Sleep is a HUGE issue; I would estimate that about 75% of the people I work with have issues with sleep, but that’s very rarely the reason they initially seek my help.
I think poor sleep and being tired is a tolerated and accepted norm in our everyday culture. We have resigned ourselves to the fact that we’re just never going to get quite enough good sleep and we’re always going to be a little bit tired and thank goodness for coffee. That’s life, right?
This apathy is not ok.
Sleep has a significant influence on our day-to-day AND long-term mental and physical health. It impacts metabolism, hormone function, weight, mood, concentration, energy, productivity, illness and disease…the list goes on and on. And these things, in turn, impact the quality of our interactions with others, and thus our relationships and parenting.
So much of the work I do with clients comes second to first improving sleep; improving the quality of life for your relationship or family comes with improving the quality of life of the individual members of the relationship or family, which regularly means improving everyone’s sleep. Young children often equates to less sleep, but it doesn’t have to (and you’re better off if it doesn’t). Chris knows what I’m talking about.
There are a number of ways to improve sleep quantity and quality, and while I have included some great guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation below, sleep is a very personal and individualized thing; ultimately, the best recommendations and adjustments to improve sleep (just like with parenting and relationships) are delivered to you, for you, and ideally from a mental health care provider (like myself) or a physician. You likely do not need a complete overall, but a few adjustments and new approaches can make a huge impact. If you have an upcoming appointment already scheduled, bring it up with your doctor, or schedule a 1-2 session consult with me.
The one blanket rule? Make getting better sleep, more often, a priority.
- Exercise regularly. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep;
- Create an environment that is conducive to sleep that is quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows;
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath or listening to calming music;
- Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, and avoid spending more time in bed than needed;
- Use bright light to help manage your “body clock.” Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning;
- Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, computers and televisions from your bedroom;
- Save your worries for the daytime. If concerns come to mind, write them in a “worry book” so you can address those issues the next day;
- If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired;
- If you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, or “stop breathing” episodes in your sleep, contact a health care professional for a sleep apnea screening.