Let’s face it: The 21st century woman is all things to all people. She’s mother, career woman, friend, wife, housekeeper, cook, just to name a few. While many women claim they are more fulfilled today than ever before, they are also more exhausted than ever. For most women, sleep is the one of the first things to suffer in life’s hectic pace.
Everyone knows what a lack of sleep brings: depression, irritability and less energy, but what can we do to break this cycle? The following tips will help you go from sleepless nights of counting the items on your “To Do” list to sleep-filled nights of counting sheep.
Relaxation is the single most important ingredient to a good night’s sleep. As women, we are bombarded with worries and anxieties everyday. While some resolve themselves somewhat effortlessly, others may linger for days or even years. While you can’t change your circumstances, you can change how you handle them. Make it a point to not fret about your daily stresses at night. Sure, it’s not easy. But, by taking a few simple steps to relax in the evening, you can put those stresses on the back burner until morning.
Some helpful techniques to relax
- Meditation: This is a way to give your mind a temporary break. Simply close your eyes and focus on you. Free your mind of all thoughts. Listen to your breaths. Once you begin to feel relaxed, you can focus on something calming, such as the beach. This is also a good time to pray about your life’s worries. Do this for 15-30 minutes a day.
- Yoga: Stretching your muscles can relax your mind. By turning your attention to your muscles, you are focused on something neutral. The stretching and breathing techniques of yoga have also been shown to decrease blood pressure, improve circulation, and boost the immune system.
- Journaling: Writing down your worries puts things in perspective. Once they are written down, oftentimes they do not look as bad as they felt. This introspective look at oneself has a very calming effect.
Get With the Program
As moms know, routine is key in getting a baby to sleep. The same is true for adults, too. A nighttime routine in the hour or so before bed signals to the brain, “Hey, its time for bed!” There is no magic formula, of course. Consistency is the important thing. Find a few different things you find calming and see what works best for you.
Some things to try
- Dimming the lights. This tells your brain nighttime is here and it begins to slow down.
- Take a hot bath. The drop in body temperature after you get out of the bath helps bring about drowsiness. This is also great for relieving those tense muscles.
- Read a book. Don’t read anything too exciting making you want to stay awake. Find something calming and maybe even a little boring.
Setting the Stage
Check out your sleeping situation. Is your bedroom subject to outside distracting noises? Most major discount stores sell sound machines offer a “white noise” option helping tune out the world’s noises so you can get some much-needed shut eye.
How comfortable is your bed? Is your pillow lumpy? Is your room too hot or too cold? Is your room dark enough? Do you get tangled up in the blankets at night? Comfort is vital to a good night’s sleep. Evaluate your sleep environment and make needed changes.
Eat Yourself To Sleep
The foods you eat on a regular basis can have a profound effect on your sleep cycle. Some foods actually promote sleep. Everyone knows turkey on Thanksgiving Day does wonders for sending us into dreamland. Think it’s an old wives tale? Think again. Turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which actually causes drowsiness. Other foods containing this substance are milk, cheese, rice and peanuts. The hormone melatonin and the mineral magnesium also help promote sleep. Oats and bananas are great sources for these.
On the other hand, consuming things like sugar, caffeine, or alcohol in the few hours before bed can cause problems. Some experts recommend only consuming caffeine in the morning hours as even afternoon consumption can affect sleep. Large meals right before bed are detrimental to sleep, too. Opt for a small snack instead.
Regular exercise is important for sleep. Physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, 20 to 30 minutes a day, can help you have more restful sleep. Something as simple as walking one mile a day can be beneficial. While you exercise, your muscles tense and relax. This helps relieve tension build up over the course of a day. It also helps clear your mind.
How often you exercise is up to you. Experts recommend at least three times a week. Do it early in the day, though, because exercise within two to three hours before bed can actually cause you to have trouble sleeping.
If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again
OK, you have done all the right things. You have relaxed. Your bedroom is in tip top shape for sleep. You’ve eaten the right foods and exercised. Finally, the moment has arrived. You lay down in your slumber haven, waiting a few moments until nod off into utopia dreamland. And then it happens. You lay there. And lay there. Nothing happens. You turn over. Still, nothing.
It happens to everyone. Just when you thought you were ready to get a full eight hours sleep, you can’t sleep. Not to worry. Everyone falls victim to this at one time or another. If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, get up. Lying in bed any longer will create anxiety. This makes it next to impossible to sleep. Once up, start your routine and relaxation techniques over again. The key is to not get frustrated and compound the problem. Remember: you will eventually sleep. If it’s not tonight, it will be tomorrow night.
A Way of Life
Sleep does not have to be something only “other people” do. With a few simple changes in your everyday life, a good night’s sleep can be something you can experience first-hand every night.