Improve Your Chances for a Good Night's Sleep By Changing Your HabitsMar 11, 2023
A good night’s sleep has become an elusive dream for many of us. In the past, I found myself lying awake trying to figure out why I couldn’t sleep even though I felt sleepy.
There was no comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone in the evergrowing “lack of sleep” experience.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has declared insufficient sleep a “public health problem.” Indeed, according to a recent CDC study, more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.”
If you are into some interesting statistics on sleep problems in adults, check out this link from Sleep Foundation.
Why a good night’s sleep is important for our health.
Most of us are aware of the need for restorative sleep. Here’s a quick and simple reminder of how slumber time affects our overall well-being.
- Improves your mood and mental health
- Improves your memory and concentration
- Increases your productivity
- Improves your immune system and helps reduce inflammation
- Improves physical performance and reduces the risk of accidents
- Increases your ability to lose and/or manage your weight
- Increases your odds of living longer.
Common contributors to sleeping problems
Understanding the cause of our inability to get to sleep and/or stay asleep is important to rectifying the problem. Or at least improving our chances of getting some quality shuteye.
While there are situations where we have little or no control, we need to identify the issues over which we do have influence.
Then we need to be willing to make changes in habits that contribute to our lack of sleep problems.
Consider the following potential sleep disruptors:
- health issues and physical ailments
- age and hormonal changes
- stress and mental health issues
- caring for children or ill family members
- work schedule
- poor diet
- lack of exercise
- seasonal changes — weather, daylight hours, heat, and humidity
- overuse use of technology
- lack of comfortable sleeping space
Describe your perfect night’s sleep.
It’s so easy to come up with all the reasons we cannot get a good night’s sleep. Human beings never have a problem coming up with excuses.
I’m not pointing the finger at anyone. I’m just as guilty as the next person.
But sometimes if we approach a problem from the “what works” side of things, we become more open to potential solutions.
Maybe we should start by listing all the things that contribute to our best night’s slumber. Then create habits we can apply to manage the sleep disruptors wherever we can.
We are likely to discover we have more power over improving the odds of a good night’s sleep than we realize.
Using myself as an example, I’ll share a couple of examples of what I mean.
Reducing or eliminating pain
I’ve fought chronic shoulder pain for over two years. I would wake myself up every time I rolled over to my left side. That is if I could manage the pain enough to fall asleep.
I took so many anti-inflammatories, I started worrying about my stomach and other internal organs. The worry didn’t help me sleep better.
I started going to a massage therapist. Following his suggestions for simple stretches, breathing techniques, and mindfulness about my pain, I no longer struggle to find a comfortable position in bed.
I created a habit of stretching and breathing in a mindful way and stopped the habit of downing ibuprofen as a quick fix.
Managing stress and worry
When I feel stressed or worried about something, I write it down on my worry list instead of ruminating on the problem.
While it doesn’t solve my problems directly, as least it helps me let go of them long enough to get some decent sleep. Then I am better equipped to deal with them the next day.
Reducing work at home time
I stopped doing paperwork or computer work in bed or close to bedtime. As a teacher, this was hard to do, but what a difference it made when I set the boundary for “work hours.”
It definitely required me to be more organized at work and to say no to additional responsibilities to my workload, at school, and at home.
Developing better eating habits
Eating a healthy dinner and avoiding junk food, especially sweets, in the evening improves my ability to stay asleep.
I stopped drinking coffee in the late afternoon and evening. Coffee addict here. This was tough, but I found some flavorful herbal teas as replacements.
This habit takes willpower, for sure. Keeping a supply of healthy snacks helps, partly because they just aren’t as appealing so I don’t eat much near bedtime.
Creating a relaxing sleep space
Sending my husband’s dog to his own bed is essential for my quality of sleep. He’s a bed hog and way too big to move without getting out of bed to do it.
Many people like having their dog(s) sleep on their bed. Unless you have a very small dog, I think it’s a bad habit to get into.
Sleeping with a dog is like having one of your children sleep with you every night. No one sleeps well when they are fighting for space and blankets.
Chasing the dog off the bed may not seem like I’m changing a habit, but I definitely had to be firm about my boundaries where bedtime is concerned. After all, he’s so cute and sweet.
But I’m not when I don’t sleep well.
Limiting nighttime technology use
I enjoy watching old movies on television and I admit to falling asleep on occasion before the movie ends.
I do not watch anything with violence and gore or lots of drama and suspense. That’s my “justification.”
That being said, studies show the serious impact technology has on our sleep patterns. Television, computers, cell phones, video games, digital clocks, and even e-readers interfere with our ability to “turn off” our brains and fall asleep.
So I stopped using my computer late in the evenings. I don’t use my e-reader for nighttime reading. Lucky for me, I’m old school and prefer a real book anyway.
The television thing is hard to give up. But I’m improving.
Poor quality sleep becomes a never-ending cycle
Sleep issues make you tired. Being tired all the time lessens your ambition to make changes. Because you don’t make changes, you continue to lack quality sleep.
And so the cycle continues.
Add to that the reluctance for people to put down their phones in the evenings or give up their nighttime snacks or set boundaries on their time and energy, and we have a serious sleep situation.
As with many things in our world today, people expect quick fixes. Quick fixes often mask the problem, offering a temporary solution that can lead to other physical and mental health issues.
Undeniably there are sleep disorders that require medical attention and doctor supervision to manage.
Yet I believe for many of us, the biggest challenge we face in winning the bedtime battle is our unwillingness to change habits that negatively impact our ability to slip into a restful slumber.
A good night’s sleep allows our minds and our bodies to be restored and rejuvenation. It breaks the never-ending cycle of poor sleep, poor habits.
What habits are you willing to change to improve your odds of getting a good night’s sleep?
Feel a bit guilty for not taking better care of yourself?
Wish you had more time for it?
The Self-Care Mini-Workbook will help you discover what you are doing or could be doing to enhance your self-care practices? Give it a try for free!
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