The questions pertaining to sleep are a major conversation in our culture: How much do I need? How deeply am I sleeping? How can I get more? How can I function on less? I suppose one might hope that these glorious bodies of ours would simply regulate themselves. Well, they do, we often simply don’t listen. Pushing oneself to go beyond one’s normal capacities has become a badge of honor. And that is one of the awesome things about being human, we have the capacity to override our basic needs and this can be done very successfully…… to some extent, but for a limited time. One of the side effects can be sleep deprivation and if that goes on for too long, one’s stress levels can soar.
If you do struggle with getting enough sleep, I am sure you have done a lot of research on how to get more rest.
Regular exercise helps not only exhaust the body and boost your happy brain chemicals, but can also steady your energy throughout the day and make a good night’s sleep easier to achieve.
You can get sleep medication from your doctor, this helps short term, but often leaves you feeling groggy and foggy and very slow in the morning.
Melatonin can also help you get to a deep sleep state, but some people complain that it gives them very vivid dreams.
So, what else can you do?
Here is the point where I make a personal confession, I have the opposite problem than most people, I get too much sleep. I need a lot of sleep and my priority is to get said sleep, because I am kind of awful without it. I can be sleep deprived for one to two nights max, but sleep deprivation to me is six hours because I really need nine hours to function well. Throughout my life most of the people I have known well have been perplexed at my enormous need for sleep ( I also take naps), but that’s just me. I don’t have a 9-5 job, I don’t have kids or a husband. Sometimes I feel like I have one very committed relationship, and that is to Mr. Sleep. I know this is a luxury that most people don’t have, but I have always wanted to need less sleep, and get more things done. Alas, the solution has eluded me for most of my life. But for those who need and want more here are a few things you can try….
1) Go to sleep before 11 pm, if possible. It is the natural rhythm of our bodies and brains, given our location on the earth and our proximity to the sun.
2) Meditate during the day.
Mediation can give you a very deep rest, sometimes deeper than a nap and that can give you energy, so doing your practice earlier in the day or early in the evening is a more sleep-friendly choice.
3) You know that first wave of sleepiness that hits you at night? Around 10 pm, but you reach for another glass of wine?
LISTEN TO THAT WAVE.
Your body is talking to you. Keep your stamina-pushing endeavors to your daytime activities and get some rest.
4) Put on some white noise. There are many apps that will play a rainstorm or an ocean wave soundtrack all night (my favorite is Rain Rain because I can play it for as many hours as I want.)
5) Love your bed. If you can’t afford a great mattress, invest in amazing pillows and the right weight of blankets and duvets.
6) Do nothing in your bed but sleep, read and have sex. No TV, try not to have stressful conversations, and do not do any work.
7) The last piece of advice I can offer is to breath and count. Count backwards from 100, count sheep, count bunnies, count sheep dressed as bunnies-whatever works for you- and then, breath, slowly and deeply. The counting will get your mind off your worries and the deep breathing will engage your parasympathetic nervous system allowing your body to relax.
Hope this helps, sweet dreams.
By Jessica Olson