"If you don't snooze, you lose."

Matthew Walker

"The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night's sleep" 

E. Joseph Cossman

"“When the going gets tough, the tough take a nap.”

—Tom Hodgkinson

"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”

—Irish Proverb

"Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I’m reborn.”

—Mahatma Gandhi

What could have a higher priority than enough good sleep? 

After getting enough oxygen, nothing is a higher priority for SelfCare than being well rested.

Yet in our Next-dominated life, enough good sleep often battles to get even some bed crumbs.

Not only does lack of adequate sleep degrade the enjoyment and quality of our everyday lives, it also compromises our effectiveness, our immune system, our health, our longevity, and our relationships with others.

Why, might you ask, would we rank getting enough good sleep at anything less than the highest priority?

The answer is that we have designed our life with accomplishment and getting results as the highest priority. More accomplishment is always better. "Do this. Do that. Higher standards, Be excellent. Try harder. Achieve your dream." Often we have over committed ourselves into a box and we see no way to get out of it. Check out lifestyle first; results second to begin to see a way out of this dilemma. 

But even inside of a Next-dominated life, sleep should have the highest priority. Enough good sleep is an essential part of the foundation that supports everything else that Next wants to have. 

For myself, usually into bed by about 7.00pm, I get up at 2.00am. I am refreshed and get a lot done until about 11.15am. Then I take a one-to-two hour nap. After my nap, I'm waking up to a fresh new day. (Note: I'm not recommending my particular getting-enough-sleep routine. It just works for me.)

Methods and approaches (to get enough sleep and be well rested)

Being complete for the day

If your mind chatter at bed time is like,

  • "Oh, I didn't get that done today....

  • "I'm behind on this...

  • "Am I going to be able to catch up with things tomorrow?...

  • "I'm feeling nervous about talking with my boss tomorrow..."

then that's likely to interfere with you getting to sleep or having a good night's rest.

This is another reason Now-Next integrity (see the NNI toolkit) is fundamentally important. If your Now and your Next are not on the same page, you'll feel incomplete and unsatisfied with your day and that's likely to interfere with sleeping.

Un-resisting your fear (and choosing courage)

Related to, but upstream from that, are problems with resisted fear. Stress, feeling pressured, feeling overwhelm, worry, anxiety, and guilt: these are all forms of resisted fear. If needed, in preparation for sleeping, use undoing fear, undoing worry, undoing perfectionism, undoing expectations, undoing stress, undoing pressure, undoing guilt, or even undoing seriousness (see the CCC toolkit). This is not only needed for a good night's sleep, but also foundational for everything else in your life.

Worrying you're not going to get to sleep (soon) or to get enough sleep

Even if you're not worried about anything thing else, you may be "tossing and turning in bed," worrying about how soon you're going to be able to fall asleep and thinking that you're "wasting time."

Again, use undoing fear (more easily and silently in your head, not out loud), with something like,

"Holy cats and jeepers creepers, I'm so scared I won't fall asleep soon" or

"Holy cats and jeepers creepers, I'm so scared I won't get enough sleep and I'll be tired tomorrow" or

"Holy cats and jeepers creepers, I'm so scared I'll just lie in bed wasting time" or

"Holy cats and jeepers creepers, I'm so scared I can't decide clearly whether to stay in bed longer or just get up and do something until I'm really sleepy."

Change your intention

When our intention is to "fall to sleep as soon as possible," then, when we don't, we're likely to worry or feel frustrated. Create a new intention (this may take some practice): allow yourself to just lie in bed, feeling relaxed and comfortable, letting go of any intention to get to sleep (with lights out and no other distractions). If you do that, then you are achieving your "goal" of enjoying lying in bed. And the goal you let go of (getting to sleep) will more likely occur than if you were intending to do that.

Intend to do nothing

This would be a special way to change your intention. To understand this process, see undoing something.

Meditate

This simple meditation practice uses a mantra. It will naturally and easily calm your mind, gently moving it away from other mind-chatter that interferes with falling asleep.

 

If you haven't learned about mantra-oriented meditation, the approach is simple and gentle. First you need a "mantra," in case you don't already have one. Don't get too fussy about it. Just choose some simple word you like that has a soothing feeling to it. Or you could do a bit of research on the Internet to see what you find there that is appealing to you.

Start repeating the word silently in your mind, slowly, gently and comfortably. You may notice that you "forgot" and stopped repeating the word. No problem. That's also part of the meditation process (if that doesn't ever happen, it means you're a super meditation guru already...if such exist). When you notice that you're no longer repeating your mantra, then you start repeating it freshly again. Continue this relaxing "loop" as long as you like (or until you wake up in the morning and discover that you feel asleep while doing it). Personally (this is not necessarily a recommendation), I use the words "one" and "two" as my mantra words. I combine them with "counting my breaths." I say "one" (silently to myself) when I breathe in. I say "two" when I breathe out. Again and again. 

Getting bored right before turning off the lights

Some people find this works. Read a boring book (one woman I know who hates math reads a math book). Or you could watch a really boring video, where nothing is really happening. You can search for these on Google.

Hot soak bath before bed

This does wonders for me (I got this idea from Tim Ferriss). I actually do this twice each day, once before bed in the evening, but also before my nap in the late morning (around 11:15am). This method helps me fall quickly to sleep, usually within five to ten minutes.

I've got an alarm (I use Alexa) that tells me when to start filling the tub at a standard time each day. I fill my bathtub with water at the hottest setting: my hot water heater is set at 122 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 50 degree centigrade). I fill the tub as full as possible so that most of my body can be under the water. You would need to experiment with how warm/hot the water should be for you. Since it takes 12 minutes to fill the tub, I have another alarm to tell me when to go to turn off the water (it's foolish to rely on my mind to automatically think of turning off the water). Of course, I do other things while the tub is filling.

The lights are turned low in the bathroom and everything is ready for me in the bedroom, with lights already off. I have my "bed clothes" ready to put on when I get out of the tub.

I have an LCD display clock in my bathroom. My hot-bath soaking time is eight minutes. I could use a timer, but hearing the alarm of it would be counter-productive. Completely naked, I easily lower myself into the relaxing hot water. I notice the current time and add eight minutes. Everything is complete for me. There is nothing to do but relax and let my mind wander or whatever. If I happen to think of the time, I will glance at the clock to see if the time is up. Sometimes I go over a bit...it's no big deal. Sometimes I fall half asleep in the tub, but then I'll wake up and see it's time to get into bed. Out of the tub, I towel off and put on my bed clothes, and get directly into bed.

For myself, my standard alarm wakes me every morning at 2.00am. For my late morning/afternoon nap, I don't set an alarm. I allow my body to tell me when I've gotten enough sleep. Typically my nap will last at least an hour and never more than two hours.

I add epsom salt to my hot bath. I know the hot bath is effective by itself, but the epsom salt (which contains magnesium) probably helps also. Regardless, the epson salt has other health benefits.

Caution: your bathroom could be the most dangerous room in your house. I have extra non-slip strips both inside and outside my bathtub. I've also created the mental habit of being especially present to how I am moving my body when I am getting into and out of my bathtub (and moving around the bathroom). 

If you don't have a bathtub and it's not feasible to get one, some relaxing benefit could still be derived from taking a hot shower. Just for the relaxing effect of the hot water; don't use soap or get your hair wet.

Are you are a lark or a night owl?

Some surveys say about 75% of people identify themselves as either a morning or evening person, leaving 25% for neither. Women (48%) over men (39%) see themselves more as a lark. And older people are more likely to be larks over those under 30 who lean towards being a night owl.

As much as feasible (everything is a cost/benefit option), design your regular sleeping schedule to reflect your genetic tendencies.

 

As you may have guessed, I'm a morning person! Indeed, I am! In contrast, my assistant Heidi is an evening person. We've arranged her work hours to start at 11am each day, when she arrives at the office (it takes her only 17 minutes to walk to work from her home). She'll do some work at home later in the evening, after leaving the office around 5pm. This schedule, Monday through Friday, works quite well for both of us.

How much sleep do you need?

The "experts" seem to claim that everyone needs 7-8 hours. This may be true for a large majority of people. But these experts seem to be either ignoring or denying the outliers. I have met a few people over my lifetime (very few) who were doing fine on 3-4 hours a night. In contrast, Einstein needed over 10 hours of sleep each night. Additionally, he took one or more naps during the day.

One problem of blindly listening to experts is that you will take their assertions as a "should" or a fact that applies to everyone, rather than being sensitive to your own body and adjusting accordingly. I much more trust my own ability to know whether or not I have gotten enough sleep and am well rested.

Many of us, however, don't pay close attention to what our body is "trying to tell us." We only "hear it" when it starts screaming or after the damage is done. Often this source of lack of self awareness is our deficit of Now-Now integrity and Oneself-Others integrity. Especially when either our Next or our Others is dominating, we're likely to ignore or suppress what our body is trying to tell us.

Other factors that may interfere with our ability to accurately listen to our bodies is our use of stimulants or sleeping pills. Stimulants (coffee or stronger), especially when taken nearer to bedtime, can interfere with our ability to know whether or not we need more rest and sleep. Note: the half-life of coffee's stimulating effect is measured for most at about five hours. Sleeping pills (like Ambien), while helping us get to sleep, may interfere with the quality and depth of our sleep.

Regularity of bedtime and waking times

In general, a certain level of regularity is conducive to being well rested. Unresolved conflicts between Now and Next can play havoc with maintaining a level of regularity.

For many, in the evening their Now may dominate by saying, "Okay, let's just finish this movie before I turn off the lights." Or your Next may even dominate, "I can't go to sleep without getting these things done."

Then, especially if you didn't get to sleep at the regular time, your Now may dominate by insisting on more time in bed in the morning.

Again, if you haven't strategically designed your days with Now-Next integrity, you're going to encounter this problem again and again.

But on the more tactical level, let me tell you about the understandings I have in place (that work for me) between Dwight-Now and Dwight-Next regarding getting into and out of bed.

My evenings are Dwight-Now downtime, doing whatever he wants to do, usually either watching some entertainment videos/TV series/movies or reading a novel...whatever. But we have a general intention to become aware of when any (even small) feelings of sleepiness occur. This is my signal to start filling the bathtub with hot water (which generally takes 12 minutes). Once the tub is full, I usually finish up an episode of something, or continue with a video, but no longer than 15-20 minutes. The tub water has cooled a bit, but is still hot enough. I soak in the tub for eight minutes, then into my bed clothes and right into bed, lights off. Both Dwight-Next and Dwight-Now are happy with this routine.

My alarm goes off at 2am (fairly often I awake before this). When I wake up, if there were no prior understandings between Dwight-Now and Dwight-Next, then typically Dwight-Now would just want to stay in bed longer, maybe try to get back to sleep. But this is the agreement they have (we used the five-minute trial approach to reach this agreement). Dwight-Now agrees to get out of bed immediately, under the following condition: if after five minutes of getting out of bed and starting my day, Dwight-Now still wants to get back into bed, then Dwight-Next will agree and be totally okay with that. Almost always, within five minutes of being out of bed, Dwight-Now is happy with what we're doing and doesn't want to return to bed. On the occasion that he does, then we're back into bed (because we really do need some extra sleep), usually with a new alarm time set.

If you're just lying in bed and not sure how soon you might fall asleep and you keep debating with yourself whether or not you should get out of bed

Yes, getting out of bed and doing something for a while until you're fairly certain you can quickly get to sleep may sometimes be the best approach. But the indecisiveness of whether or not to get out of bed can be a problem in itself. This is how I solve this problem whenever it arises. 

I glance at the bedside LED clock, calculating what time it will be in another 20 minutes. Then I relax. If later, I am still awake and suspect that 20 minutes has passed, I'll glance at the clock confirming that. If it has, then I will immediately get out of bed. Of course, if I never glance at the clock again and confirm that 20 minutes has passed, that means I have fallen fast asleep. Either way this issue of indecisiveness has been solved.

Supplements or drugs to aid in sleep

Although I would never claim that drugs (like Ambien) should never be used as a sleep aid, since the downsides of such drugs are well documented, I have done (and will do my best) to address the issue of being well rested without resorting to the use of such drugs. So far I've been successful in doing that.

Non-drug supplement are likely to have much less unwanted side-effects, if any at all. Possibilities include melatonin, lavender, GABA, valerian, CBD oil, glycine, chamomile, 5-HTP, passionflower, magnesium, tart cherry juice, and magnolia bark. I've experimented with some of these. Currently, except for ensuring that I get enough magnesium (including the epsom salts in my hot soak), I don't use any other supplements as sleep aids. 

Although it doesn't fall into the supplement category, a cup of warm milk before bed is helpful for some.

Environment and evening routine (so important)

 

Winding down

Several types of activities may contribute to difficulties in falling asleep if they occur too close to bedtime:

  • a large meal

  • vigorous exercise

  • listening to energetic music, watching a stimulating video or reading an exciting book

  • background noise that is irritating or distracting

  • using a device (without blue blockers) near bed time (mobile phone, computer, or TV) that emits a lot of blue spectrum light, which our body interprets as morning light (time to wake up!)

  • having a disagreement with someone

A bed or bedroom partner

Some people sleep better with their partner. But many do not. Several factors may contribute to this cost:

  • You don't feel completely comfortable or safe with your partner

  • You naturally want to adjust your sleep routine to that of your partner, but it's not the best one for you

  • They get into bed (or turn off the light) later than you do

  • They move or make sounds during the night

  • When they get up for the toilet, it disturbs you

  • They awake earlier than you do

  • You're concerned that your sounds or movements may disturb them

  • Their smell is unpleasant to you

If your sleep quality could improve with more distance between you and your partner (separate beds or separate bedrooms), figure out how you could do that. A Partnership Conversation with them about this might be in order. Special note: this could also improve the overall relationship with your partner. As the Chinese proverbs says, "Distance creates beauty." If your partner is a romantic one, this is also likely to increase the level of hunger and desire between the two of you.

The bedroom environment

  • Lights off or very low. Even night lights can be problematic for some. Since I take daytime naps, I've got light-blockers over my bedroom windows.

  • All devices that may emit sound during the night (like your mobile phone) either turned off or removed from the bedroom. For some this may be a choice of courage. "Oh, what if someone really needs to reach me?!" Many of us allow ourselves to be too much "on call." I tell my clients to feel free to call me 24/7. They'll get my voice mail if it's my sleep time (or even my Dwight-Now time).

  • For some a device that plays a guided sleep meditation, some white or pink noise, or sounds of gentle rain may help in relaxation and sleep.

  • You should have a clear understanding with the other members of your household who may be awake when you're sleeping about which conditions count as "emergencies" where they can wake you up and which ones don't (.I read that Hitler may not have been very clear with his subordinates about this condition: he told them to never wake him up no matter how bad things were going with the war. Overall, more importantly, he wasn't prioritizing SelfCare, getting himself into that war and all).

A special thing that I do (in the winter time)

I leave my electric blanket on all the time, except when I'm in bed. I turn it on when I get out of bed and turn it off as I am getting into bed. It's placed underneath the bottom sheet. Not having to wait for my body to warm things up under the blankets helps me get to sleep more quickly.

Young mothers (and sometimes fathers), especially those mothers who are breast feeding

Good luck on getting adequate rest during the first two-three years after your child is born! Some babies can make it much more problematic than others. All I can suggest is to try to put as much structure in place and to get as much help and support from others as possible to assist you in getting yourself through this and still get adequate rest. You may need to choose some courage to allow your baby to be taken care of by others who may not have your abilities or share fully your beliefs regarding taking care of your baby. But even with a small baby, remember that your #1 job is to take care of yourself.

Shift work

If your job requires you to work other than the day shift, you can probably adjust your sleeping routines to still get adequate rest. But only if the shift you work rarely, if ever, changes. And also if you don't adjust your sleeping schedule on your days off.

 

However, if you regularly change from one shift to another, I have no suggestions except to find a way out (soon). Having a life is more important than making a living. Many studies have shown how damaging such a "life style" can be to your health and mortality rate.

Various methods that others suggest to get to sleep more quickly

Currently I don't use any of the following. But you could experiment with one of more of them to notice whether they are helpful for you. A little investment with a big payoff, if any of them work for you. Most of these were copied from healthline.com.

The military method

  1. Relax your entire face, including the muscles inside your mouth.

  2. Drop your shoulders to release the tension and let your hands drop to the side of your body.

  3. Exhale, relaxing your chest.

  4. Relax your legs, thighs, and calves.

  5. Clear your mind for 10 seconds by imagining a relaxing scene.

  6. If this doesn’t work, try saying the words “don’t think” over and over for 10 seconds.

  7. Within 10 seconds, you should fall asleep!

4-7-8 breathing method

  1. Let your lips part slightly and make a whooshing sound as you exhale through your mouth.

  2. Then close your lips and inhale silently through your nose. Count to 4 in your head.

  3. Then hold your breath for 7 seconds.

  4. After, exhale (with a whoosh sound) for 8 seconds.

  5. Avoid being too alert at the end of each cycle. Try to practice it mindlessly.

  6. Complete this cycle for four full breaths. Let your body sleep if you feel relaxation coming on earlier than anticipated.

Relaxation script

  1. Raise your eyebrows as high as possible for 5 seconds. This will tighten your forehead muscles.

  2. Relax your muscles immediately and feel the tension drop. Wait 10 seconds.

  3. Smile widely to create tension in your cheeks. Hold for 5 seconds. Relax.

  4. Pause 10 seconds.

  5. Squint with your eyes shut. Hold 5 seconds. Relax.

  6. Pause 10 seconds.

  7. Tilt your head slightly back so you’re comfortably looking at the ceiling. Hold 5 seconds. Relax as your neck sinks back into the pillow.

  8. Pause 10 seconds.

  9. Keep moving down the rest of the body, from your triceps to chest, thighs to feet.

  10. Let yourself fall asleep, even if you don’t finish tensing and relaxing the rest of your body.

Tell yourself to stay awake

  • Also called paradoxical intention, telling yourself to stay awake may be a good way to fall asleep faster.

  • For people — especially those with insomnia — trying to sleep can increase performance anxiety.

  • Research has found that people who practiced paradoxical intention fell asleep faster than those who didn’t. If you often find yourself stressed out about trying to sleep, this method may be more effective than traditional, intentional breathing practices.

Spirit gate technique

  1. Feel for the small, hollow space under your palm on your pinky side.

  2. Gently apply pressure in a circular or up-and-down movement for 2 to 3 minutes.

  3. Press down the left side of the point (palm facing) with gentle pressure for a few seconds, and then hold the right side (back-of-hand facing).

  4. Repeat on the same area of your other wrist.

Inner frontier gate technique

  1. On one palm facing up, count three finger-widths down from your wrist crease.

  2. With your thumb, apply a steady downward pressure between the two tendons.

  3. You can massage in circular or up-and-down motion until you feel your muscles relax.

Wind pool technique

  1. Interlock your fingers together (fingers out and palms touching) and open up your palms to create a cup shape with your hands.

  2. Position your thumbs at the base of your skull, with thumbs touching where your neck and head connect.

  3. Apply a deep and firm pressure, using circular or up-and-down movements to massage this area.

  4. Breathe deeply and pay attention to how your body relaxes as you exhale.

Isometric relation technique

  1. Lay on your back.

  2. Contract all muscles in your body at once.

  3. ...gently (without movement).

  4. Hold muscle contraction for 5-10 seconds.

  5. Let it go.

Book recommendation: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker

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