Getting Better Sleep

Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Not getting enough sleep is a common problem for those of use with chronic illness, so that’s what I’m going to be talking about today. We run around sleep deprived and stressed out. This takes a heavy toll on our bodies and degrades our health. The most important thing that you can do to improve your health is to improve your sleep.

The first thing to mention is the paradox that the more tired you are, the less likely you are to sleep well. This is why it is essential that you listen to your body and sleep when you’re tired. If you can’t sleep at that time, consider taking a nap to boost your energy. If you stay awake through this call for sleep, you are likely to hit that “second wind” which makes it much more difficult to fall asleep later.

The key to good sleep really is listening to your body and sleeping when it tells you to. The problem is that American society has us set up to fail. Not many work places are going to let you take a nap. But consider using your 1/2 hour break for that. Eating small snacks on your 15 minute breaks and getting in a nap might be the solution to your work fatigue.

Reducing your stress goes a long way to improving your sleep. There are a billion posts out there on stress reduction and coping skills (some are mine :P) so I’m not going to get into stress reduction practices in this post. But I will mention that you should use your stress busting skills and get into relaxation mode about an hour before trying to go to sleep. Do something that is relaxing but not overly engaging. Mediation is a great option.

Healthy eating equates to healthy sleep. Eating the proteins in the morning and having a light supper will improve your sleep. It is a good idea to eat at least an hour before you go to sleep. Avoid foods that will produce heart burn. However, given that we have chronic illness, there are numerous factors to consider when looking at your diet and how you should manage it in context of your sleep. But the idea is that you don’t want your body needing food or drink during the time while you are sleeping. Yet, we need to make sure that our blood sugars remain controlled and that we are avoiding triggering our other crap. Seriously, I get it, this one is easier said than done.

Embrace your sleep. Set your alarm clock for when you want to get up but then don’t count the hours. It isn’t about how many hours you sleep but about the quality of sleep you get. Just lay down with the goal to rest. Just relax yourself and close your eyes. Listen to relaxing music. Focus on your breathing. Don’t fight the anxious thoughts and worries that like to creep in when we lay down. Acknowledge that they are there and let them be. Keep focusing on your breathing and let those thoughts peek in. Just breathe. Sleep will find you. Breathe.

When we focus on how many hours we are sleeping, we create an anxiety relationship with our sleep. Keep in mind that while sleep is important resting is also good for us and can often carry a good way when we are lacking in sleep. Resting is about trying to focus on doing nothing with our bodies and reducing the amount of stress that we are experiencing. Relaxation techniques can be very helpful for this.

And I get it. The whole sleep thing is easier said than done. If getting enough sleep was easy there wouldn’t be thousands of blog posts out there about how to improve your sleep. Right? That’s why I want you to keep some important key facts in mind.

  • The most important is that your sleep doesn’t have to be perfect in order to benefit.

We easily fall into the all or nothing thinking, but that’s a trap. Our bodies are really pretty good at doing well with less than perfect living conditions. If they didn’t, our species simply wouldn’t have survived as long as it has. Keep that in mind while you are trying to get to sleep. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

  • Some sleep is always better than no sleep.

Instead of saying that you “only got X hours of sleep” try rephrasing it as “I was able to sleep X hours.” Celebrate every hour of sleep that you are able to get. This shift in attitude and perspective can help with sleep related anxiety.

  • Resting is better than nothing.

Remind yourself that allowing your body to rest and working on reducing your stress is better than nothing. No, it isn’t as restorative as getting sleep, but there are benefits to resting. One of which is that when we are resting we are much more likely to fall asleep than when we are doing any other activity. Thus, one of the best things that we can do to promote good sleep is to practice our resting.

  • Keep in mind that sleeping takes time and practice to get right.

Sleeping is just like every other activity that we engage in. Practice will make us better at it. Don’t be afraid to try new things out when what you are doing is not working for you. Practicing rest will go a very long way to increasing your sleep potential.

So, all of that being said, what is resting? Because it’s pretty important. I’d argue that resting is as important to our health as sleeping. Yet this isn’t an activity that we talk about much.

cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.

Oxford Dictionary

The two key pieces to resting are stillness and relaxation. What is relaxing to you may not be to me. This is another area that you are probably going to have to try some different things to see what will work for you. There are a lot of different things that you can try. Relaxation techniques are one option. You could also try listening to music or someone reading a story or pod cast.

Many people benefit from active day dreaming while they are resting. This is simply the process of telling yourself a pleasant story to yourself in your mind. It might be imaging that dream vacation or recalling a perfect day at the beach. It could be retelling yourself one of your favorite childhood stories. There is only one rule to this: keep things focused on the positive and happy stuff. If you find your mind has wandered to an unhelpful area, that’s ok. Just gently bring it back to something pleasant.

Generally, I’d recommend keeping it limited to things that you can do with your eyes closed. When we keep our eyes open, we risk being tempted by visual stimulus around us. If you see your phone, you may become tempted to start looking at your emails rather then resting. If you see your console, you may become tempted to start playing video games instead of resting. Just keep in mind that if it requires any part of your body to be moving, it’s not resting. Stillness really is an essential part of this.

For many people, stillness is really hard. We spend most of our lives moving. Our society is focused on keeping us moving. Thus, it is very likely that this is going to be an area that you will need a lot of practice with. But, it is something that we can learn to do. It is just like learning to write or ride a bike. We need only continue to engage in the task in order to train our bodies how to complete the task. Given time, it does become easier. Be sure to stay patient with yourself while you are learning. And keep reminding yourself that it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

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