How To Get Better Sleep Naturally
We’ve all done it:
It’s almost time for you to go to bed and you think to yourself, “Well maybe I’ll just check my e-mail one more time, in case I missed something emergent.”
Or perhaps, “I’ll just write one more piece of code, or make this minor tweak here…”
Or even worse, “I’ll hop on Facebook just for a minute…”
Famous last words.
Then, an hour or two or more later, you finally summon the willpower to shut the lid of your laptop, push the standby button on your phone, and turn off the TV.
And the result?
Now you can’t sleep.
You stare at the ceiling, your mind is racing, and you feel as though there is so much left to do.
At this point you think, “Maybe I missed something! I’ll just have a quick check. I wonder what’s on the news at 2:15AM”
Well, you get the idea. The cycle recurs over and over, night after night. It’s no wonder we are so stressed out in our day-to-day lives, wake up feeling exhausted and like we are never finished with work.
I want to run through the reasons why screens are so compelling, how they effect our brain, and a few strategies to actually get back to why we humans are on this earth: to unplug and truly connect.
Admitting You Have a Problem
I’m not going to say anything mind-blowing here. The science is out. Screens are as addicting as crack.
They stimulate a part of our brain called the hypothalamus, which is part of our biochemical reward system that releases dopamine. This neurotransmitter is a hormone that causes us to feel good after any type of stimulation.
I’m talking anything from sex to cigarettes, shopping and video games. And yes, this now includes our phones and laptops.
You see, now that these supercomputers have infiltrated almost every aspect of our life, the temptation is literally always there. Moreover, even if you aren’t checking your e-mail and texts, you are still thinking about them and resisting the urge to just “take a quick look.”
We never signed up for this. No one ever gave us any training on etiquette or how much these devices can control our behavior. We’ve been the guinea pigs of a societal change that has ZERO precedent.
Consequently, we’ve had to develop a few rules along the way so that we are not just humans doing, but rather humans being. We almost have to re- learn how to sleep better.
And Then Taking Action
Multitasking = Less Effective
As a former trauma nurse, I understand how easy it is to feel compelled to do 50 things at once.
Yet once that patient rolled through the door who was ejected from their car while going 70mph, I knew what was the single most important thing for me to be doing at that moment.
Again, the science isn’t new here. When we multitask, we essentially do a lot of things with less effectiveness.
So slow down. Don’t try and sleep while you’re checking Instagram, emails, or watching YouTube.
Which brings me to my next point:
Your Bedroom Is For Sleep and Sex Only
Nothing puts more of a damper on intimacy like the jingle-jangle of your most annoying ringtone of choice. Leave that freaking thing in another room, unless you have it on do-not-disturb and are using it to send some sexy beats into the air.
Watching movies in bed is another no no. Again, it creates that habit cycle that will be a pain to overcome. So make movies a special event down in the living room.
No one ever regrets missing an email. But missing your kid’s first home-run because you were checking your inbox would be heartbreaking.
At the end of the day, learning to turn off your electronics so you can connect with your loved ones, friends, and self is more important than any phone call, e-mail, or text could ever be.
Get A REAL Alarm Clock
This has literally changed my life. Admittedly, I’ll still reach for my phone on my bedside table, even though it hasn’t been there for months.
Removing the temptation interrupted the pattern of behavior, and it was enough to break my habit of checking my phone as the last thing I do before bed, and the first thing I do in the morning.
This has been the single, most effective way for me to learn how to sleep better.
These things are like 8 bucks, and I like to leave mine on the other side of the room so I have to get up to turn it off.
Which goes hand and hand with:
Leaving Your Phone In Another Room
The world won’t stop, I promise.
I’m guilty – I used to look at my phone as the last thing before bed — and the first thing upon waking up in the AM.
About 6 months ago I made the switch to leaving my phone to charge overnight in the bathroom, on the “Do not disturb” setting.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit:
This took some getting used to. Yet the quality of sleep I have had in the last six months has been unparalleled.
Try a Body Scan
This is where you breathe deeply while lying down. Keep your eyes closed, and just notice where you are carrying any tension in your body. Don’t panic about not being able to be asleep. Instead, simply be thankful for being alive!
Maybe it’s in your eyebrows.
Or perhaps in your little toe on your right foot.
By noticing, you are able to slow down and begin the process of allowing yourself the right to relax.
To slumber as deeply as you are breathing as you body scan.
The Gratitude Game
Finally, try playing the gratitude game.
Counting blessings, not sheep, can help you relax into all of the amazing things which you already have instead of desperately longing for what you want or need to do.
I hope something here helps you as it has helped me. Getting a great night’s rest is invaluable in performing optimally and feeling happy. Let me know how it helps!