Tossing and Turning? How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

There are problems and stressful situations that we Tip Heroes encounter every day. There are days that we just can’t wait to end. There are times when we’re so exhausted and just want to collapse. A common solution to all of these issues? A great night’s sleep to wash it all away. But what if you couldn’t sleep well or sleep at all? In my opinion, having issues with sleeping, that wonderful activity that recharges and refuels you in life, is one of the worst problems to have.

I’ve had a lot of friends complain of sleeping problems lately. And I’ve even had some issues myself. Often times when I do get a full 8 hours of sleep, I find that I’ll still wake up feeling exhausted as if I didn’t sleep at all. It’s really frustrating. So I feel it’s long overdue that I wrote an article about one of the most important things that many of us under-appreciate.

I’ve written about ways to get more energy before. But what about attacking the root of the problem here? Most of us need more energy because we don’t get enough rest when we’re supposed to. Wouldn’t it be nice to gain all of the intended benefits of sleep and not have to resort to the energy boosters at all?

First things first though. Let’s talk about what sleep has to do with money in the first place.

How Sleep Affects Your Money

Sure, you’re aware of the importance of getting enough sleep, but you may be wondering why I’m even writing about lack of sleep on Tip Hero. What does sleep, or lack thereof, have to do with money? Well, get a load of this, my friends:

  • You’re Prone to More Accidents: it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’re likely to make more mistakes when you’re exhausted. And your performance is bound to suffer at work, school and/or home if you’re trying to function as a sleep-deprived zombie.

    Also, here’s a scary fact from US News:

    Driving sleep deprived can be as dangerous as driving drunk. Anywhere from 16 percent to 60 percent of car accidents involve a sleep-deprived driver, and 30 to 40 percent of all heavy truck accidents are caused by fatigue.

  • Your Medical Expenses Can Go Up: another scary fact from US News:

    People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have health issues. People who don’t get enough sleep are 15 percent more likely to have a stroke and 48 percent more likely to develop or pass away from heart disease. Additionally, people who sleep four hours or less each night have a 75 percent higher chance of being obese due to the fact that sleep deprivation can affect appetite hormones.

  • Other Effects: sleep deprivation can easily cause you to spend more money on things like caffeine (how many cups of coffee do you need when you don’t get enough sleep?) and convenience (who wants to wash the car or cook dinner when they feel like a zombie?). US News also points to the fact that bad sleeping habits are a drain on success:

    It has been shown that employees who have insomnia cost employers $3,225 more than employees who get enough sleep. It has also been shown that students who don’t get enough sleep the night before a test don’t do as well on the test as students who do. The overall GPA of a sleep-deprived student versus a student who gets enough sleep is 2.84 as compared to 3.18.

So for your health, well-being and your money, it’s time to take charge of your sleep. It’s time to take what’s rightfully yours and what all people should be able to enjoy: rejuvenating, blissful sleep. How are you going to do that? Read on.

Attacking the Enemies of Sleep

What are the enemies of sleep? They are the things that put a huge brick wall up between you and the sleep you need and deserve. I can think of a few that I struggle with on a day to day basis. Here’s how to fight those enemies, one at a time:

Stress, Anxiety and Restlessness

  • Yoga: for years now, I’ve been a big fan of yoga. It’s the perfect way to calm your mind, breathe more deeply and get a workout all at the same time. Use gentle yoga as stress relief before bed. This will help to calm your mind, control your breathing and generally wind down.

    Here’s a video that you may find helpful:

  • Document Your Day: this is something I’ve started doing every night before bed. Taking the time to record your thoughts in a journal serves a number of purposes. Firstly, it helps you wind down without having your eyes on a computer screen or television (both of which are bad for sleep). Secondly, it helps get the worries of the day off of your mind and onto paper, hopefully giving you less to fret about in your mind. And thirdly, it’s a great way to keep track of what has helped you sleep and what hasn’t. Just make sure to keep notes about what days you slept particularly well and what you did that day.
  • Calming Music: soothing music can easily slow down your heart rate and calm you down. If you don’t have your own playlist full of soothing songs, you can find readymade stations online, like the Sleep Station on Pandora. There are even entire sites dedicated to sleep sounds and music. Just try some out and see which ones work for you.
  • Take a Hot Bath or Shower: doing either of these is a great way to relax tense muscle before you go to bed. A lot of success of this technique actually has a lot to do with body temperature:

  • There’s also this from Health Guidance:

    Hot water bath can help in giving you a good sleep, because it relaxes your body and mind. It works by slightly raising your body temperature and after 15 minutes, it starts to drop slowly. This can promote sleep indirectly. Gradual drop of body temperature can make us feel drowsy and therefore we feel more prepared for sleep. A hot bath also diverts some blood from the head to lower parts of our body, reduces brain activity and mimics the pre-sleep state.

  • Light Reading: you don’t want to read anything too dense, thought-provoking or addicting before bed (I’m having flashbacks of reading Harry Potter books well past 5am because I just HAD to know what happened next), but something light can help your mind wander a bit and therefore help drift you off to sleep.

Light and Sound

According to Ego Developement:

Light is one of the most important external factors that can affect sleep. It does so both directly, by making it difficult for people to fall asleep, and indirectly, by influencing the timing of our internal clock and thereby affecting our preferred time to sleep. Light exposure can cause our biological clock to advance or delay, which affects our sleep and wake cycle.

So since bright lights trick our body into thinking it’s day time, “awake time,” we should avoid the following before bed:

  • Computer screens
  • TV screens
  • Bright lights in the bedroom (a simple sleep mask could be helpful!)
  • Very bright alarm clocks

Stimulants

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that things like soda, coffee, caffeinated tea, chocolate and other sweets will make it difficult for you to relax. Try implementing some of these substitutions instead:

The Worst Enemy of All: Insomnia

I went through a 2 month period of insomnia in college and I’ll never forget it. I don’t know if it was the stress of having multiple activities to keep track of, the staying up until 3am writing papers 3 times a week, the strange sounds I would often hear coming from the common room off of my dorm room, or a combination of the 3. All I know was that the harder I tried to go to sleep, the more I counted sheep to no avail.

So eventually, I dragged my cranky self to the doctor who gave me some very valuable advice that eventually cured my insomnia. Here’s was my treatment plan:

  • Keep Work Out of the Bedroom: this one was tricky to manage as a sophomore in college who lived in a dorm room with 2 other girls. But I had to get out of the habit of plopping down on the bed and working out of textbooks. Apparently, working on your bed, or in your “resting place” can confuse your brain. When you try to go to sleep in that space, your brain could easily go into “work mode” and refuse to shut off – instead running through the 27 unfinished tasks you have to complete.

    So from then on, I kept the bed off-limits for schoolwork and forced myself to sit at a desk, in the library, or even out in the Boston Commons if it was a particularly nice day.

  • Cut Caffeine After 6pm: staying up until early hours of the morning doing homework in college was no easy feat. So you’d always find a bottle of Mountain Dew on my desk. Well, go figure, this was one of my biggest downfalls when it came to sleeping. The doctor told me that I should cut all caffeine intake after 6pm so that my body had a chance to relax at night. This was tough at the time, but I actually cut out caffeine altogether for a couple of weeks until better sleeping habits began to stick.
  • Drink Tea: this was something I could get on board with. I need something to sip on while I worked on papers at night. So I swapped out Mountain Dew and coffee for camomile tea. The natural ingredients in this soothing, caffeine-free tea are suppose to help relax you and help you sleep better.
  • Keep Regular Bedtime Hours: I found this one the most difficult to adhere to, but it’s important. Your body likes routines. If you keep confusing it by going to bed at a different time every night, it’s likely not going to reward you with the best nights of sleep you’ve ever had. Here’s what HelpGuide.org has to say on the subject:

    Getting back in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle – your circadian rhythm – is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep. If you keep a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, you will feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times. This holds true even if you alter your sleep schedule by only an hour or two. Consistency is important.

    So choose a time that you normally get tired and try to set that as your bedtime. If you need to adjust to this with 15 minute increments every day, try that until you’ve achieved a consistent bedtime.

  • Food Therapy: my doctor didn’t recommend any specific foods, but we featured an article from TLC about foods that help prevent insomnia a while back. Definitely worth a try!

How to Wake Up More Refreshed

This is a problem I’ve struggled with recently. I tend to fall asleep quickly lately and stay asleep (from what I remember in the morning) but I wake up feeling as tired as I did when I fell asleep. This can be just as frustrating as not sleeping at all, trust me.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned that the best way to achieve feeling well rested is to do the exact opposite of what you want to do. Instead of making your bed and sleeping area as comfortable as possible, make it a little less inviting. (Not uncomfortable, but not a place where you want to spend all of your time).

Check out this interesting article from Lifehack that talks about lowering your comfort level to get better rest in less time (and avoid the habitual inner argument about the snooze button every morning). I’ve just started keeping my room darkening curtains open so the natural light wakes me up in the morning. I’m still annoyed at the sun every morning, but like all habits, this one is going to take some time and repetition to stick.

Alright, Tip Heroes, it’s your turn. What are some of your best tricks and tips for getting a good night’s sleep? Have any helpful sleeping habits to share with us? Please do so in the comments section below. Thanks for being a Tip Hero!

Sources: Help Guide, US News, Ego Development

Photo credit: yyzphoto, vatobob

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