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Prescription and over-the-counter medications, sleep studies, white noise machines, earplugs, eye masks, apnea devices, sleep monitors, specialty mattresses, high-thread-count sheets, aromatherapy pillows, high-end beds, and alarm clocks fuel a sleep economy worth more than $20 billion a year, and it is growing at a rate of 20 percent a year. It has been said that ‘sleep is the new sex’ with Ambien filling in for Viagra.” – From The Secret Life of Sleep, by Kat Duff
Humans are designed to work and rest, and rejuvenate. Any parent knows that children can barely function without a good night’s sleep and one or two naps a day. Alas, as we get older, we don’t prioritize sleep. We sacrifice sleep for work, for adventure, for one more thing that we must get done before the day is over.
Arianna Huffington warned, "Sleep deprivation has become a macho badge of honor, and sleep deprivation one-upmanship is routine."
We actually say things like, "I’ll sleep when I am dead," which may actually be sooner than it would be if we would just get enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation can make you crabby. It can cause an inability to focus, and increases stress levels. Your skin loses color and elasticity. Your body becomes less efficient at metabolizing food and burning calories, so you gain weight. It’s more difficult to concentrate and perform high-skill tasks. A Harvard Medical School study concluded that someone who is drunk can perform better than someone who is sleep starved. And, it’s certainly not very good for your sex life. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, you are always too tired.
Even if you want to sleep better, stress, noise, caffeine, diet, allergies – the list goes on – can trip up your best intentions. The National Sleep Foundation (www.sleepfoundation.org) states that 48 percent of Americans report occasional insomnia, and 22 percent experience insomnia every, or almost every, night.
It’s tempting to turn to drugs to solve the problem. But, drug-induced sleep isn’t the same as natural sleep, which develops in waves of light and deep sleep and dreaming. Sleeping pills just make you unconscious. Even though some sleep aids are advertised as non-habit-forming, you can develop a psychological dependence very quickly. There are weird side effects, too. Many Ambien users have reported binge eating, driving, and even having sex while "sleeping."
Consider instead natural approaches and behavioral changes that can help you become a better sleeper. Here is a laundry list of sleep enhancing ideas:
Prioritize sleep. You have the right and responsibility to get 7-9 hours sleep and not apologize for it.
Get some exercise during the day. Work out for 30-60 minutes a day.
Learn to meditate. It quiets the mind and reduces stress.
Eat better food. You know what’s good and what’s bad.
Don’t eat or drink anything 2-3 hours before going to bed. Even water may cause a middle of the night bathroom trip. Caffeine can be stimulating so skip the after dinner coffee. And,
alcohol may knock you out, but you will probably wake up later in the night.
Set the scene. Cool, comfortable room. Favorite pajamas. Some lavender oil on the sheets.
Keep out the light with sleep shades or heavy drapes.
A white noise machine or a fan can block out noise. Or pop in ear plugs.
Try sleeping without the kids or the pets.
No blue lights. That means no TV, phones, tablets, chargers, etc. in the bedroom. Turn them all off a few hours before bed. NOTE: I get that ours is an emergency based business. But, at some point you have to get some sleep. It’s not possible to sustain your health and run a one-person, 24-hour service company. Price to grow and add people. And/or turn the phone over to the answering service, or to another contractor so that you can help each other.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
Listen to sleep inducing music or affirmation recordings. Like www.mygoodnightmessages.com.
If you wake up in the middle of the night, use meditation to still your thoughts. It’s thinking that keeps you awake.
You might jot down the thought that you are stewing over. Then, let it go and clear your mind.
When you wake up in the morning, take a few minutes to give thanks and visualize your perfect day.
Get a physical check-up. Maybe there is an underlying health condition that is contributing to your sleeplessness. Find out.
Up until a few years ago, I struggled with waking up in the middle of the night. My mind would wind up, and fill with racing thoughts about what I needed to do, what was going wrong, and why life as I knew it was coming to an end. It’s scary in the dark, alone with your own thoughts. In the daylight of morning, those fearful thoughts would just fade away.
So, what if I didn’t get the blog up on Monday? It could go up on Tuesday. Sheesh.
I set out to solve my sleep challenges. As a long time clean-and-sober person, sleep drugs were not an option. I tried lots of the ideas mentioned above. Here’s what works for me:
Earplugs. Yep, Hot Rod snores, and those soft, foamy earplugs are awesome.
Exercise. If I am physically spent, I sleep great. Sleep 101.
Lights out by 11:00pm. My ideal sleep scenario is 11:00pm to 7:30am.
If I wake up in the middle of the night, I meditate and stop thinking about anything. It took a while for me to get this discipline dialed in. I took a couple online meditation classes and practiced simple techniques for clearing my mind. My favorite one is to bring my attention to the center of my head. Try it. Just imagine yourself being and resting in the center of your head. It took me a few months to master this skill. Now, I can fall back asleep in seconds.
Meditation has helped me in all kinds of ways. I think we think too much. There is a universe of help and inspiration. What if we just put out the intention, plan a few steps, and trust that the next steps will be revealed? Then, move forward in love, and gratitude for what we have and what’s coming. Meditation is a chance to stop thinking long enough to let inspiration in. Or, sleep.
What will work for you? Hopefully, this article will get you started on a path to sleep better. Explore some of the suggestions, and avoid falling into the sleep drug ditch. Know that you are not helpless. We can control our thoughts, and take a break from the detrimental sound tracks that will loop endlessly if left unchecked. We can adopt healthier life choices and change dysfunctional patterns.
Here’s to a great sleep life!
Comments? Questions? A different view? Reach me at (417) 753-1111 or firstname.lastname@example.org You can also join the Bare Bones Biz community at www.ellenrohr.com Free tips, problem-solving webinars, money-making tools, and lots of love.
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