Six Tips for Healthy Sleep

Healthy sleep is absolutely necessary for a healthy mind and body.  But your body can’t sleep if your brain is “running on empty.”  Give your body what it needs so you can have the healthy sleep you need.

  1. Eliminate (or limit) alcohol.

Yes, alcohol puts you to sleep – but then it wakes you right back up again.  It interferes with sleep structure, and interrupts a good night’s sleep.

For women, research suggests one glass of wine, or mixed drink equivalent, is the limit for healthy sleep.  Men do ok with no more than 2.  If you do have a drink, try to have it several hours before sleep.

Or – try some chamomile tea instead!

  1. Exercise.

Exercise is a rich resource for clearing away stress and balancing the levels of healthy sleep biochemicals available to you.  Exercise gives your brain more of the biochemicals it needs to help you get to sleep, and stay asleep.

But no exercise right before bed. You should be finished with your exercise at least two hours before going to sleep.

  1. Create a restful sleep space.

Bedrooms are for two things–sleeping, and intimacy! Remove your desk, your computer, your hobbies and crafts, from the bedroom.  And most of all, take the TV out of the bedroom.

This is hard for many people, who believe they should go to sleep with the TV on–but TV actually messes up the brain’s relaxation and sleep.

Use a fan for background noise. The quiet hum can mask noises, and tells your brain it’s sleep time.

Turn down the thermostat. There’s a reason airlines turn down the temperature on planes at night.  It makes people want to snuggle up and sleep!  When they want you to wake up, they turn up the heat.  Use that for your own behavior change.

  1. Meditation.

Research shows meditation enhances and deepens healthy sleep.  Daily meditation helps most, but any meditation will make a difference. Try using a guided imagery meditation specifically designed for sleep.

  1. 4-7-8 breathing

This is a simple but powerful technique to help you sleep.  A patient once told me “Be sure you’re lying down!” Do it when you’re ready to sleep.

Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, and release for 8. Do one or two sets of 4-7-8 breaths, relax and breathe naturally for a few moments, then do 3 or 4 more sets.

It’s simple, and easy.  And it works.

  1. Create a healthy bedtime ritual.

One reason parents learned to read the story and give the glass of water every night before bed, is that it cues their child’s mind and body that it’s time for sleep.   We grown-ups are the same way!

Here’s an example of a healthy bedtime ritual, using the tips above.

  • Two hours before bedtime: begin the process.

o   No more food or alcohol, and no more work of any kind.

o   If there’s been conflict–affirm that you still love the person, acknowledge that you’ll resolve it tomorrow.  And find a way to touch.

o   Enjoy relaxing–reading, watching TV, talking.

  • One hour before bedtime: prepare the environment.

o   Turn out many lights, dim the lights you are using.

o   Turn the thermostat way down–cool makes our body want to snuggle up and sleep!

o   Lock the doors, let the dog and cat in or out…

  • 20-30 minutes before bedtime: prepare your body.

o   No more screen time.  The light from the phone or computer wakes up your brain.

o   Turn the clock so you can’t see the numbers.  Looking at the clock is guaranteed to mess up sleep.  You can still hear it.

o   Turn on your white noise fan, and turn down the covers.

o   Take a very warm bath, or shower.

o   Wash your face, brush your teeth (don’t forget to floss!)

  • In bed: prepare your mind.

o   You can spend a few minutes reading, but nothing exciting, nothing meaningful, and nothing – ever – that’s related to work

o   Turn out the lights, turn on your guided imagery for sleep, if you’re using one.

o   Do some 4-7-8 breathing

As you begin to practice these things, you can trust your body to do the rest.  And you can enjoy a good night’s sleep!