with your body’s circadian rhythm is to expose yourself to daylight early on. That means that you either take yourself outside for exercise, for walking your dog, or even just to sip your morning java.
When you’re ready to start working, if at all possible, put your desk near a window and draw the curtains so light can stream in.
If where you live doesn’t get much sun, especially in the winter months, bake in some time for light therapy. You can purchase a special lamp or even a mask you place over your face for that needed exposure indoors.
At some point during the day, you want to exercise because this will improve your sleep. That said, exercise is stimulating, so don’t do it too close to your bedtime.
In fact, you want to avoid all stimulation closer to bedtime. This includes having lots of sugar and refined carbs during the day as well as caffeine and nicotine which can stay in your system keeping you alert past the point where you want them to.
So far, we’re not asking too much, are we? Seems easy enough.
These tips should get you through the day. Now let’s talk about what to do to optimize your sleep before bed.
In the same way that we start the day by exposing ourselves to sunlight to wake us up, we want to have a nighttime ritual to wind down.
One of the most important things when it comes to your circadian rhythm is to have a regular sleep-wake schedule. Try to be consistent about when you get to bed and when you wake up. The trick is to go to bed when you’re tired enough to fall asleep but not so tired that you’re not getting enough sleep by the time you need to wake up. Aim to wake up naturally rather than with an alarm clock. This is a sign that you’re getting adequate rest.
So often I’ve had clients tell me that they run late to meetings in the morning because they snooze their alarm clock. This is a sign that they aren’t getting enough sleep and most of the time it’s because they are getting to bed too late.
Oh, and you want to stick with your sleep and wake schedule even on weekends. If you tend to sleep in on a Sunday morning, you’re throwing your body’s ability to predict your rhythm completely off. If you’re tired during the day, take a short 15 to 20 minute nap instead.
As part of your wind down routine in preparation for sleep, you want to turn down the dial on anything stimulating. This includes light exposure. What are you doing right before bed? Chances are you’re checking your email, you’re browsing on your phone, or you’re watching television. These screens emit blue light which stimulates your brain. Ideally, you put your devices away at least an hour before bed and instead either listen to something like music or an audiobook or read a book — you know, the type you actually hold in your hands? Am I the only one that still buys books you can hold? I’m just old fashioned in that way.
If you are going to use a device, you can install something called Flux. It’s a light altering software that dims your screen as the sun goes down so you have less light exposure before bed.
Given the pace of our lives, chances are that dinner is your biggest meal of the day. That’s not ideal because you’re then asking your body to digest a lot of food before bed. Then you try to sleep, which is supposed to turn off the factory and leaves all that food unprocessed in your body. So be mindful not to eat too much before bed and certainly, you want to avoid foods that are heavy, spicy, or acidic to reduce heartburn. You also want to avoid alcohol at night because it can interfere with your sleep cycle.
While it’s important to hydrate throughout the day, you want to minimize your liquid intake before bed to avoid having to wake up to use the bathroom throughout the night.
And since we’re on the topic of foods, I’ve already told you what not to consume. But did you know there are some foods that can help you sleep? Yup – if you need a nighttime snack, opt for a turkey sandwich, a glass of milk, a banana, or a cup of chamomile tea.
We said earlier not to exercise too close to bed, but what you can do is some yoga or stretching. In general, as we wind down we want to find things that are relaxing. So what helps you relax? A warm bath? Deep breathing? Meditation? Spa music? Find out what works for you and bring it into your evening routine.
Now it’s time to get to bed. Before you do so, you want to optimize your bedroom environment. This means making sure you are as comfortable, relaxed, and unstimulated as possible. Here are 3 tips to help you do that:
- Find the ideal temperature. When you’re too hot or too cold, it can make it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. This means adjusting the temperature of your AC or heater. If it’s really cold out, you may want to sleep with a hot water bottle or a heating pad. I’ve been known to sleep with socks in the winter time. You also don’t want to be too hot so make sure you have sheets that are breathable. Too many a night I had trouble sleeping in a hotel room because their sheets weren’t breathable and I’d be sweating throughout the night. So if you’re traveling and you’re sensitive to this like I am, you might bring your own sheets along.
- Create a dark environment. Your brain secretes melatonin when it’s dark so you want to cover up electronics that emit light, have blackout shades in your bedroom, and dim the light as you’re getting ready for bed. It’s also helpful to have a nightlight in the hallway or bathroom so if you do use the toilet in the middle of the night, you’re not turning on the light and shocking your system to be alert.
- Eliminate noise. You want quiet so you can fall asleep If there is noise outside your bedroom, try using a sound machine or a fan to block out some of the noise or wear earplugs. The sound machine can have soothing effects like the sounds of water flowing or you can opt for a white noise machine. Now they actually sell machines that do both.
And finally, I can’t end this episode without mentioning how to overcome your mind because that’s often a big factor that gets in the way of falling asleep. So if you just can’t turn your thoughts or worries off as you lie down, keep a notebook on your nightstand. It’s better to turn on the light and write down these thoughts then to have them remain in a loop in your mind because they will keep you up.
And because we know there is a mind-body connection, exercises that relax your mind will help your body relax and will make it easier for you to fall asleep. A really good relaxation exercise is what’s known as a body scan or a progressive muscle relaxation. What you do is you mentally go down your body from your head slowly down all the way to your toes. You need to take your time with this noticing as you scan any areas where you are experiencing tension and breathe into those areas.
Other mindset tips include reserving your bed for sleep and sex because otherwise, your brain associates your bed with other activities and it’s hard to separate work from relaxation.
If all else fails and you can’t turn your mind off — which happens when you’re wired but tired, try melatonin or a sleeping pill. But before you buy either, know this. Melatonin is an amino acid. It takes about 20 minutes to kick in, so you won’t fall asleep immediately upon taking it. If your sleep issues are chronic and you’re taking melatonin or sleeping pills regularly, their effect will wear off over time. I personally opt for a homeopathic sleeping pill for those nights when I want to fall asleep but can’t because it tends to work almost instantly and has no side effects.
By the way, all the links are in the show notes.
One more thing: If you are wired and tired on a regular basis, it’s likely that you’re burning out. Reach out to me or go to my website for some resources on how to recover. Burnout should be your wake up call that something has to change. Don’t ignore it because it will only get worse over time. If you want to chat, go to www.bookachatwithsharon.com
My website is www.drsharongrossman.com. I’ve got a bunch of goodies there for you related to burnout to get you started.
Now as you walk away from this episode, what will you start implementing to improve your sleep so that you can easily reset from your day? I hope you took away at least one tip. Have a wonderful week. I’ll catch you again next time.