When the body and mind are stressed, sleep can seem elusive. It’s all too easy to allow the stressors of the day to disrupt your sleep pattern. Either you can’t fall asleep or can’t stay asleep because your mind is racing, reliving the events of the day and struggling to find solutions to your problems.
Unfortunately, not getting enough sound sleep affects mood and has long-term health consequences. Chronic disruption of sleep patterns is strongly linked to cardiovascular disease and a number of other health issues including an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes; weakened immunity and an increased tendency to get sick; weakened cognitive function including memory, alertness, and decision-making; increased impulsiveness, risk-taking, and addictive behavior; eating more; and ingesting more unhealthy foods.
Typically, it should take less than 15 minutes to fall asleep. If it takes longer than a half-hour and impairs your function the next day, it’s considered insomnia. Insomnia is a marker for poor health.
Here are some tips to get more sleep during stressful times.
The concept of compartmentalizing is useful for people who have difficulty falling asleep. This is especially the case when getting into bed to sleep and the mind keeps itself occupied with various thoughts. Just as a train, submarine, and ship have different compartments, so can the mind. This may be easier for men who tend to think linear, but it can also be very helpful for women who tend to think in a more circular manner. When going to sleep, think of your bed as a compartment for sleeping; nothing else is allowed. The compartment is watertight and only allows those thoughts to enter that are conducive for sleeping.
The quickest tip to fall asleep is to start dreaming. Call it virtual dreaming. Envision yourself engaged in some enjoyable It has to be something ongoing—some pleasurable activity that is long lasting. The next time you go to bed and do not fall asleep within 15 minutes, engage in virtual dreaming. Enjoy yourself, and sleep well!
3. Focus and Relax for Better Sleep
Meditation and yoga can also ease the transition to sleep, in part because they help clear your mind by refocusing. When I get into bed to sleep, I immediately start slow deep back breathing (4-5 deep slow breaths as I feel my back expand). This procedure of breathing deeply and slowly, while focusing on expanding my lungs through the back, is an excellent first procedure to use when going asleep. I also listen to easy soft music. I have always fallen asleep before the CD turns itself off.
Tip: If more people understood the potential long-term benefits to their mood, sleep quality, cardiovascular health, weight loss goals, and mental sharpness, they might make the effort to get the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep and circadian hygiene really are as important for your health as washing your hands.
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