Have you ever considered setting a goal to get more sleep? Goal setting in all forms is an important aspect of cultivating the life you want. However, the goals that seem to excite us the most tend to be long-term and results-driven. For example, we may aim to save up for an extravagant vacation or to fit into our favorite clothes by summer.
However, achieving the big things in life depends on how we handle the little things. Sleep is an integral part of our health, wellbeing, and productivity. Getting high-quality sleep is one way to give yourself the greatest chance of success in these areas. However, to achieve high-quality sleep, we must determine how to set our bodies and minds up for success. We also need to create sleep goals and regularly stick to them while being gentle with ourselves when we miss the mark.
It’s not always easy to challenge our current habits like putting down the phone, closing the computer, or turning off shows at night, but a well-maintained sleep routine helps improve your wellbeing and ability to reach your most pressing goals.
Are you ready to set out on a journey to relax into quality sleep? Then, read on to discover what habits, routines, and attitudes you may need to get better sleep.
Sleep Goals 101
Sleep is a passive activity, and yet, nearly 25% of Americans experience symptoms associated with insomnia each year. Here’s a list of manageable habits and mindsets to implement into your daily and nightly routines to have the sleep you’ve been dreaming of getting.
1. Don’t Buy the “Dream” – Know the Facts
Hearing that we need a good night’s rest can equate to the resonance of “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” While we all know that we need sleep, we may not understand why sleep is so important. Society may also encourage us to forego sleep for productivity.
Sleep, however, is a critical factor in the healing and growth process. While we sleep, growth hormone and cytokines are produced, which help our bodies to regenerate and repair. Sleep also helps to improve and stabilize our cognitive, mental, and emotional processes and functions. One startling study found that driving tired is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Beyond keeping ourselves safe, sleep can also promote healthy relationships, encourage productivity, and diminish the effects of stress and symptoms associated with mental illnesses.
2. Be Gentle with Yourself
First and foremost, we need to cultivate an attitude of self-love and self-acceptance when we embark on any new wellness journey. We will not be perfect, nor will our bodies and minds always respond to our goals and wishes. We may make mistakes, and that’s okay. Be compassionate with yourself and set small, manageable goals throughout this process. Seek out support and consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best and most reasonable goals for you.
3. Discover Your Calm
We are routinely encouraged to stay busy and fill our days with engaging and productive activities. Unfortunately, in our society, a lack of sleep is often seen as a badge of honor. We hear things like, “money doesn’t sleep” and “no pain, no gain,” and can internalize these things to mean that we should sacrifice our wellbeing to be successful. While these sayings can help us grow and can be useful in moderation or specific circumstances, they shouldn’t be relied upon as a way of life.
Today, set out on a journey to discover what brings you peace and calm in your life. Determine what allows you to feel peacefully engaged throughout the day and wind down at night before bedtime. Good sleep hygiene during the day helps prepare yourself for quality sleep at night and includes steps like drinking caffeine in moderation, exercising, or practicing stress management techniques. Aim to stop drinking caffeine in the early afternoon so that your body has time to process it before bedtime. If you drink alcohol, it should be consumed in moderation and early in the evening. Completely avoid nicotine, which is a stimulant associated with various sleep problems. Stress management techniques that can help keep your body and mind engaged but not overwhelmed include saying “no” to extra work or stressors, journaling, seeking support, or asking for what you need from others so that they can assist you. Exposure to sunlight can also help regulate your circadian rhythm, which determines when your body is naturally ready to sleep. Remember to wear sunscreen during the hottest times of the day and limit unprotected exposure to 15 minutes when the sun is less severe.
To wind down at night, give yourself ample time, at least 30 minutes, to participate in a low-stimulation activity away from electronic screens that disrupt the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. For example, try crocheting, meditation or prayer, or reading a book. Keep in mind that your bedroom should be your sleep sanctuary. Try to decorate and use lighting that makes it feel soothing, and adjust your thermostat to a comfortable temperature during the night. If you’re experiencing perimenopause or menopause, this can be especially important to combat hot flashes along with using a fan.
Maintaining consistency and developing a routine is an important step in integrating more calming influences, and therefore, higher quality sleep into our lives. Aim to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning. Adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night, so use this number as a target for determining what works best for you.
4. Prepare for Inconsistencies
Sometimes life can throw us a curveball and disrupt our routines. Or we may knowingly disrupt our own schedule by going on vacation or choosing to stay up a little bit later one night. We may also have ongoing disruptions to our sleep schedule, like welcoming a new bundle of joy into our lives!
Prepare for these inconsistencies by accepting and understanding that they will occur and create a plan to reacclimate yourself to your original goals. If you recently had a child, be extra gentle with yourself and ask for help when you need it. This could include asking a friend or family member to babysit or sleeping whenever your baby is asleep.
If you discover that you cannot get to sleep or stay asleep despite developing a sleep routine and encounter no obvious external inconsistencies, try drinking a calming tea, such as chamomile, or consider taking a melatonin supplement before bed. You should speak with your doctor or healthcare provider to determine the cause of your sleeplessness and see if melatonin is the right choice for you.
If you find yourself restless at night, don’t resist and stay in bed feeling annoyed or discouraged. Instead, after 20 minutes, allow yourself to get out of bed, go to a different room, and participate in a relaxing activity.
Support for Improving Sleep
It’s helpful to get support to hold yourself accountable for your sleep routines and goals. If you find yourself unable to meet your sleep goals or are experiencing severe or long-term sleep disruptions, make an appointment with your doctor or healthcare provider.
At Trinity School of Natural Health, we understand that sleep is a part of your total wellness. To learn more ways to improve your sleep, consider enrolling in our Certified Natural Health Professional or Mind-Body Integration Specialist programs.