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  • Leslie Boyett

Find Serenity in Sleep

Updated: May 21

Getting good sleep is essential to maintaining good mental health.

Are you feeling tired, even though maybe you’ve had a little more down time lately? Or perhaps you’re working on the front lines and the weight of it all has kept you up at night? Poor sleep is a huge contributor to depression and increases your risk for health issues such as heart disease. Making changes won’t be easy, but getting good rest is necessary for improving your mental health. Here are my top five tips for sleeping well.

  1. Pitch Black- Most of us have heard that it’s not good to have screen time right before bed. I know (eye roll), keep reading. But, have you ever wondered why scientists advise against bedtime screen time? Our bodies have a built in internal clock (isn’t that amazing)! This clock operates based on light and dark. We are designed to sleep when it’s dark and stay awake when it’s light. The problem is, screen time tricks our internal clock into thinking it’s light time and not night time. That can make it super hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. Actually, the darker your sleeping space is, the better you will sleep. So, put the phone away, turn off the TV, and draw the curtains. Your internal clock will thank you.

  2. Just Breathe- A wise man once said that if you can control your breathing, you can improve your health. Controlled breathing has been practiced in many cultures for thousands of years. Oxygen is vital for brain health, and the pace of our breathing helps regulate the rate of other bodily functions. Racing thoughts keeping you awake? Slow your breath to slow your thoughts. Feeling jittery or on edge? Slow your breath to ease the jitters. Practicing breathing exercises daily is a simple and effective way to see quick improvements in sleep.

  3. Skip the Snacks- Okay, I know this is a hard one. Who doesn’t like to sit down to a bowl of ice cream after supper? A little treat never hurt anyone, right? Many people don’t know that digestion only occurs properly when we are in a relaxed state. Most of us eat quickly and keep on moving. Even if we’re sitting on the sofa, household distractions and watching your favorite tiger show can hype up your nervous system. Eating right before bed can cause digestive issues such as indigestion and bloating. Foods such as chocolate also contain caffeine, which can keep us awake. Practice a relaxation technique, such as deep breathing, before and after eating. Eat slowly, thoroughly chewing your food to improve digestion. Stop eating two hours before bed to help prevent digestive problems. Your body will thank you.

  4. Keep it Cool- If you’re like me, you share a bed with someone (or something) else, in my case, my spouse and dogs. It can get hot when you’re in close quarters with your furry friends or your partner. Try to keep it cool in your room, as sweating is not conducive for sleep. Lowering your thermostat by a couple of degrees can make all the difference in the world. Keeping your fan on a low setting can help circulate the air around you, giving your brain the oxygen it needs to help regenerate. Even if you’re a cold-natured person, keep it cool and add an extra blanket. Just make sure your significant other doesn’t steal the covers.

  5. Routines for Rest- Finding a consistent sleep routine is probably one of the hardest tips I’ll share. Much of our anxiety stems from the fact that our bodies don’t know what to expect. Ten o’clock hits and your body doesn’t know whether it’s time to curl up in bed or curl your hair for a night out. I get it, most of us stay up later and sleep in on the weekends. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s how to survive uneventful Saturday nights at home. That said, going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every morning works wonders for stabilizing mood. Our bodies like routine, and you’ll see a dramatic improvement in sleep and mood if you follow a consistent sleep routine seven days of the week.

Now, write down one of these tips that you are willing to try and place your reminder in a visible place. Once you’ve mastered one step, then move on to the next. Even if you don’t see results immediately, keep trying. It takes our bodies a little time to get used to new things. If you still have problems sleeping even after trying some of these techniques, see a doctor to rule out underlying health issues that could be keeping you from getting the rest that you need. Sweet dreams!

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