By Lisa Sykes, Director of Sustainability, Universal Companies
Much like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, my mind is loud and busy. Thoughts fly in, and they fly out. Sometimes there’s even a rough landing, like at night when I suddenly jolt out of bed to make sure I turned off the oven. In yoga, my instructor has a term for this: “monkey brain.”
Monkey brain disrupts sleep. So to counteract it, I developed a strategy, and it doesn’t involve counting sheep:
1. Same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends.
Okay, I admit it. This one is tough because I don’t always follow the “even on weekends” clause. All week long, I look forward to staying up late on Saturdays and sleeping in on Sundays. If you’re like me, just do the best you can to stick to a schedule during the work week.
2. Have a no screen policy in your bedroom.
No laptop. No TV. No tablet. Phone is plugged in, muted, and face down.
3. Shift into sleep mode.
About 30 minutes to an hour before you sleep, slip into bed with a good book—a real book, not an e-book. (Remember, no screens.)
4. Have a ritual involving aromatherapy.
Before I fall asleep, I turn on my air purifier for white noise, moisturize my hands with a cooling, soothing balm, and place a chilled herbal eye pack over my eyes. Sometimes I use a heated herbal neck wrap, too.
5. Avoid caffeine.
Don’t worry—I don’t mean avoid it altogether. Caffeine in the morning is fine. I limit myself to one cup of coffee in the morning—two if I am in desperate need—and that’s it. I don’t drink it in the afternoon and evening hours.
6. Avoid alcohol, too.
Alcohol may help you get sleepy at first, but after a few hours, it acts as a stimulant.
7. Stay cool.
Keep your bedroom like a cave, dark and cool, somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees.
8. Focus on your breathing.
Yoga philosophy states that we are allotted a certain number of breaths in a lifetime, so each one is precious. Focusing on it also induces relaxation. After you lie down, try placing a palm on your abdomen and breathe. Observe the quality of your breathing. Is it tense or shallow? Gradually relax it, pausing slightly after each inhale and exhale. Then begin to breathe deeply, expanding and contracting your abdomen. After a minute or two of this, you’ll begin to feel calmer.
9. Exercise, but not right before bed.
Regular exercise, even just going for a walk every day, helps you sleep better. However, be sure that your exercise routine ends a couple of hours before bedtime.
10. If all of this fails, ....
Get out of bed if you can’t sleep, and do something that doesn’t require bright light or loud noises. Then, when you do get sleepy, head back to bed.
Generally, adults need 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night. It’s very important to your health; without it, you may experience loss of alertness, concentration, and problem solving. It can also lead to other serious health issues. So if you continually have difficulty sleeping, seek the advice of a health professional. In addition, here are some websites you may find helpful: mayoclinic.org and sleepfoundation.org.