How to easily fall asleep and stay asleep
For years I had problems falling asleep. And even now I sometimes relapse and end up not having the quality rest my body needs. Waking up without feeling rested in the mornings made my days at work feel like I was always playing catch up.
The toll that a lack of sleep has on your body not only manifests itself in how you feel but also in how you look. I am sure if you look carefully at the people around you right now you can tell who didn’t get enough sleep last night. They look haggard with bags under their eyes and no pep in their step. In this post I am going to show you how to get quality rest and look and feel good throughout the day.
What is sleep
Sleep is a natural function and requirement of living in the body you have. All living things do it. It’s a normal periodic shutting down of the sensory awareness of our surroundings and all interactions with our physical world. When we are sleeping we are unaware of what’s happening around us. As a matter of fact, deep sleep is sometimes referred to as a ‘little death’.
Types of sleep
Our sleep cycle is controlled by the circadian rhythm or the ‘sleep – wake’ cycle which we all go through. In general, our bodies are programmed to rest when the sun goes down and to be active during the day.
When we are sleeping we go through various cycles . . . from deep sleep (non REM – no rapid eye movement) to periods of light sleep (REM – rapid eye movement). Our most restful sleep happens in segments of approximately 90 minutes after which time we either wake up or go into a light sleep cycle. These cycles happen approximately 5 times throughout the night. During this resting phase is when the magic happens in our bodies.
Many times we need to nap during the day. I am sure many of you have experienced the mid-afternoon crashes. This is all cycle related and some countries even shut down business between 1 pm and 4 pm. A nap will re-energize you . . . even if it only last for fifteen minutes.
We can also experience fitful sleep which is tossing and turning due to illness, stress, outside influences (noises) or bad dreams.
Why do we need sleep
When we are sleeping our body and brain rejuvenates from the previous day activities. Our body performs many necessary functions such as healing, processing the foods we eat and our brain gets a break from external inputs and recharges itself.
The effects of not getting enough sleep can range from developing poor body control – ever see a toddler who did not get enough sleep? – to developing serious health issues such as diabetes, depression, poor memory, heart disease and high blood pressure. It can even result is vehicle crashes because our reactions are slower than normal.
How to easily fall asleep and stay asleep
If you are having problems falling asleep here are some steps you can use starting tonight.
Because our body is ruled by our internal circadian clock we naturally want to start getting sleepy when it gets dark. This doesn’t mean we go to bed at six o’clock but our internal clock begins to signal that it’s time to start preparing for sleep. We can assist this process by doing the following:
- No heavy meals three hours before bedtime.
- No caffeinated drinks six hours before bed including teas, coffee, soda and chocolate.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed as it will interrupt your deep sleep cycle.
- Some medications have caffeine as part of the ingredients. If possible, take these earlier in the day.
- All electronics and stimulating devices off two hours before bed.
- Do light reading as part of your winding down.
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible.
- If you are a milk drinker having a warn glass before bedtime can help to regulate your body’s natural sleep cycle . . . and it relaxes you.
- Do a mind dump by pigeon holing all causes for stress. The best time to deal with stressful issues is in the morning when you are mentally awake not when you are tired.
- Give thanks for all you have . . . whether great or small.
- One of the best methods that’s help me fall asleep quickly is to relax my entire body starting from my head to my toes. I do this by focusing on releasing tension in each area of my head (jaws, ears, forehead, scalp, etc) – shoulders, torso and lower extremities.
Make exercising part of your daily activity. I find that it helps me relax even more at bedtime. Here are some of my favorites.