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What Are Simple Ways to Improve My Sleep?

Jessica Pontis, LCSW 

I can think of few things better than a great night’s sleep.  I know that when I have a good night’s sleep I feel ready for just about anything the next day.  Sleeping is just as important to our health as a good diet, community, and exercise, but many of us struggle to find rest during the night.  We may toss and turn or ruminate on the events of the past repeatedly.  If you have ever struggled to fall asleep at night and wondered why, there may be something about your nighttime routine contributing to the issue.  Here are some helpful things to keep in mind if you are looking to increase time asleep and decrease time counting sheep. 

Be mindful of light. 

While exposure to light during the day can be helpful in regulating the circadian rhythm, this has the opposite affect during the evening.  Exposure to blue light in the evening tricks the brain into thinking that it’s still daytime, thereby reducing important sleep hormones such as melatonin.  Now there are setting options on smart phones and computers that block blue light production, making it easy to reduce its harmful effects.  It’s also helpful to dim any harsh light and turn off the tv at least a few hours prior to laying down for the night.  

Stop coffee consumption past 3:00 pm. 

As a person who loves coffee, this suggestion is bittersweet.  While I enjoy an espresso at the end of a nice dinner out, I recognize that that may not be the best thing for my sleep cycle.  Caffeine in general stimulates the body’s nervous systems, making it difficult for the body to naturally unwind and relax.  Even if we want to sleep, a cup of coffee or caffeinated Coke could make the difference between a frustrating night of tossing and turning and a peaceful night’s sleep.  A good rule of thumb is to stop caffeine consumptions 6-8 hours prior to bedtime, this way your body has time to process the existing caffeine in your system. 

Create the best environment possible.

Noise, light exposure, temperature, furniture arrangement, and weight of the blankets can all significantly impact quality of sleep.  While this varies from person to person an optimal sleeping temperature of the room is anywhere between 62 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit (Dasgupta, 2019).  It’s also helpful to consider the amount of noise you’re exposed to, and ways to correct or adjust that variable.  Some individuals don’t sleep well in complete silence and so a white noise machine can provide soothing audio stimulation.  Additionally, some people sleep best with a heavy comforter.  Having a bit of weight on you while you sleep helps to relax the body and reduce anxieties, anyone with a weighted blanket will tell you just how fantastic and soothing it can be.  

Have a consistent and reliable nighttime routine.

Whether it’s taking a hot shower, some light stretching, or focusing on skin care it’s helpful to have a ritual at the end of the night that tells your mind that it’s time to start winding down.  If you don’t have a set routine at the end of your day experiment with what feels good and can be incorporated into a consistent part of your evening.

Consider supplements.

There are a number of homeopathic supplements that help to induce sleep.  A very well-known supplement for sleep is melatonin, which is the key hormone produced by the body that regulates sleep.  Sometimes if we don’t produce enough melatonin naturally, we can take 1-5 mg about an hour before bed, and that can be helpful is signaling our body to rest.  Some additional supplements that aid sleep are ginkgo biloba, valerian root, magnesium, and lavender.  Of course, prior to introducing any new supplement into your routine it is important to consult with a physician and research the appropriateness of a supplement for your own personal needs. 

Explore the possibility of a sleep disorder.

Common sleep disorder including insomnia and sleep apnea and can significantly dysregulate an individual’s sleep patterns and overall wellness.   If you find that sleep evades you more than you think it should, talk to your doctor about what options are available to you to treat any uncovered disorders. 

If you are interested in learning more about sleep, or simply want to connect with additional supports, please reach out to one of the licensed therapists with Symmetry Counseling.  You can connect with us online, or by calling us at (312) 578-9990 to set up an appointment.

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