Sleep: Counting sheep can lead to better health and mental clarity
WASHINGTON – These days, the whole world seems to be tired or experiencing a “mental fog.” One big reason: We live in a society where one in every three of us does not getting enough sleep. Today, wa-a-ay too many things prevent us from getting a good night’s rest. Some of these impediments are even designed by business interests that want to keep us awake for various reasons. In the end, though, we need our sleep. More importantly, counting sheep can actually lead to better health and mental clarity.
Unfortunately, our current relationship with sleep is not the healthiest. When you consider COVID stresses, streaming videos, and for some, nightlife, this becomes easy to understand.
Sleep and health: Take these seriously
People should take the topic of sleep seriously. Sleep, and getting enough of it, is one of the most important aspects of your health and your life. Good sleep involves understanding the effects of diet, exercise, and work/life integration on our bodies and our minds. We know that without a restful, peaceful sleep, we can’t be our best selves. Our goal, then? To calm our mind and central nervous system.
Sleeping tips for anyone (at any age) can be helpful. And healthful. Consider the tips below if you are someone who gets up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep. Or if you have a hard time falling asleep once you climb into bed.
Stress and cortisol
A few things you should know before I get to my tips. When you wake up in the morning, your cortisol (stress hormone) is high. The reason? Because cortisol helps to keep you awake and alert as you get ready for the challenging day ahead. So, learn to ease into the day.
Next, stress, even when you first wake up, can adversely affect your day and your sleep at the end of the day. So wait before you begin your workday. By this I mean you should address your personal things upon awakening first. Checking your voicemail and emails can wait.
Email and voicemail can wait
Many of us habitually check our voice messages and email the minute we get up in the morning. Any given message can certainly begin to cause stress or heightened alertness. Then your adrenalin jumps up and your cortisol (a big part of your sleep process) increases. Your heart rate may get higher, and you may get anxious. And then you are “off to the races.” But you haven’t even brushed your teeth yet!
So, as I’ve already noted, learn to ease into the day. The emails and phonemails can wait until you know you can deal with them calmly.
Also, pay attention to your resilience level. Your individual thinking style actually shapes resilience level. So take a look at what energizes you and what depletes you.
And consider your individual needs, and your experiences. How have you sustained your resilience during this yearlong pandemic and its associated lockdowns? Whatever the case, you have to dig deep to persevere and endure in our current environment.
Always remember that sleep, diet, and exercise, which many consider trite, are of the utmost importance to your health and wellbeing. I already noted this above, but it bears repeating.
Without a restful, peaceful sleep, you are not your best self as you begin your new day.
The usefulness of routines
One of the tools that I use for myself and to help guide my clients: Setting up a nighttime routine. I know that people often hesitate or resist setting up a routines. Yet routines really can work. With an effective nighttime routine, just think about how good it would feel to get a good night’s sleep. You’ll feel refreshed, clear, and ready to take on the day!
Creating a Routine
1. Be prepared – mentally.
Allowing yourself to decompress and remain calm helps you to relax.
You can visualize how you want your day to go. Leave yourself a list of one or two things at the end of the day so it helps you get started the next morning.
Form a habit. Do the same things each night at the same time. Simple things such as turning off everything electronic at nine o’clock, then brushing your teeth and getting into bed. This sends a message to your body. You are telling your body and your mind to settle down. You’re doing this instead of allowing your mind to tell you how it are going to be and then running the show.
In this process, take command of your internal chatter or self-talk – and therefore, your life. Your mind really does sometimes ‘take on a life of its own,’ literally and figuratively. It’s hard to quiet it down.
Prepare your body and mind. Set an intention to improve your sleeping habits, and to create a routine. That way you avoid sabotaging yourself each night.
2. Breathing Exercise
Here’s a simple breathing exercise: 4X4X4.
Breathe in for 4 seconds. Hold it for 4 seconds. Then breathe out for 4 seconds. You can adjust the seconds with a rhythm that works for you.
3. Tapping – Emotional Freedom Technique (commonly referred to as Tapping).
What we call “tapping” commonly describes a specific and wonderful emotional freedom technique. “Tapping” happens when you tap on different points on your body to release stuck energy.
When tapping, you are working on an underlying emotional component and the pain or problem involved while tapping on it. Tapping calms the mind and nervous system. Five to ten minutes of tapping sends signals to the brain, cardiovascular system, nervous system which allows your body to relax and let go.
We have 65-70,000 thoughts each day. 77% of those thoughts tend to be negative. So tapping can prove very helpful in alleviating much of the stress those negative thoughts can cause.
To learn more about tapping, feel free to contact me with absolutely no obligation. It’s easy to show you this technique via FaceTime or Zoom. You can also visit: https://www.thetappingsolution.com.
4. Be Vigilant With What You Put in Your Body and Mind
Biochemically, what we choose to put into our bodies and minds is important. This might include violent TV shows, watching the news at bedtime, devouring junk food, our self-talk and any discomfort or pain.
Our input choices WILL affect us, both positively and negatively. If you watch today’s often-depressing news, don’t watch it just before you go to bed. It can adversely affect your levels of cortisol, a hormone best known for regulating our “fight or flight” processes as well as our sleep processes.
After a real or perceived danger (or an upsetting news report) passes, your cortisol level should calm down. As a result, your heart, blood pressure, etc. gets back to normal, according to WebMD. But the linked article also asks, “what if you’re under constant stress and the alarm button stays on?”
“It can derail your body’s most important functions. It can also lead to a number of health problems… “
These may include anxiety, depression and trouble sleeping.
Cortisol is thus a very big part of the sleep process. And watching the usually stressful and overhyped evening news might not be helpful toward getting a good night’s sleep. Remember, your mind continues to process even as you sleep.
5. Mind Dump
I keep a pen and pad on my night table. If I have a lot on my mind, I write it down to get it out of my head. I know that I can refer to it in the morning. It allows me to decompress and that process is calming.
6. Build Your Resilience and a Positive Mindset
Finally, follow through on your intentions and create a nightly ritual that works for you. Because of the negative slant that our brain often takes, we tend to think of what’s missing in our lives rather than focusing on what we have.
You must be intentional with your thoughts. You control your thoughts, they don’t control you.
Take command of your life. And make yourself – and a good night’s sleep – a priority.
Headline image: Image by Gerhard G. from Pixabay.
To learn more about this and other topics, here is a link to my book:
Contact: Susan Commander Samakow, PCC, CPCC
Professional Certified Coach, Facilitator, Trainer & Author
Business, Life, Leadership & Career Coaching
Positive Self-Talk/Confidence Strategies, Resilience Techniques & Transition Work
Former ICF Metro DC President
Enhanced C-IQ Coach
Ask Susan about her coaching packages and the Stress Reducing techniques she teaches: EFT (Tapping) and Breathing Exercises.