By Shari Grande, LCSW
Are you struggling with sleep? Insomnia is defined by having persistent problems falling and staying asleep. You might not usually have insomnia, but if you’re having difficulty sleeping right now, there are some things you can do to improve your sleep! Many (most) of us are trying to adjust to new schedules, working from home, working more (or less) hours, having children home from school all day and/or home from college. If you are struggling with sleep, you are not alone.
Some of my clients have shared that their sleep has actually improved because they are home more, and their schedules are not as stressful and hectic.
But for most of my clients, family and friends they are having more trouble sleeping than usual. Getting enough quality sleep is essential to our health, both physical and mental. So, if you’re having trouble with sleep, please know that it is a normal response to stress and there are steps you can take to help you sleep better. Here are Five to consider:
1). Set a bedtime.
Many of my clients who suffer from insomnia admit they do not have a set bedtime. Or if they do, it’s vague, “I get to bed around 1 or 2 am.” Setting a bedtime is similar to setting a deadline, set a bedtime and treat it as you would a deadline for work or school. Then schedule your evening backwards from the time you choose and push yourself to be in bed by that time.
2). Say NO to naps.
I know! They are so tempting and could be part of the problem. Long naps most days of the week indicate you are not getting enough nighttime sleep and messes with your sleep/wake cycle, making it very difficult to fall asleep at a reasonable bedtime. Setting the cycle. Break it by dragging through a day without a nap and get into bed at a proper bedtime this evening for a better day tomorrow.
3). NO screen time 1 hour (or more) prior to bedtime.
Yes, I know and have heard it all – save it. You were not born with a device in your hand, nothing is THAT important on Social that it can not wait. Do you REALLY want to see you what your ex is doing? If it is possible, do not allow your phone to “sleep” in your room with you.
Have a spot in your home that devices go for the night and either turn them to ‘sleep’ or off 1-2 hours prior to getting in bed. There are lots of nice, relaxing activities you can do without a screen-reading a book or snuggling with your pet or even better, your partner comes to mind.
4). Avoid caffeine and alcohol most evenings.
Okay, starting with caffeine, it is a stimulant which is why it is nice to start your day with a cup – it helps to wake you up and feel alert. Did you know that caffeine can stay in our bodies for over six hours? Try to avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
Sadly, you might need to limit your chocolate intake for the same reason. As for alcohol, if you find yourself drinking more than your fair share during this stressful time you are not alone. There are a number of studies that have shown alcohol reduces our most restorative stage of sleep, REM sleep.
5). Name it to tame it.
How are you feeling? The first homework assignment I give new clients is a feelings wheel, with the instruction to name their feelings. I will ask the same of you now. Schedule a time each day (preferably more than once) as a self-check-in and pay attention to or notice how you are feeling. You might notice you are not feeling one thing at time, rather feelings come in waves and that is okay.
If you are so inclined, it might be helpful to write in a journal or talk to a supportive friend or your partner.
If you have come to the realization that your feelings are overwhelming and all the feels are too big, reach out. We are available to bring therapy to wherever you in San Jose or California with video sessions. We would be honored to help you process your feelings and our ever-changing world.
Yours in Health.