Sunday, June 7, 2015

Preparing for a Good Night’s Sleep

Being ready to sleep at bedtime is something our modern, fast-paced world doesn’t really prepare us for.   Instead, many cultures (particularly those in the West) support lifestyles that keep individuals active and awake well into the late evening and early morning hours.  Therefore, being ready to sleep is something we all may have to intentionally work at in order to get the rest we need each night.  Fortunately, there are several ways to prepare for bedtime, and many are simpler than you may realize.
First of all, gradually dimming your evening lighting can alter the level of melatonin in your system, which has an effect on your preparedness for sleep.  If you think about it, this makes perfect sense as the natural light on earth (the Sun) fades gradually (not at the flip of a switch) at the end of the day as it disappears behind the horizon.  However, in our modern world we turn on lights and keep ourselves up and active well beyond the disappearance of the natural lighting provided by the sun.  So gradually dimming the lighting in your home to slowly simulate the gradual setting of the sun helps to prepare you for sleep.

Also, the Japanese have known for ages that soaking in a nice warm tub of water prior to bedtime, helps to relax the body and prepare it for sleep.  See my earlier blog entry about the benefits of soaking in a warm bath and how it can help you relax and reduce stress and anxiety.  It's a great way to wind down at the end of the day or even earlier in the evening as part of your preparatory ritual to get the body and mind ready to rest.

Outside of lighting and soaking in a warm bath, it also helps to refrain from eating or drinking fluids close to bedtime.  If your body is focused on digesting foods after you go to bed, it’s less relaxed and able to sleep.  Foods can also cause an upset stomach, which leads to discomfort and an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep.  And there are two things that can go wrong whenever you drink fluids prior to "lights out".  You can end up waking in the night needing to go to the bathroom as the water is processed through the kidneys.  And, if the fluids taken in have stimulating chemicals like caffeine or sugar in them, they could increase your activity level instead of lower it, which is counter-intuitive to finding ways to slow down before its time to sleep.

The main message is to think about the hours leading up to bedtime and how they have an effect on your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and sleep well.  All of which have a direct impact on your level of stress and anxiety throughout the day.
Thanks to planetchopstick for the great photo Angel Sleeps