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Ease into the list. Don’t expect yourself to find all of these suggestions right for you and don’t cram them all in immediately. Start by picking out one or two (or more if you’re comfortable) and seeing what happens. Then build on it by adding more later. Just give it time.
Like me, you may never see excellent sleep, but each step below can add just a bit more time. I still have my very rough nights, but now sometimes get as much as 7 hours. That’s excellent progress for an insomniac.
When I was an Athiest, I would have cringed at this sentence, but now it’s just simple truth backed by years of experience and experimentation; the first two points below are my most important and most effective ways of getting better sleep.
1. Follow Christ. I know this sounds weird and it's definitely not something you’re going to hear in a sleep therapist's office. But then sleep therapists did not write the manual to life. It never fails, never. Every day I live more like Christ demonstrated; that’s followed by a night of better sleep. When I do not listen to God and the examples of Christ, I always sleep worse. That data never changes.
"It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep."
- Psalm 127:2 KJV
2. Read the Bible. Start reading at least 30 minutes before you plan on going to sleep. If you wake in the middle of the night, read again. Since childhood I’ve had serious sleep issues. Of all the sleep therapy I’ve had, of all the different prescriptions I’ve tried, nothing has worked as well as this. Sometimes I have to try several times, but overall I will always sleep better this way. It's hard to sleep in a world full of spiritual turmoil, but easier when we clear a bedtime path with one of the best tools God has given us. See my article The Bible - What is it and how do I Read?
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
- Hebrews 4:12.
3. Pray for God to show you the root of the sleep problem. It might sound weird, but God will actually help you get to the root of any problem. Just be open. He may point out some comforts that you may not want to give up. But he never lets us down and will always give usable information. See my collection on Effective Prayer
4. Stop being afraid. I spent years not sleeping well. During the periods when I would get decent sleep, I kept telling myself I’d never let insomnia happen again. Because I was afraid to loose sleep, my sleep was damaged by simply worrying about it. I had to stop thinking about every minute I was loosing. After accepting that everyone looses some sleep here and there, I felt more relaxed and was able to get to sleep easier.
5. Keep stress in check, in general. Keeping lower stress rates during every-day life will give you a stronger, more peaceful baseline to work off of at night. This can be hard for a Christian. So I’ve compiled a set of articles and media that can help with this, seen here. See my collection on Personal Peace.
6. Avoid adrenaline fed media for at least 2 hours before bed. No stories about rough things like war, legal issues, financial stuff or car crashes. Any music should be calm and relaxing. No films or television shows that are angering or full of action. A ton of media out there is laced with things like hidden satanic symbolism and the like. Not good for a person striving toward Christianity, actually, not good for anyone. We may accept it in some areas of life, but night time is one of the worst for it.
7. Get away from electronics. Yes, I need my computer, I used it to type this stuff, but I don’t hug it while I’m sleeping. Okay seriously, EMF (Electromagnetic Frequency) is often given off in overdose from many electronic devices, and proven to cause mental states like fight-or-flight in many people.
Get as far away from as many electronics as possible, especially devices that have WiFi turned on.
Because sleep can be such a hard venture for some, I will keep going below with bonus information.
1. Don’t look at the clock, it’s evil. Okay that’s a joke. I don’t think clocks are evil, but they can feel that way when trying to sleep. If you need an alarm, set it and turn the clock around. For an insomniac, a clock is just a reminder of how much sleep we’re losing.
2. Talk to a doctor about a referral to a sleep specialist. Many times, sleep issues are pretty straight forward and often stem from things that can be fixed without a lot of worry. However, there are sleep disorders, like Sleep Apnea; they can require medical supervision. They are often easily treated, but can be dangerous and even deadly without proper help. A sleep specialist can help you sort these things out and build a plan to fix them.
3. Sleep Restriction and timing. Keeping roughly the same schedule helps keep your body from getting confused. Try to go to bed at about the same time every night. Waking up at the same time every morning, even if you’ve lost some sleep is the most important part of this. Getting up at the same time will help train your body back into a good schedule. Not only this, but if you force sleep loss, eventually your body will get into a groove of needing sleep so badly, you’ll fall asleep easier.
4. Avoid alcohol, sugar, nicotine and caffeine, at least five hours before bed. Yes, alcohol can help you get to sleep. It also has an effect that wears off in the middle of the night and wakes the body up. Nicotine, sugar and caffeine are stimulants.
5. Regular exercise. Even just a 20 minute walk can help. Finish all exercise at least two hours before bed. Light stretching for at least ten minutes, 30–60 minutes before you go to bed can also help you sleep.
6. Take slow deep breaths after laying down. Before or after laying down, take between three and four slow, deep breaths.
7. The 15 minute rule. If you’ve been laying in bed for around 15 minutes and cannot get to sleep, get up. Go do something outside the bedroom, usually for at least 20 – 30 minutes. Do something mild like reading, playing a small, easy game like solitaire or anything that keeps your mind and body calm.
After the 20 — 30 minutes try going to bed again. This has helped me tremendously. It can take me as many as three tries, but usually I get to sleep after just one or two. But see step 2 on the first list above. Reading the Bible has almost completely eliminated the need for the 15 minute rule.
8. Make the sleeping area dark. Almost any kind of light can trigger the body’s response to wake up. That’s because Melatonin (the chemical produced by the brain to leads the body to Slumber Town) gets cut off the more light that is present. I sometimes put a blanket on top of the blinds every night. Also, when we have control over it, there are no lights on in our bedroom at night, none, not even from surge protectors. This makes it very dark, even in the morning. It may sound a bit drastic, but insomniacs need every edge we can get.
9. Make the sleeping area cool. If you can, drop the temperature to at least 1-2 degrees cooler than you normally have during the day. If you need to, use a blanket. Anything that is cooler is slower, that includes the human body.
10. Comfort. A bed that is made well will make it much easier to sleep. Newer pillows help too. If you’re constantly having to fluff or turn them, it’s a good sign they need to be replaced. When purchasing a new bed, bring a book or other relaxing activity. Lay in each bed you are looking at for at least ten minutes. Otherwise you won’t get the full effect until you bring it home. Keeping bedding clean and fresh smelling also helps. Loose fitting, soft clothing is also beneficial.
11. Build a routine. Even if it’s simple, it can still help your body remember when it’s time for bed. The important thing is to put your actions in the same order each night.
12. Avoid stressful interactions with others, at least two hours before bed time. If you know a phone call or personal conversation will involve anything that gets the blood moving, put it off until the next day, whenever possible.
13. Spend less time in the bedroom. As much as possible, avoid the bed and bedroom unless it’s for sleep. This will help your routine become more categorized and efficient. In this way, you can program your body to react to the bedroom as more of a place to sleep than anything else.
14. Avoid eating a lot of food or drinking a lot of fluids, two hours before bedtime. Heavy digestion or a full bladder will keep the body awake. You can’t sleep on the toilet, not efficiently at least.
15. Do not nap. It can have the same effect as getting up late. After napping, your body will be able to hold off on sleep until later. If you have to, cut down slowly. Reduce your nap time by 15–20 percent for a few days, then repeat until naps are gone. For example; If you take a 30 minute nap, reduce it to 25 minutes. Three days later, reduce it to 20 minutes. Three days later, reduce it to 15 and so on until it’s completely gone. The goal is to gather your sleep needs into one time frame.
16. Don’t go to bed hungry. A rumbling gut is a great way for your body to stay awake. Eating something small, like a piece of fruit or a piece bread, right before bed can make a big difference. If you’re still full from your last meal of the day, don’t worry about it.
17. Eat well. Having a healthy diet makes your body work much more efficiently and sleep is no exception.
18. Use sleeping pills as a last resort. Only if you’re trying everything else and it’s not working. Sometimes they can actually cause more problems. If you do not try the things listed here and do not see a doctor before using sleeping meds, they can cause a cycle of dependency and cover your body’s natural ability to sleep. Know this… I AM NOT A DOCTOR and I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE for your use of sleep aids. DO NOT USE SLEEP AIDS WITHOUT CHECKING WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST!
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