Lately, there’s a lot to keep us awake at night. The big you-know-what-virus. Fragile economy. Travel uncertainties. For many of us who do freelance work, earning a living seems precarious at times. Worries can occupy our minds and keep us from falling asleep.
We can’t underestimate the importance of adequate sleep. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sleep deprivation over time can increase our risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and depression. Poor sleep also can affect how well we function at work and in our personal lives.
No matter where you are–sticks-and-bricks, a fancy diesel-pushing RV, or a tent in the woods–there are things you can do to get you drifting off and sawing logs. I’ve done all of the ones in the list below. I’m also guilty, to some extent, of some bad habits that interfere with healthy sleep.
What To Do
Change your position. This is my top go-to suggestion at the moment, probably because it’s worked well for me. If you’re having trouble sleeping, or if you suffer from snoring, apnea, or pain, see if your sleeping position might be to blame. I sometimes develop back pain in the night , so I sleep on my side with a pillow between my knees. Works like a charm!
Tell yourself to stay awake. It seems counterintuitive, but our minds can play tricks on us, sometimes for the better. It’s actually called paradoxical intention, and research has shown that repeatedly telling yourself to stay away can actually put you to sleep. It’s like we’re thinking, “You can’t tell me what to do!”
Use visualization. Close your eyes and picture a place that calms you. I sometimes imagine lounging in my RV bed, reading a book, and hearing crickets outside. Also, a friend once suggested I picture a blank sheet of paper and repeat, “White sheet of paper, white sheet of paper, white sheet of paper.” It’s worked a few times.
Take a shower or bath. Make it a warm one. After your body temperature rises from bathing, it’ll start to drop, which will make you tired. Besides, you’ll save time not having to shower in the morning.
Watch what you eat. If you’re going out for pizza and beer, don’t make it too late. Foods that cause acid reflux or indigestion can keep you up for hours in discomfort. Time your meals, and avoid foods that mess with your gut.
Bring your smartphone to bed with you. I’m going to get in big trouble for suggesting this. We all know how bad screens are right before bed. Instead, open a sleep-friendly app. I suggest downloading the podcast Sleep With Me, putting in your earbuds, and letting the host bore you to sleep. His voice is creaky and monotone, and his stories lull you to sleep.
What Not To Do
Put away the screens. Yeah, I know. I just told you to listen to a podcast on your smartphone. But I never said that you should do it while scrolling Twitter for two hours. Screens in bed are a bad idea; they inhibit your ability to sleep. Once you activate your podcast or sleep-aid app, but your damn phone down–face down.
Don’t look at the clock. It’s like watching a pot of water boiling; it never seems to happen. In fact, clock watching is a common symptom of insomnia. If you need your alarm in the morning, just turn the clock face around, or place it across the room.
Avoid napping. I looooooooove naps. In fact, how stupid was I as a kid to fight against nap time? However, while a nap at 2:00 in the afternoon might sound delicious, it could interfere with your ability to fall asleep at bedtime, especially if you suffer from insomnia. If you want to recalibrate your body clock, hold off on the nap so that you feel delightfully tired when it’s time to go to bed.
Don’t overdo the exercise. A good workout a few times a week can help our sleep. However, research has linked excessive workouts with poor or deprived sleep. Based on my experience, a hard workout too late in the day means poor sleep at night, but that’s just me.
Cut the caffeine, at least later in the day. I wouldn’t ask anyone to do what I’m not willing to do, which is to quit coffee. Simply figure out when in the day coffee or any other caffeinated drink keeps you awake. Some suggest it’s ten hours before bed, but figure out what you timeline is.
Here’s to restful nocturnal slumber! Click here for more ideas on getting better sleep. What helps you fall asleep, especially during stressful times?
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