Health/Beauty Mental Health/Wellness

Get a Grip on Stress! (Part 8 – Sleep)

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Have you seen that McDonald’s commercial? The one with the dopey looking guy wandering the streets refusing to talk to anyone until he gets his coffee?  Sound familiar? Do you need coffee JUST TO MAKE IT TO THE COFFEE SHOP? If so, it means you’re not getting enough quality sleep.

You are a part of the Homefront, you have a million responsibilities. You don’t have time to be tired.

But it’s understandable, and there are many factors involved: worry, fear, busy schedule, a brain that won’t shut off, kids that won’t shut up, even stress. Remember, in previous articles we’ve discussed how stress decreases your serotonin levels and increases your cortisol levels, both of which disrupt sleep cycles.

Here’s the good news. There’s hope for you. Follow these two simple steps and you’ll be sleeping like a baby and ready to take on the world in no time!

1. Reduce your stress (see previous articles)

2. Practice proper sleep hygiene

Now that doesn’t mean brushing your teeth and taking sponge baths in bed. It means cleaning up your sleep routine.

TIP #1 – Your bed is for sleeping and one other activity only. It should not be used as a library or couch. In other words, avoid reading and watching TV in bed. Reading and watching TV stimulates your brain. Over time, you’ll start to associate being in bed with brain stimulation, making it harder to drift off.

If you need your fix of  “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Chelsea Lately” or the infomercial selling the latest device that’s “GUARANTEED TO GET YOU 12-PACK ABS IN JUST 5 MINUTES A WEEK! ORDER WITHIN THE NEXT 10 MINUTES AND WE’LL THROW IN NOT ONE, BUT TWO BONUS STEAK KNIVES!?” Watch them in the living room. Your abs will thank you in the long run…

TIP #2 – Bedtime means bedtime. Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning. We are creatures of habit, and our habits can be retrained. Stick to a set schedule for 3-4 weeks. It can take up to that long to create a habit. Speaking of bedtime…

TIP #3 – Sleep when you’re supposed to sleep.  We were designed to sleep a full eight hours between 10 pm and 8 am. Our cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day. They should be at their peak at 8 am, then gradually decrease and reach their lowest point at 2 am, gradually increasing until 8 am.  You’ve heard the saying “Make hay while the sun shines?” Saw logs when the moon shines. (not applicable for shift workers)

TIP #5 – Eight hours means eight hours. It always has been, and always will be. That might not always be feasible, but do your best.

TIP #6 – Clear your desktop. “I just CAN’T fall asleep. I keep thinking of everything I have to do tomorrow!” OK. So think about those things tomorrow! Here’s a very effective technique to help. If you’re lying wide awake freaking out about having to do this, that and the other thing tomorrow…write down “this, that and the other thing” in a journal. Then put the journal on the kitchen table. It’ll be there when you wake up TOMORROW.

TIP #7 – Don’t sleep tight, sleep relaxed! Consider doing a relaxing activity prior to bedtime. Take a warm shower, meditate, stretch, do some yoga poses, count your blessings, visit the Homefront United Network, etc.

Getting a rough night’s sleep can be very stressful. Getting a good night’s sleep can be blissful. If you have a unique way to get a good night’s sleep, please share it with the rest of the Homefront in the comments section below!

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