Sleep: Unconventional and Overlooked Ways to Enhance Your Bedtime Routine and Sleep Habits
Sleep is Important for your Mental Health by Kristen Norris:
Sleep (especially with kids) is something we always want more of but find difficult to enhance. Whether too much time is spent scrolling on electronics before bed, watching TV on the couch, or wanting some more “me” time before starting the next day, it seems almost unbearable to try something new or different to promote quality sleep.
Many parents struggle to go to bed earlier due to wanting quiet time. Sometimes, this is the only time we have to tackle those to-dos, talk with our spouse, or unwind and watch some TV.
They may also believe their sleep issues “too difficult” or “too long standing” to improve. By improving sleep, many find increased energy to work out and make better, more balanced food choices. Mood stability or improvement is also a major benefit to better quality sleep. Additionally, increased work performance is also a result of better sleep.
Below I listed some helpful tips I have tried myself, or my clients have found to work for them. Some are unconventional (who knew a natural fruit had melatonin in it?) and some are straightforward. With the right mindset, I do find clients have more success.
What makes goals more attainable is setting lower expectations. If someone is going to bed at 3am but wants to begin going to bed at midnight, starting a sleep routine 3 hours earlier can seem daunting. I recommend setting a more incremental goal of setting bedtime back by 30-45 minutes so that the goal seems more manageable. If we set smaller goals, larger results will follow. Once we see we can meet a goal, as small as it may seem, we get the momentum to set other goals.
Tried but True Sleep Assistance
4-7-8 Breathing: Guided sleep meditations are proven to assist with falling asleep and better quality of sleep. Breathing in for 4 seconds, holding for 7, and exhaling for 8 seconds, in a pattern-like fashion can help with not only sleep induction, but also panic attacks. I prefer a guided sleep meditation so that if my mind wanders or I get frustrated, I can be brought back to the structure of the meditation.
Cherries: yes, cherries. Tart cherries, specifically Montmorency cherries, have melatonin in them, and can assist with sleep. Whether you consume cherries or have some tart cherry juice before dozing off, it can help increase productive sleep and assist with insomnia issues.
Caffeine Intake: Everyone has a different tolerance for caffeine, however I always find working with clients to find a threshold for quantity and cutoff are proven to be helpful. I recommend cutting off caffeine intake after lunch time, but again, everybody’s tolerance differs. Obviously, the earlier the better!
Sleep Routine: Sleep Hygiene is an important and oftentimes overlooked issue. What are we doing before bed? What are we reading or watching? Are we creating a calm environment for ourselves? I ask these questions often in therapy. Are we setting a sleep routine so that our bodies can anticipate sleep? Sometimes a warm shower, using a calming lotion or shower gel, feeling the warmth of a heating pad can help our bodies settle in and anticipate sleep. The more frequently we use these techniques around the same time each night, the more likely our bodies are to unwind and want to settle down.
Speaking with Your Providers
Medications, sleep apnea, and other health-related issues should never be overlooked. I recommend clients speaking with their primary care practitioner if they feel any health-related issues may be exacerbating sleep issues. Hormonal concerns are another area to rule out. I truly believe the core of many issues manifests in poor sleep, and it can never hurt to involve one’s treatment team to see what can be done to improve the rest we get at night.