Having Trouble Falling Asleep? Try This.



What Happens When Someone Does Not Sleep Enough?

Have you ever felt irritability and mood swings after just one night of bad sleep? Now imagine having a week, a month, or even years of inconsistent sleep. It would be a terrible thing, life would become chaotic!
As Diane Augelli, M.D. and sleep expert at New York Presbyterian Hospital said, “the effects of poor sleep on cognition, memory, learning and processing can be seen with just one night of tossing and turning.”

Chronic poor and restricted sleep are known to be associated with a low immune system and the development of illness, notably cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and certain types of cancers. It compromises growth and cell repair throughout the body.

I consider sleep as my number one priority for optimal health and longevity. 

Why “Sleep Hygiene” Is So Important

Deep sleep has many benefits, it is the refreshing part of your sleep cycle, helping clear the brain for new learning the next day.
You may experience difficulties to access deep sleep if you are prone to sleep disruptions and stress, but you can create an environment that favors it with a better “sleep hygiene”. I like to call it “Evening Ritual”.

Basically, start to create and establish a regular, relaxing evening routine to help you fall asleep more easily and stay asleep. We give “sleep training” for babies. Why not for grown-ups?

In his book, “The Power of Habits“, Charles Duhig investigates the science of habit formation in our lives. He advocates our responsibility to rebuild them once we understand the underlying system: 

The first part is there’s a cue, a trigger for an automatic behavior. And then there’s a routine, which is the behavior itself, then finally a reward and the reward is how your brain learns to latch on to this pattern and make it automatic for the future."

When you design a pattern tailored to fall asleep easily, just the activation of the trigger will be enough to click you into the twilight zone.

Design an “Evening Ritual” That Works for You

What does your regular evening look like?

Why do you do certain things? What do these things bring to you?

Can you change some habits so they better serve your long-term goals?

A successful Evening Ritual for me will look like this:

Between 6 and 9 pm: “Shutdown Ritual”

I have learned this from Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, which I strongly recommend.

The time you “shut down”, is the time when you actually leave your work, whether you work from home or from an office.

The steps for this procedure are as follows:

  1. I check my emails one last time in case there is anything notified as “urgent”.

  2. I will check the boxes off my task-list for the day.

  3. I will write down my top priorities for the next day.

Once this is complete, I will shut down my computer and literally say out loud: “Shutdown complete!”

Evening Tea-Time

As we have seen above, the success of a habit lies in a reward that satisfies us. The trigger is for me to say “Shutdown complete!” (it feels great to say it and I always laugh to myself) and my reward is the tea time.

I suggest teas that are caffeine free and promote sleep such as Lavender, Chamomile, and Valerian. I am in love with Iyi Gecelar (“Good Night Tea” in Turkish). Soothing Caramel Bedtime is very popular too. Some people drink hot milk with honey! Fill your cabinet with a large variety of teas and rotate them every month so that one tea does not lose its effectiveness on your system.

NB: I suggest to not drink too much too late, or you will have to wake up multiple times!

9 pm-10:30 pm: Quality Time & Unplug

Do something that makes you happy. It could be watching a TV show, listening to music, a walk in the neighborhood. I like to “appreciate” my day and write in my Five Minutes Journal. It’s a great way to unload any residual worries and focus on the positive aspects of the day.

I turn off my digital devices around 10. As much as the phone or iPad can be an easy distraction, it is also associated with work and stress. I suggest turning it off as early as possible to connect with your home’s relaxing energies and have a quality time with your loved ones.

10:30: “Turn Down Service”

The golden rule is to retreat into the bedroom an hour before my intended sleep time, to gently prepare my subconscious mind for the night.

This concept of turn down service in some hotels always makes me smile. I only want turn down service for the piece of chocolate and because there is something to look forward to!

I brush my teeth and take a shower to clean myself from the unwanted energies of the day.

I will only read books on specific subjects that are soul-soothing but not mind stimulating. I find authors such as Thich Nhat Han, and Yogani great for this purpose because their writing style is candid. I know someone who reads cooking books.

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NB: I don’t follow this ritual perfectly every day- far from that! But keeping it in mind helps me stay mindful of what I do with my time.

Some Recommendations To Help Unwind Easier:

  • Download a free screen-dimming software for your computer such as f.lux.

  • If you don’t have a sunrise alarm clock, just use a candle. When you blow on your candle, imagine that you are conjuring all errant thoughts.

  • Upgrade your bedroom with an aromatherapy diffuser with a few drops of Lavender essential oils or spray your pillow with a Lavender Bedtime Linen Spray.

  • Keep your phone out of the bedroom. I know it’s hard (we are so attached to it, people make up all sorts of excuses and are sensitive about this point), but there’s a lot of evidence that blue light, emitted by smartphones, tablets, laptops, and many other electronic devices, is impacting on the quantity and quality of the sleep we are getting.

  • Avoid caffeine intake after 3

  • Avoid having heavy meals, or processed food.

  • Avoid going straight to bed after a movie. Have a light activity in between.

Call To Action

We all need quality recovery time -meaning consistent nights of good sleep, to wake up with clarity and perform optimally (day and night). You can start to collect habits and make a routine that is compatible with your lifestyle and your surroundings. Communicate about it with your loved ones to help them understand what you are trying to pursue.

What is the one thing that you can do today, to have a better sleep hygiene? 

If you had all the resources you need to design your ideal evening, what would it look like? How would you sleep?  

Start by writing down some ideas.

PS: If this does not work, read about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. This method may be helpful!

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