I have always been a light sleeper. Growing up, in anticipation of a fun family vacation, it was not uncommon that I would get little to no sleep the night prior. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree though, and most of the time my mom would meet me in the kitchen in the wee morning hours. We'd sit down to have a bowl of cereal together. Usually this did the trick and we'd get at least a few hours of sleep after that. During various times of my life I've dealt with bouts of insomnia or just have had difficulty falling asleep in general. One important factor is stress, which can mess with our much needed sleep.
"Sometimes we normalize events in our lives such as moving, getting a new job or getting married, not realizing that these big life changes can cause stress," says Kristine Goto, PhD, Residency Development program director at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center.
Establishing a sleep routine is also something I've realized I need to be better about in the quest to a have a good night’s rest. What is a sleep routine you ask? Below are five steps Goto recommends we implement as part of an everyday sleep routine.
- Start to unwind and get ready for bed around the same time every night
- Limit drinking caffeine to the morning hours only
- Do not make a habit of watching TV, sitting on your laptop or checking your phone while in bed. Train your body that when you lay down in bed, it's time to sleep.
- Adjust the room temperature so you’re comfortable, and try to eliminate sound or light sources (yes, even a flashing phone light can be disruptful). You may want to try a fan to drown out other sounds with white noise.
- If you are unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and do a light activity such as reading in another room, until you start to feel drowsy, and then head back to bed.
As of late I've found one trick that works really well for me when I just can't seem to turn my brain off for the night (really, brain, is it vital that I lay here thinking about the calls I need to make tomorrow? Can't it wait until morning?): I get up, go in the other room, turn on my laptop, write down a list of everything I'm mulling over and email the list to myself. Usually, once I've done this, I can relax, knowing the email will be waiting in my inbox the next morning, reminding me of everything I need to do that day.
Remember, it is recommended that adults get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. And if you find you are tired all the time despite your best efforts it may be time to get a referral to a sleep disorders center. Even if you think you can get by with less, don't cheat yourself!