Tips for Better Sleep (Tonight)

Fun Fact: Sea otters hold hands when they sleep so they don’t drift away from each other. Read these tips below so you can get a good night’s sleep too.  

May is Better Sleep Month. I have no doubt most of you know the basics of good sleep hygiene – no screens before bed, regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine and alcohol, etc. But what else is important to know? Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs identifies sleep as a “basic need” and there is no arguing that without adequate sleep our ability to function physically and mentally suffers. So what exactly is sleep doing for us and why do so many individuals struggle to meet this basic need?

Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body and poor sleep increases the risk of illness. Lack of sleep can become a vicious cycle. I know I need to sleep to stay healthy but now I am worrying that I am not sleeping. Our bodies often feel exhausted and crave rest, our minds are often exhausted too, however, despite our brains feeling frazzled, the thoughts, ideas and questions keep on pinging away like an out of control pinball machine. Not really conducive to drifting off to a restful night’s sleep is it?

Here are some tips for quieting the mind:

1. Put a pen and paper next to your bed, scribble down those repeating thoughts, ideas and questions when you are unable to sleep. Simply do a “brain dump”, and you’ll be able to review them the next day if there is truly something important to revisit.
2. Make sure your bedroom feels like a place for sleeping. Make it a simple, restful, and comfortable space for doing just that.
3. Set a schedule and stick to it. Go to bed and wake around the same time each day. This is simple but we all know it’s hard to do it. So, turn off all the lights, and I mean everything including phones and screens. Your brain needs to know it is time for sleep.
4. Get a good pillow and set the thermostat to the right room temperature. These recommendations come from my 13-year-old daughter. Our teens are full of great ideas. Invest in a decent pillow if you can. Experiment with a few different temperatures around 65-68 degrees fahrenheit and that should get you in the sleep zone.

Here’s to Your Well Being! (And to a good night’s sleep!)

Janine Gillott, LSW
Licensed Therapist