Alaska Sleep Education Center

Power Your Mind Down and Get Amazing Sleep

Posted by Linda Gimmeson on Dec 8, 2020 4:30:00 AM

Children sleeping with his parents in a big bed-1

Sleep is vital to life and essential for overall good health. It's your body's way of recharging. Every system of the body is affected by the amount and quality of sleep you get each night. Despite its importance, it's often the first thing to be sacrificed when life gets busy. Sleep deprivation can not only be caused by emotions like anxiety and depression, but it can also cause these issues. It can suddenly turn into a vicious cycle and lead to other major illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and stroke. The first step to getting the sleep you need is determining the leading cause of your insomnia. If your mind tends to race at bedtime, the solution could be as simple as adding brain-calming strategies to your daily life.

Create a Regular Sleep Schedule

Getting yourself on a regular sleep schedule will help adjust your internal clock (aka circadian rhythm) so that your body is ready to wind down at the same time each night. Try to stay on the same schedule every day, whether it's a workday, weekend or vacation time. If you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, your body will begin to know what to expect and when to expect it.

Create a Bedtime Routine

At least 30 minutes should be set aside for calming activities before you have to fall asleep. Reading, meditation, stretching exercises and listening to calming music are a few things that can help settle your mind. Taking CBD oil regularly can help decrease anxiety. It's another good, natural approach to giving your mind and body some peace and an overall sense of well-being before bed.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation exercises just before bedtime are incredibly beneficial for some people. Try progressive muscle relaxation (i.e., going through each group of muscles in order, tensing them and then relaxing them). Mindful meditation is excellent for focusing your mind only on the present. It can take some practice; most people seem to continually be thinking about something that happened in their past or worrying about something that could happen in the future. It can be challenging, but rewarding, to simply be in the moment. Practice mindfulness by lying in bed with the lights dimmed or off. Try to clear your mind by only thinking about what you're sensing at the moment: the chirping crickets, the cool breeze from the fan, the smell of your freshly-laundered bedding. If you can achieve several minutes of focusing only on the present, you'll probably find that your anxiety is significantly decreased, if not eliminated, for a while. Don't forget to breathe deeply during all relaxation exercises.

Create an Ideal Environment

Part of getting deep, restful sleep is preparing the optimal environment for it. The room needs to be dark, so you might want to invest in some blackout shades if you have street lights that shine through the windows. You could also wear an eye mask to block out light. Aromatherapy, like the scent of lavender, is another excellent addition to a soothing atmosphere.

Your environment needs to be free of extraneous noises. If you go to bed before your family or roommates, or have disturbances like road traffic or noisy neighbors, you may only be able to block the noise. A white noise machine or a running fan are a couple of good options.

Your sleep environment needs to be at an optimal temperature. A temperature between 60 and 70 degrees tends to be conducive to sound slumber for most people.

Create a Bed/Sleep Association

Your mind should retain a clear association between your bed and sleep. Try to avoid using your laptop, phone or anything else that's not associated with sleep in the bed. You want to keep your mind as clear as possible whenever you're in bed. Reading helps some people wind down before going to sleep. You may be able to read in bed and drift off to sleep, but if you're still not sleeping, choose another calming place to read before bed.

Keep a Journal

Keep worries and other negative thinking at bay around bedtime by performing a "worry session" sometime earlier in the day. Take about 10 minutes to write down your thoughts. Begin your journaling each day by asking yourself what thoughts tend to come to mind on those nights when you're tossing and turning. Give those thoughts a priority in your journaling. Then, write down what actions you're taking to work through these obstacles. This is an excellent way to get your brain to let go for a while.

Avoid Blue Light

The blue light emitted from screened devices can stimulate your brain, so these devices should be avoided at least 30 minutes before you need to fall asleep. If you must look at your smartphone or laptop right before bed, many have settings to eliminate the blue light. Some alarm clocks even emit light that can negatively impact sleep.

Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

Caffeine is famous for being a stimulant, waking people up in the morning with coffee, tea and energy drinks. If it helps wake you up, naturally, you don't want to consume caffeine anytime close to bedtime. Ideally, you'll finish your final caffeinated beverage at least four hours before bedtime; it takes some time to clear out of your system.

Although alcohol is technically a depressant, it'll only allow you to sleep for a short time. Even then, it won't let you fall into a deep, restful sleep or help you stay asleep.

Perform Mental Exercises

If you can't completely calm your mind from racing thoughts, try using your active mind to your advantage. Distract yourself by focusing on mental exercises. This practice will distract your mind from negative thoughts until you fall asleep. It doesn't have to be complicated. Recite song lyrics, try to name every character in your favorite TV show, or think of a specific object and focus on its details such as its shape, size, color and purpose.

Get Regular Exercise

Just like sleep, regular exercise is also essential to optimal health. A simple 30-minute moderate-speed walk at least five days per week can do wonders; longer walks work even better. Complete your workout several hours before bedtime; your body can take a while to unwind after being active. Intense activities like running, Crossfit or Zumba will expel some energy and stress and help clear your mind. You'll probably find that you're exhausted as bedtime approaches.

If you're regularly being deprived of sleep, it's crucial to your overall wellbeing to begin capturing an appropriate amount of Zs each night. Begin today, putting some of these tips into practice. You could be sleeping like a baby as soon as tonight.

Consider a Sleep Study 

If you’re still struggling to find sleep, you can always resort to seeking out therapy. Similar to anxiety treatment, those suffering from insomnia can benefit greatly from CBT or other mindfulness-based therapy.

Additionally, participating in a sleep study may help you identify certain patterns related to your nighttime routine. It could be that your brain is unable to get a full cycle of REM sleep, or that your breathing is hampered by sleep apnea. Sleep studies will help you identify these issues, and may then be able to connect you with a professional doctor or therapist to work on treating the underlying issues.

Alaska Sleep Clinic is the most comprehensive sleep lab in Alaska. Contact us today @ 907-770-9104 for your free sleep assessment with a board-certified sleep specialist.

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Topics: deep sleep, mindfulness

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