“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” - Irish Proverb
“The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more.” - Wilson Mizener
I have to say that, overall, I sleep well.
Things weren’t always like that though. I often had trouble falling asleep and would twist and turn on the bed for a long time several times a week. I sometimes slept pretty badly and if I woke up in the middle of the night then it usually took me quite some time to go back to sleep.
Over the many nights and many years I have found a handful of habits that have helped me to minimize these problems and to get a good night’s rest pretty much every time.
- Regular exercise. It will release inner tensions and worries. And I sleep better when not only my mind is tired but my body too.
- Keep it cool. It may at first feel comfortable to go to bed in a warm bedroom. But I have over the years found that I tend to have fewer negative or scary dreams and sleep more calmly in a cool bedroom.
- Keep the earplugs nearby. These are a life-saver if you, like me, tend to be woken up easily by noise. I use them at home if our cats are too noisy very early in the morning. I use them while traveling if I have to share a room with a snorer or if there is loud construction work being done outside my hotel at sunrise.
- No personal development reading two hours before bed. Or any other non-fiction reading that I know will give me many new ideas or get my thoughts spinning. Reading fiction or watching a TV-show tends to work a lot better for me to wind down. I sometimes also do a bit of surfing on my smart phone. I keep the brightness of the phone low – sort of like a lightly lit page of a book – to not start feeling more awake again.
- No brightly lit TV or computer in the bedroom. By separating my life like this I make a mental separation between the places where I work or watch the TV. And the place where I sleep. This limit and association it creates in my mind makes it easier to relax and to get to into the “now-it’s time-to-sleep” mode. Instead of feeling distracted or being tempted to work just a little bit more.
- Don’t try to force going to sleep. If I’m not sleepy then I stay on the couch and keep reading to relax a bit more. I have tried forcing myself to go to sleep more times than I can remember. And it has never worked. Instead it just leads to tossing around in bed for an hour or more. So winding down for 20 extra minutes on the couch is actually a smarter choice to help me to go to sleep faster and get more sleep.
- Focus on breathing to fall asleep or to get back to sleep. If you have wound down but still have worries in your mind or thoughts spinning around as you go to bed then my most recent habit may help you out. If I have this issue or I wake up in the middle of the night and thoughts start bouncing around in my head then I focus on just my breathing for a couple of minutes. Just on the air going in and out of my nose. Nothing more. This clear 100% focus on my breathing makes any thoughts or worries disappear and both my body and mind calms down again. And I go to sleep very quickly.