Hey, how tired are you right now?
Odds are, given the extremely busy lives we lead and the various stressors that we are subject to, you are pretty tired right this very minute. It may take you a moment to realize it, since for many of us, ongoing tiredness is just our everyday experience and might fade into the background of our awareness. But if we had to guess, you could use more and/or better sleep.
Quality sleep supports mental health and can be particularly important for people in recovery for a substance use disorder. So prioritizing sleep is a really good idea.
Easy for us to say, right?
Maybe you suffer from insomnia. Maybe you have nightmares. Maybe your partner or your pet (or both) disturb you during the night. Maybe you have undiagnosed sleep apnea. Maybe your mattress hasn’t been replaced since the 1990s. Maybe your neighbor’s rock band only practices at night. How in the world are you supposed to get more or better sleep?
We have some ideas.
Don’t Sleep on These Tips for Getting Better Sleep
We’re going to divide our suggestions into two lists. The first is a list of things you can do during the day to support better sleep. The second, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a list of things you can do at night to support better sleep.
- It is essential to see the light. Thinking about bright light might seem counterintuitive when the topic is getting better sleep. But sunlight is a key contributor to the regulation of your circadian rhythms. Because of this, when the sun is out, you should be, too (with appropriate sunscreen, of course). Getting outdoors and into natural sunlight is your best option, but letting plenty of light into your home or work space can be helpful, too—as can artificial lights designed to mimic sunlight.
- Don’t let caffeine be your all-day companion. It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it? You’re tired. You drink some coffee or an energy drink or a soda to get the caffeine. You feel better for a while. Then you’re tired again, so you get another jolt of caffeine. Maybe it’s mid-to-late afternoon at this point, and that caffeine is going to carry over into the evening—maybe even keep you awake when you go to bed. And then the whole cycle starts up again in the morning. A cup of coffee or tea in the morning (lay off the sugary stuff) is fine in the morning. Shift to decaf in the afternoon.
- Your sleep is what you eat. Yeah, we know that’s not how the old saying goes. But it is true nonetheless. If you eat foods that are spicy, fatty, fried, or heavy—especially in the evening or close to bedtime, you might find yourself with heartburn, which is a well-known cause of poor sleep. But a complex carbohydrate with low-fat cheese, yogurt, or milk can actually help you get to sleep. So make a nutritious choice—any time of day, but particularly in the evening.
- A daytime nap can be a nighttime problem. Listen, we love a good nap, but the fact is if you get in the habit of taking naps—especially if you sleep for more than about 30 minutes—you may be undermining your efforts to get better sleep at night. You could find yourself in the same cycle we talked about with caffeine: You take a nap to ward off tiredness. You have trouble getting to sleep at night and wake up tired in the morning. So you take a nap to battle the tiredness. And so around and around you go. So enjoy a nap now and again, but don’t sleep too long or too often during the day.
- Resist the temptation to sleep in on the weekends. It is so tempting to turn off the alarm clock and sleep until noon on the weekend. But big changes in your day-to-day sleep routine can undermine all your work establishing a helpful sleep routine. Getting up at about the same time seven days a week is your best bet for supporting good sleep over time.
- It’s all about that nighttime routine. First and foremost, set a consistent bedtime and stick to it. It can also be extremely helpful to establish a nighttime routine that signals to your body and mind that it is time to go to sleep. Make sure you don’t spend too much time looking at screens ahead of your bedtime because screen time can undermine sleep time. Writing in your journal or doing some gentle stretching or practicing mindful meditation can all be helpful parts of a successful nighttime routine. All of these things can help you avoid needing sleep aids, which can be problematic—especially if you are in recovery.
- Make your environment work for you. Your sleeping space should be free of clutter. It should also be dark and cool and quiet. Your mattress should be in good repair and your sheets, blankets, and pajamas should all be comfortable. You might find a white noise machine, soft music, or even earplugs help you shut out the world and drift off. Lots of things about our physical environment can affect our sleep.
- Turns out you shouldn’t toss and turn. If you can’t fall asleep after a half an hour or so, your best bet may be to get up for a bit. Keep the lights dim and find a quiet activity—journaling or reading may be good options. When you feel yourself getting drowsy, go back to bed.
Our Commitment to You Never Sleeps
At Peak View Behavioral Health, we are wide awake and ready to help you or a loved one with mental health disorders, substance use disorders, or both. If your struggles are keeping you up at night, today is the day to reach out to us.