Successfully wooing the elusive sleep

So it’s been like a couple of hours that you’ve hit the pillow and maybe counted over a million sheep! The mind and body are both dead tired but you’re unable to fall asleep. To add to your woes perhaps, everyone at home is fast asleep and you keep wondering what’s happening to you. The more you struggle to fall asleep, the more active your mind seems to get, bringing forth random thoughts and worries from its deepest recesses, just to keep you entertained!

For those of you who find it difficult to fall asleep immediately upon hitting the bed, the elusive sleep can become a nightmare! Sounds ironic, but it’s true. If it’s a one-off occurrence, then it’s fine, but when it becomes a regular pattern, it definitely impacts our health in more than one way. Firstly, it doesn’t allow your mind and body to feel rested enough. That results in feeling drowsy throughout the day. Secondly, with very little or no sleep, you find it difficult to focus on tasks the next day. Lack of sleep affects our cognitive abilities in a big way. All fine, you say. Now just tell me how to fall asleep within minutes. Well, it takes some efforts to achieve that.

Lights off: Throughout our evolution, human bodies have adapted to the sun’s cycle. Our circadian rhythm is aligned to the sun. For millions of years when there were no electric lights ( 😀 ) our ancestors woke up with sunrise and wound up the day with sunset. That’s why our bodies respond well to darkness and help us fall asleep when there’s no light. Dim the lights a couple of hours before bedtime. That way, even the kids are attuned to sleeping in time. Many people sleep well in pitch darkness while some need a dim light.

Check that plate: What you eat impacts your sleep habits. The old adage of breakfast like a king and dinner like a pauper goes well with sleep too. Eat light at dinnertime. Avoid spicy oily stuff and don’t overeat at night. This is the time when the brain needs all your energies to process a lot of things. So with a heavy stomach, your body is confused about allocating energy. You end up with acidity, burping, bloated stomach, frequent feeling of thirst and a mind that just refuses to shut up amidst all this. Have a super light dinner to allow your stomach finish the task quickly. If you really need to have that full dinner, make sure it’s at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. Avoid tea, coffee or alcohol before you sleep.

Grandma’s recipes: Our elders knew how to invite that eluding sleep in time. A glass of warm milk with some almonds or a quick shower with hot water works wonders to fall asleep. That’s how babies were put to sleep. Milk contains Alpha Lactalbumin which aids in the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep. Hot water induces sleep and so does cool temperatures in the room. Keep your windows open for some cool air and wrap a quilt to quickly fall asleep.

Gadget ban: Put aside all your gadgets well before you sleep. The frequent urge to check mails, messages, social media updates and the blaring TV won’t let you sleep. Even if someone else is watching the TV or checking messages, you would feel distracted.

Don’t Focus on sleep: Avoid thinking about why you’re unable to fall asleep and also don’t keep checking the watch. When you keep doing that frequently, the mind goes on alert mode and is unable to relax. Keeping a sleep tracker device is also a big no. Let the thoughts flow and don’t ponder upon any one. Soon you will realize that they have slowed down and don’t impact you anymore.

Time matters: It may sound difficult, especially for those who have to work late hours and have an erratic work schedule owing to your company working with American , European and Australian clients with different time zones. Then for those with shift duties, it’s much more difficult if the shifts keep rotating every week. But for others with a regular work time, it’s wise to maintain a fixed sleep time and stick to it. Late night soirees and unwanted entertainment can be done away with. Most successful people keep a tab on their dinner times, exercise routines and sleep timings. Sleeping early allows you to wake up early and fresh and helps accomplish more.

Active body active mind: With office goers facing sedentary lifestyle, the mind experiences fatigue but the body doesn’t. No time to exercise is an excuse that is a ticking time bomb. Find time to exercise. Walk, run, cycle, take the stairs, do bench press, spot jogging, anything that helps you move. Sleep is meant for the body to allow itself some time to rejuvenate and repair worn out muscles. If the muscles haven’t moved much, the body has no work to sleep. Exercise also releases hormones that help calm down our mind.

Worry no more: Agreed that you barely find time to think and plan for the next day and the next move in life throughout your workday. That doesn’t mean you must start that worry-factory at night when you hit the sack. Worries are like a ball of wool that gets entangled more every time you try to find an end. Keep some dedicated time for thinking, in the day. The best time is when you commute. Keep a journal of tasks to be accomplished with possible solutions and deadlines. That way, you have control over problems that bother you.

With a demanding lifestyle and endless tasks vying for your attention, the best gift we can give our mind and body is a good night’s sleep. If we deny that, it’s bound to take a toll on the quality of our life. No one wants to pay a price for that, I’m sure. So make sure you pay attention to your sleep time as much as you plan your working day!

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