SLEEP: Beginning your journey to a good night’s sleep
By: Rachel Eizenga, lcsw
Sleep is a vital part of human life. Getting consistent, restful sleep can greatly impact mood, memory, and motivation. Maybe you have always struggled to get good sleep or maybe sleep issues have recently begun to plague your nights. Good sleep is not always a given; often, the same as we take care of our physical hygiene, we need to pay special attention to our sleep hygiene, creating rituals and routines to set ourselves up for a good night’s sleep.
Create a bedtime routine. It is a lot to expect our bodies and minds to go from our active day immediately into a place of rest and relaxation without allowing some decompression time. Determine a specific time you’d like to fall asleep and begin building a routine backwards from there. This routine can help encourage a restful mind state and allow for an easier time falling asleep.
Aspects of a routine could include time engaging in relaxing activities, reading, taking a shower/bath, drinking chamomile tea, or any of the suggestions below.
No/limited blue light/time on your phone. This may be a suggestion you’ve heard before and maybe you’re thinking “my favorite relaxation activity is scrolling on Tiktok!!” As fun as that can be at times, not only does blue light stimulate your mind and eyes, but scrolling endlessly can lead to increased levels of anxiety and mental stimulation, which is the opposite of what we would like to foster at bedtime.
Journal or To-Do List. Sometimes, no matter how much we might want to go to sleep, our brains might decide to keep thinking about the events of the day or rehearse a to-do list for the week ahead. It can be challenging to shut off those thoughts in order to focus on sleep. Keep a journal or notepad by your bed to either begin a daily journaling practice to process thoughts and feelings or as a place to write down your to-do list.
Listen to Music or White Noise. Many people struggle to sleep without some type of noise in the background. Certain types of music or sound can help the brain fall into a more calm state, which can promote sound sleep. You may have heard about white noise, for example, rain sounds or a fan blowing, however there are many variations of sounds in different frequencies, including pink noise (sounds like a waterfall) and brown noise (lower frequency). Explore which frequencies are most relaxing and use these sounds to calm your brain as you go to sleep.
Guided Meditations/Progressive Muscle Relaxation. A final tip for falling asleep and experiencing restful sleep is using guided meditations. There are many variations of guided meditations available online and it can be helpful to try a few to see which narrator’s voice or type of meditation works best for you. A specific meditation practice, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, walks you through tensing and relaxing muscle groups from your feet up to your head. In essence, this practice allows you to “put your body to sleep” one muscle group at a time.
Because sleep is such an important part of daily functioning, it is important to build healthy habits around sleep. These are just a few suggestions to get you started towards a restful night’s sleep!