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Ways to increase sleep

May 9, 2017
Melissa Marote , MOV Parent

I am a big believer in the mind-body connection. And we all need sleep in order to function at our best. So over the years, I have accumulated many strategies to increase the ability to sleep. As a parent, taking care of ourselves and getting enough sleep is essential to our ability to function in our day to day lives and handling the responsibilities of caring for others. Follow these tips, and although some are strange, you will find that they work!

First, maintain a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekend. Eat healthy foods. Drink plenty of water. Get regular exercise (for example, walk 2-3 times a week), and try to get your heart rate up for 20 minutes each time. Getting regular exercise has been proven to increase sleep. Begin deep breathing meditation in the morning while you are still in bed. Do this for at least 2 minutes. Do this again in bed before sleep time. Stretch before getting out of bed in the morning and say to yourself or out loud, "All good things are coming my way today. I deserve happiness." You cannot be a support to someone else if you are not loving and kind to yourself.

Here are many ways you can increase your ability to sleep:

Take a warm bath with Epsom salts (the magnesium in it helps induce sleep)

Put a drop of essential lavender oil on your pillow at night, and a drop in your bath

Drink warm milk, or chamomile tea, or a sleepy time tea you can get at the store

Take melatonin (I like the Emergenc-ZZZ version of Emergen-C packet that dissolves in water) 30 minutes prior to bedtime

Avoid blue light an hour before bed (phone, computer, tablet, etc.)

Dim the lights an hour before bed

Turn the thermostat down to 60-67 before bed

Do progressive muscle relaxation (tense the muscles in your feet, hold the tension for several seconds, then release. Then tense the muscles in your feet and calves, hold for several seconds, then release. Keep joining the muscle groups until you reach your facial muscles. By then you are tensing all the muscle groups for several seconds, then you release). This takes time and is exhausting. It should help you feel relaxed and ready for bed

Consider writing out your concerns before bed, or journaling about your day before bed, you may even do a gratitude journal writing down all the positive things that happened during the day

Read something funny

Listen to a podcast that is funny or relaxing

Consider downloading a meditation app like Headspace or following a guided meditation from gonoodle.com or youtube.com

Tell yourself, "My job right now is to sleep. I am ready for a peaceful, relaxing rest that will heal my mind and body. I will wake in the morning refreshed and energized."

Try (without moving your head) to move your eyes rapidly from the far right and up (looking over your right ear) and then looking to your left hip. Just move your eyes from those two place back and forth as quickly as possible for about 15-30 seconds (This is an EMDR technique Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming)

If you have a thought pop up in your mind, imagine a white board and write your concern. Then imagine wiping the thought away off the dry erase board.

Black out the room with black out curtains or an eye mask

Use a sound machine (I use the Marpac Dohm DS machine, but there are cheaper versions out there)

Wear ear plugs

Close your eyes and focus on the tip of your nose, allowing your focus to go to the darkness

Let your hands relax on your legs. Tap your left fingers to your left leg, and your right fingers to your right leg. Tap back and forth at a regular comfortable tempo while imagining a calm, serene place in nature that makes you feel relaxed and safe

Only use your bed for sleep (or sex) but not for any other activity unless you want to induce sleep. For example: Do not study or read in your bed.

Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol before bed. The caffeine should stop before late afternoon.

Keep work related materials out of the bedroom

If you can't sleep, go to another room to do something relaxing (but not on a computer or phone) and return to bed once sleepy again

Consider putting on a clean pair of socks before bed

Don't exercise 2 hours before bed

Do not have a heavy dinner

Paint your bedroom a tranquil color in matte, not high gloss.

Replace your mattress if it is older than 5-10 years

If you share a bed with a partner, try using separate blankets

Get a new pillow. The old one might have dust mites and need replaced every 12-18 months

Keep a sleep journal to see if you notice patterns each month

Research shows that sometimes pets and pet dander can affect sleep in a negative way

If you take a nap in the afternoon, keep it to a maximum of 30 minutes

Try not to focus on the alarm clock. Turn it around and don't look at it at night.

Do not hit the snooze button when you wake up

When you wake up, immediately get your eyes into some natural light to help wake up.

I hope these tips are helpful! If you continue to have sleep problems, consider talking to your primary care physician (PCP) and request a sleep study, or ask if there might be a medication to try. It might also be helpful to seek individual counseling to discuss whatever might be causing stress or anxiety that could be preventing sleep.

Melissa Marote is a licensed professional clinical counselor and received her doctorate in counselor education from Ohio University.

 
 

 

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