What do I do when I can’t fall back to sleep at night?
Let’s paint the picture. You wake up in the middle of the night and whoosh goes your brain. Every thought, worry, stress, your constant to-do list comes crashing in and suddenly sleep seems impossible. We may experience this periodic episode of insomnia, what is called acute insomnia, from time to time, lasting for a few nights or even a week or so. Though when I’m hosting my corporate sleep wellness events this is the number one topic that arises and for many individuals this happens each and every night, chronically, and it can be completely frustrating and totally defeating.
Most think that by staying in bed and tossing and turning until sleep finally comes (or doesn’t) is the answer but what if I told you that if you can’t sleep at night the best thing you can do to fall back to sleep - is stop trying to sleep.
That may sound strange but you should be sleeping 85% of time that you are in bed; therefore it’s important to develop a strong association between your bed and sleep. Well that’s tough to do if you are constantly lying awake in your bed struggling to fall asleep. Suddenly the space that should be inviting and promoting sleep is an area that fuels the stress in your world.
So I’m here to tell you to take the pressure off and if you find yourself lying awake in bed and can’t fall back to sleep get out of bed. That’s right! Instead of lying in bed willing sleep to come, get out of bed and stop trying to sleep. Practice a calming activity for 10 or 15 minutes outside of your bedroom until you feel tired enough to try again. You may have to do this multiple times throughout the night and this process could last a few nights to a few weeks but with time you’ll have to leave your bed less and less, and you’ll be strengthening your association between sleep and your bed, helping you re-train your body to fall asleep easier.
It’s important to make sure that you are practicing the right calming activities when you do get out of bed. Don’t turn to tech! Turning on the TV, checking your emails, or scrolling through Facebook is not that answer. Establish an area within your home where you can set up a calming activity if you need to get out of bed. Create this environment BEFORE you go to sleep so that you aren’t stumbling around in the middle of the night.
It’s also important to follow the steps of proper sleep hygiene. What we do before the middle of the night wakings occur can help eliminate them as well.
Set up a calming sleep environment. Your bedroom should be for sleep only. Remove the clutter and technology. One of the main reasons we live in such a sleep deprived society is that we are always connected. Bright screens are always in front of our faces suppressing our melatonin. Our brains are consistently absorbing information – sometimes too stress filled to allow it to quiet down enough to fall asleep. It’s important to give yourself a tech curfew so that your bedtime routine no longer consisted of checking email, twitter, and watching the news.
Establish a consistent sleep pattern. It’s important to go to bed and wakeup in the mornings around the same time to keep your body clock in synch. This can be a tough step for some. When we synch our sleep with our natural sleep rhythms and internal 24-hour biological clock (sends signals to your body to be awake or asleep) we are able to achieve the best restorative sleep possible and going to bed and waking up become easier.
Help your children sleep better so that you can too. If your health, whether it be mentally or physically, is beginning to be affected due to loss of sleep because you are up half the night dealing with your kids, changes may need to be made. Use whatever family philosophy works for you family provided at the end of the day you are all able to function as a healthy family unit. If not you may need to revisit your sleep plan and make some changes.
I’m giving you permission to stop trying so hard. Take a break from sleep if you need to and then try again. Practice makes perfect and with time, and consistency you will be able to drift of peacefully to sleep, even at 2 a.m. in the morning.
I provide free child and family sleep support on my Facebook page. I invite you to join our sleep community as I work towards Good Night Sleep Site's mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site and visit me on Instagram and Twitter. Join our movement and #BringBackBedtime.
You just started another nutritional cleanse. You’re chugging down your smoothies and researching the latest gluten free, sugar free, organic kale recipe. You’ve renewed your gym membership and you’re on target for your next triathlon. You are ready. Ready to make changes. Ready to put YOU first. You are going to work towards optimal health.
Before you start though let me ask you a question?
How well do you sleep?
I ask you this because if you aren’t sleeping well – or enough – all the quinoa and spin classes in the world won’t be enough to achieve your health success. Sleep is one of the 3 Pillars of Health, along with nutrition and exercise, and if I may be so bold in saying it’s the foundation of the two. Without it you aren’t going to make smart nutritional choices and you’ll have no energy to workout.
So sleep is pretty important, right? Yet it’s always last on our list, low on the totem pole, never a priority and completely taken for granted.
Well I say it’s time to put it first because doing so will be truly putting yourself first. The Good Night Sleep Cleanse is your first step towards a healthier you and our seven-step sleep cleanse will help you achieve better sleep for you and your family. Are you ready? Let’s do this!
I want each of you to follow a more consistent sleep pattern – meaning for the next 7 days you are going to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – even on the weekends. On average you should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night so depending on when you need to wake in the morning adjust your bedtime accordingly. This may be one of the most important steps in this challenge because when we consistently synch our sleep with our natural sleep rhythms and 24-hour biological clock we are able to achieve the best restorative sleep possible and going to bed and waking up become easier. Stop setting your alarm to wake up. Set it to go to bed!
Join the movement and #BringBackBedtime. Following a consistent bedtime routine prepares your body to sleep and helps release your own natural sleep hormone melatonin. Follow Good Night Sleep Sites initiative in bringing back bedtime between you and your child, you and your partner, and with yourself!
Set up your sleep environment for sleep success. Start off by clearing out the clutter. You bedroom should be for sleep only. It’s not your workout gym or office. Promote a cave-like environment and make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Installing blackout blinds, running a white noise machine and keeping temperatures cool will help you achieve proper restorative sleep. And lastly give your mattress an audit. It’s the single most important piece of furniture in the home. You should be re-evaluating your mattress every 5 years. If you are having difficulty sleeping your mattress could be the culprit.
Do you want to know what is one of the biggest sleep disruptors out there? Tech! We are always connected – on our computers, phones, and tablets. They have replaced our paperback novels and have started to make their way into out bedrooms. The blue lights of your screen suppress your melatonin and turns your light switch off. So kick tech to the curb. Get it all out of the bedroom. Your TV included. Create a family docking station in a room of your home and#JustDockIt! Electronics should be turned off at least 60 minutes before bedtime and 90 minutes if you can do it. Wondering how to create your own family docking station? Check out the one I made for my family.
When analyzing my clients sleep diaries a common culprit of insomnia is spending too much time in bed not sleeping. It’s important that our bed is associated with sleep and to strengthen that association a few things need to happen.
Shutting off the brain and keeping worries at bay long enough for us to drift off to sleep can be difficult. Keep a journal on your night table that can be used in a few ways. If you find that you are in a highly anxious or stressful period of your life write down all your worries before you go to bed. Get them out of your head so that you can go to bed worry free. I also recommend using a journal to jot down business ideas, creative ideas, or fun things to do with the kids as soon as you wake up. Try and compare your morning journal entries from when you’ve had a great night of sleep to those when you haven’t had enough sleep. You’ll likely see a difference in quality of entries.
Often our relationship with sleep and how we view our sleep can affect how we sleep. If during our sleep struggles we’ve created a negative relationship with sleep or continuously think negative thoughts about sleep; “I’ll never sleep well again,” “I know I’m going to have a hard time falling asleep,” “I’m going to feel awful all day tomorrow,” it’s only going to feed into your sleep struggles and fuel them to continue. We have to change the way we think about sleep. Sleep train our brains if you may. Turn your negative thoughts into positive ones by choosing a few positive sleep affirmations that you can repeat to yourself throughout the day. Your list can include:
“I have always been a good sleeper.”
“I think I’m doing much better these days.”
“I am functioning just fine on not that much sleep.”
“I love my bed and I love to sleep there.”
Even if these aren’t true at the moment it doesn’t matter. It will become true once we exercise our mind to think it and believe it. Set aside time three times a day to sit down for 10 minutes and run through your affirmations. Say them out loud. Say them into the mirror. Record it on your phone and listen to yourself saying it. If you like reminders, write them on Post-It notes and stick them on the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator. Let the positive thoughts about your sleep slowly begin to take over the overwhelming negative thoughts. Practice makes perfect. The negative thoughts will not disappear overnight, or even during the 7 days of this cleanse. If you commit to truly practicing these positive affirmations you will see results in 3 to 4 weeks.
I wanted to provided you with seven sleep tips for The Good Night Sleep Cleanse that are easy to try and realistic to incorporate into your lifestyle but I feel it’s important to leave you with one more.
Don’t ignore the snoring.
If you or your partner frequently snore or feel you are following a pretty healthy sleep routine and schedule but still feel groggy and tired when you wake up and throughout the day talk to your doctor. They are the first step in getting you a referral to have a sleep study done for possible sleep apnea. Along with insomnia, sleep apnea is one of the leading sleep disorders. Know the signs and symptoms and talk to your doctor.
Provided you fully commit to The Good Night Sleep Cleanse and make it part of your day-to-day, you will see the sleep results you want to. Complete the 7-days but if you can instead incorporate these tips always you’ll have a better chance of consistently hitting your basal sleep needs and remaining well-rested for the rest of your life.
You may even notice those last 10 pounds you were so desperately trying to lose suddenly start to fall off.
And you can thank sweet, sweet slumber for that.
Are you taking The Good Night Sleep Cleanse? I want to know! Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and let me know by giving me an update using #GoodNightSleepCleanse and tagging me with @GNSleepSite.
This post was previously published at The Good Night Sleep Site.
The evenings are getting lighter and that can only mean one thing: Spring Daylight Savings Time is here on Sunday, March 13th, 2016 at 2:00 am, when we turn our clocks forward one hour. I know; just when you have your baby on a great sleep schedule, right? But during this time change moms and dads may actually get an extra hour of sleep and I’m going to tell you how.
There are a few steps you can take to better prepare your entire family for the time change. A goal for most parents it to achieve a desired wake time. You can do this by slowly introducing your baby to the new time by waking up slightly earlier than usual. If your usual wake time is 6:30 am move it to 6:00 am a few days before the actual change so that once the clocks spring forward you will already be adjusted to the new times. You can go as far as moving the entire day earlier by at least one hour, including meal times, naptime and bedtimes. It shouldn’t take more than a week for your child to adjust to the new time change.
If things are going well and you’re happy with your babies sleep schedule then my advice is to keep wakeup and bedtimes the same using the new adjusted time. Our children adjust eventually just as we do. You would wake your child at his usual time on the Sunday morning of the change and carry on the day as usual.
When going through a seasonal time change or jetlag try getting outside and exposing yourself and your child to the sunlight as much as possible. The natural light and dark of our environment is what helps synch our internal clock and circadian rhythms, and will help adjust your family to the new time. Though with any kind of sleep transition your child can begin to give you battles at bedtime and earlier wakings in the morning. Here are some tips to encourage morning sleep-ins and relaxed bedtimes:
It doesn’t have to be complicated with a list of rules to follow. This is just small blip on your sleep adventure and provided you remain consistent with your routine you will all adjust to the new time.
I provide free child and family sleep support on my Facebook page. I invite you to join our sleep community as I work towards Good Night Sleep Site's mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site.