Let’s face it: Sleep is often the first thing to go when you get busy, stressed, or overwhelmed. Deeming it an unnecessary part of your routine, there’s a chance you will occasionally get a mere 3-5 hours of sleep a night when stuff gets crazy. And tbh, stuff IS crazy. Whether you're working from home or really busy with family life, there are a bunch of things that could be keeping you up at night. Even the tiny things can start feeling bigger than they really are (except for sending your most recent Photo Book Series volume to print — that's beyond easy).
Not only does sleep affect your attitude, but it’s also a determining factor in your baseline health. Did you know that roughly 80% of people with mental health challenges have underlying sleep problems? When you can learn to take control of your sleep habits, then you can really get your life under control (unless the kids are home from school and then everything goes out the window).
This week, we chatted with Christine Lawler of The Peaceful Sleeper about adult sleep habits. Whether you’re not getting enough sleep, waking up at random times, or trying to improve co-sleeping with your partner, these 7 tips for improving your sleep habits will totally upgrade your evening routine.
- Don’t get overwhelmed about not getting a lot of sleep. Spending too much time and energy worrying about the fact that you’re lying in bed and not sleeping will be nothing but harmful for your relationship with sleep. This creates an unproductive association between the bed and a place where you lie awake and stress. You can then easily tell yourself, “I don’t sleep well and the bed is the place where I’m not sleeping,” which naturally causes you to associate the bed with stress. According to Lawler, “becoming a ‘clock watcher’ and just reminding yourself every passing minute that you’re still awake will only be harmful for your sleep habits moving forward.” Relax your mind, rest your eyes, and stop worrying about how much sleep you are or aren’t getting.
- If you aren’t sleeping, get out of bed. Lawler suggests that you shouldn’t go to bed until you feel like you can fall asleep within 15 and 30 minutes. You may be thinking, “If I waited to get into bed until I could fall asleep that quickly, I wouldn’t be in bed until the wee hours of the night, if at all!” However, Lawler says that, as you try to implement this practice, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you feel your body get tired and want to go to sleep. The bed should be where you sleep, not where you scroll.
- Don’t fight the optimal sleep window. “Thinking back to the beginning of humankind, there weren’t lights, late night activities, and TV shows to keep people awake,” Lawler says. As a result, when the sun went down, that’s when people went to sleep. Even now, when the sun goes down, our body’s natural melatonin hormone kicks in and tells us to start winding down and get to bed. However, when you're tired and you choose to push through those natural chemicals, your body is assuming that you need an extra boost of adrenaline for some reason. When you have pushed through that optimal sleep window, you then have competing chemicals and at this point it’s best to just stay out of bed so you don’t lay there aimlessly.
- Don’t let sleep aids become your go-to. Who doesn’t want results without having to put in any work? But, you should know that sleep habits (like any healthy habit) have to follow a routine in order for them to work. Also, an aid is not a cure-all, so make sure you keep your use of sleeping aids in check. Lawler notes that if you consistently take sleep aids, you can become dependent on them and it might be harder to build healthy habits. Natural, scientifically proven sleep habits are the best approach for healthy sleep patterns.
- Fall asleep and stay asleep. There is often a mismatch between how much you are actually sleeping and how much time you are giving yourself to sleep. If you’re only sleeping 5 hours a night, but you lay in bed for at least 8 hours, you need to tell yourself that your new bedtime is 12:30 AM rather than 10:30 PM. You’ll be spending less time tossing and turning before actually sleeping and playing a little trick on your brain. Here’s how: This new problem of “how am I going to stay up until 12:30” will make you more tired more quickly and can solidify healthier, longer sleeping habits. Lawler simply states: When your brain is motivated by scarcity, you’ll learn new habits.
- Have an affirmation. Battling stressful dreams also comes with battling adrenaline surges and struggling to go back to bed. When you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, it’s best to get out of bed, change your scenery, and remind yourself that everything is ok. Lawler’s favorite affirmation statement is: “I am here, I am now, I am safe”. This allows you to come back to your environment and be present, giving you an opportunity to get back to bed.
- Create an optimal sleep environment. According to Lawler, having a comfortable mattress and sheets that don’t make you too hot are essential to having an ideal night’s rest. Optimal sleeping temperature ranges from 68 to 72 degrees. This makes it possible to have a comfortable sleeping temperature where you can be under the covers, snuggled up, and not feeling too hot or cold.
Listen to this episode of The MomForce Podcast to hear more of this discussion about sleep. Christine Lawler also offers certified sleep instruction on her website The Peaceful Sleeper. You can find her on Instagram @the.peaceful.sleeper.