Experts recommend between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Think about the last time you had a really restful, comfortable sleep of at least 7 hours.
The bed was super cozy, the room was dark, and just the right temperature, and the pillow was supporting your head and neck in a perfect way.
You woke up feeling rested, refreshed and ready to tackle the day. And you felt energized and really good the entire day – no mid-afternoon sleepiness, no lack of focus – you were on your game.
So, when was the last time you experienced this?
If you can’t remember because it’s been so long, or you don’t think you’ve ever experienced this and good sleep is a challenge for you, keep reading.
In a report published by Sleep Health (https://www.sleephealthjournal.org/article/S2352-7218(16)30130-9/abstract) the key components of quality sleep include:
- Sleeping more time while in bed (at least 85 percent of the total time)
- Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less
- Waking up no more than once per night; and
- Being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep.
Stress can affect your ability to fall asleep, to stay asleep and the overall quality of your sleep.
We all go through stressful situations in our lives, and many times that stress carries over into our sleep. Both minor everyday stress or chronic stress can impact your sleep.
Maybe you’re thinking about non-stop pressures at work, financial problems, or simply what’s on your plate for tomorrow. Or maybe it’s a situation that happened, like an argument that you had with a loved one that keeps running through your mind.
I could list a dozen examples that could ‘weigh heavily on your mind’ that then keeps you from having a good night’s sleep.
What is it for you?
Do you have a hard time turning off your busy mind?
Or does your heart race or are your muscles tense when you lay awake in bed, unable to sleep?
Do you wake up after sleeping for 2 or 3 hours, and then find yourself unable to get back to sleep? – and then get more and more frustrated as you check the clock and realize you’ve been up for 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours or more.
To make matters worse, not addressing poor quality sleep could lead to insomnia – the habitual inability to sleep that can lead to devastating effects, like poor focus and concentration throughout the day.
If it goes on long enough, insomnia may lead to problems in your career, in relationships, or while doing typical daily activities like driving (car accidents), etc.
An estimated 30-40 percent of Americans report experiencing insomnia each year.
Here are three things to try for improved sleep:
1. Increase your physical activity.
Physical activity taxes your body and your mind. It supports good quality sleep.
When I travel to new cities, I enjoy visiting the local botanical gardens. I walk for hours enjoying all the sights, and log 3 to 4 times my typical miles on my tracker. Not surprisingly, I fall asleep within 5 minutes of my head hitting the pillow.
So if you’re not active enough like many of us professionals who spend a lot of time sitting in meetings or working on our PCs, find a physical activity that you love (walking, jogging, dancing, etc.).
Schedule it on your calendar like any other meeting, and do it on a regular basis; 30 minutes 3-5 times a week is a great goal to work toward, and you can start off small with 1 or 2 times a week.
2. Practice relaxation techniques right before bed to calm your body and mind.
Whether you choose a few yoga poses with slow rhythmic breathing, your own regular meditation practice, or a guided meditation on YouTube, engaging in a few calming exercises before bed can help quiet your mind so you can drift off to sleep.
Here are some to try and feel free to search for others on YouTube:
- Body scan meditation, full body relaxation or Yoga Nidra meditation. These are especially good if your body is tense because you are guided to bring awareness to each part of your body during them. Here’s one to try: 20 minute yoga nidra.
- Sleep Meditation: Release Worry Guided Meditation for a Deep Sleep & Relaxation (1 hour): 1 hour sleep meditation
- Binaural Beats Sleep Music (8 hours each, you can play them throughout the night): Binaural beats for sleep 1 or Binaural beats for sleep 2
3. If you’ve been struggling a while, and have ruled out any serious medical issues as the cause, consider getting some one-on-one focused help like coaching.
Together with a coach’s guidance, you can dive deep into what the underlying causes of your stress and sleeplessness are, and come up with strategies to implement that reduce stress and improve sleep.
I coach many overworked and overstressed professionals, and when a client begins to understand and address the underlying causes of any issue, things improve quickly. And best of all, they see improvements in other areas of their lives too.
Photo by MMPR on Unsplash