“Come to Me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”
– Matthew 11:28
“For – the – love!” I thought to myself. As I lied in bed, wide awake, I suddenly recollected the load of laundry I began earlier in the evening. I started the wash once dinner had ended, and prior to putting my children to bed. My plan was to transfer the wet clothing from the washer to the dryer. Instead, I found myself caught up in spending the remainder of my evening with my husband, as I always happily do.
I began to silently chide myself, thinking, “Now I have to rewash them in vinegar, rinse them and wash them again!” Mere seconds passed and my thoughts shifted from the unfinished laundry to what I was going to feed my family tomorrow night for dinner. Then to my children’s Night-time Routine, Did they do it?! Do they have clothes picked out for tomorrow?
“I need to remember to remind my son’s teacher about his appointment this week…”
“I forgot to get my Aunt’s birthday card in the mail… I’ll mail it out tomorrow!”
“I need to schedule a time to get together with my friend… hopefully, she doesn’t feel that I’ve forgotten about her!”
“Did I lock the car before going to bed?”
I can openly admit that, at times, I can be a control freak! I want control over every avenue of my life, and I find comfort in knowing what is to come. When I forget about certain things that need caring for, I begin to feel anxiety, stress… and worry. It is in these moments that I try to remind myself how truly unhealthy this pattern of behavior can be. Why? Because I know that my incessant need for control causes unhealthy emotional turmoil, and I know that it can lead to insomnia.
In the early 1980’s Phycologist, Thomas Borkovec of Pensylvania State University began investigative studies on worry, and sleep disorders. Soon he discovered that worry was a major contributing factor in insomnia.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, chronic worry affects 2 to 3 percent of people in the United States.
According to Borkovec, there are 3 components to worry:
- Avoiding Negative Outcomes
- Inhibition of Emotions
Worry piggybacks on humans’ innate tendency to think about the future: “they crave control.”
So how does all of this play into our bedtime? Stress/Overthinking/Worry keeps our minds in an active state, and it can lead to both emotional and mental distress. We begin to focus on the negative aspects of our lives and our shortcomings. As for myself, I attempt to find healthy coping mechanisms! However, others may find negative ones such as alcohol, food or other unhealthy addictive substances. Many of which can inhibit a good nights sleep.
How does alcohol affect your sleep?
- More frequent need to get up and go to the bathroom, especially during the second half of the night
- Increased risk for parasomnias including sleepwalking and sleep eating
- Greater risk for snoring and sleep-disordered breathing. Alcohol can lead to excessive relaxation of the muscles in the head, neck, and throat, which may interfere with normal breathing during sleep.
- Alcohol consumption can trigger new sleep disorders or exacerbate existing ones, including insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea
How does overeating affect your sleep?
- Insomnia Issues
Certain foods and beverages act as stimulants that force your body into digestive mode as you’re trying to revert to sleep mode. Caffeine is an obvious culprit, but so are proteins and foods packed with MSG, which behaves as a stimulant too.
Avoid meat, chocolate, Chinese food, colas, coffee, and tea.
- Heartburn Discomfort
You might never contend with acid reflux problems during the day. This is because the force of gravity is working with you as you sit or stand while digesting food. But eat and lie down and acid in your stomach can leak into your esophagus, causing reflux that makes you feel the burn – and keeps you awake way past your bedtime.
Avoid spicy foods such as peppers and chilies and drinks that are highly acidic, such as cranberry, grapefruit and orange juice.
- Digestive Pain
You’ve probably heard that it’s a good idea to avoid eating at least three hours before going to bed. This is because it takes the stomach at least this long to empty itself. Consuming certain foods and beverages can make the process lengthier and more arduous, especially if you’re lactose-intolerant and have trouble digesting dairy products. This said many people swear that a late-night glass of warm milk helps them sleep. There is some medical reinforcement to support this belief since milk contains tryptophan – the same chemical found in turkey. It is known to make many people sleepy, especially after a Thanksgiving dinner.
Avoid dairy products if you’re lactose-intolerant – including cheese, yogurt and ice cream – greasy foods and those that are high in fat, such as butter and peanuts.
- Bathroom Runs
You might not notice the effects of diuretics during the day, either. But this is probably because you’re on the go and don’t mind having “to go” in the course of a busy day. But eat certain water-laden foods late at night and you’re likely to spend more time running to the bathroom than counting sheep.
Avoid asparagus, beets, cabbage, celery, cranberries, cucumbers, garlic, parsley, and watermelon.
- Weight Gain Risk
Many health experts say that eating anything late at night is counterproductive to a good night’s sleep and good health in general since you’re depriving your body of the ability to burn off calories. But confine the argument to carbohydrates, which can quickly lead to fat and weight gain. Even 8 ounces of pasta can contain about 300 calories and consist of nearly 80 percent carbohydrates.
Avoid foods with high-carb content, especially pasta and pizza.
How does blue light exposure affect your sleep?
Computers, televisions, and phones all emit a blue light that we are constantly being bombarded with during the day. What you may not know is that our electronic devices act as a stimulant, much like caffeine in coffee or other sugary foods. These seemingly harmless screens disrupt the production of melatonin and throw off our circadian rhythm. They keep us awake!
SO… How can you ward off insomnia and bring calm and serenity to your bedtime?
#1. Surround Yourself in Darkness
Before turning in for the night, ensure that your blinds are closed and any unnecessary lights are turned off. This will help signal to our bodies that it is truly time for rest.
#2. Keep Your Room Silent
If possible, try to sleep without any noise. Find noise-canceling headphones or earplugs.
One of my favorite apps on my phone is JC Free Hypnosis! The first few hypnosis tracks are free, and the others, IMO, are worth the buy. As you listen to the tracks, the coach will also lead you in deep breathing exercises. If hypnosis is not your thing, try listening to soft classical music, or even nature sounds to help lull you into a deep, restful nights sleep.
#4. 4-7-8 Breathing
Pioneered by Dr. Andrew Weil, 4-7-8 breathing is one of the simplest yet most effective tools you can use to access instant calm. Simply inhale through your nose for a count of 4, gently hold this breath for 7 counts and exhale slowly for another count of 8. This lowers cortisol levels and helps bring both calm and serenity.
#5. Avoid Looking At Screens
Remember the blue light we discussed earlier on? If at all possible, avoid looking at any screens before bedtime. Remember, they act as a stimulant!
#6. Keep Your Room Clean
If you are anything like me, a disorganized home makes for a disorganized mind. Your bedroom should be your sanctuary, a place where you can escape and find serenity. When your room is in a state of chaos, you are more likely to find yourself contemplating how to tackle that mess come morning instead of sleeping.
#7. Lower the Bedroom Temperature
Our core body temperature decreases naturally as we begin to fall asleep. If the room is too warm you will more than likely have a difficult time relaxing and finding that peaceful sleep you are so desiring.
#8. Shut Your Mind Down
More often than not when we turn in for the night, our minds turn on. If you find yourself reminiscing over the events of your day or things undone… STOP! Tell yourself, “This is neither the time nor the place!” Close your eyes, and focus not on your thoughts but on your breathing. This is a simple step that has aided me quite well over the years in falling asleep.
#9. Avoid Unhealthy Consumptions
Create a cutoff time, after 7:00 or 8:00 you can no longer have anything to eat or drink. This includes alcohol or snacks of any kind. This will aid in preventing any future issues such as bathroom visits, bloated feelings or heartburn during the night.
#10. Natural Sleepaid
Certain supplements can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. They encourage sleep either by boosting the production of sleep-promoting hormones or by calming brain activity.
Magnesium. Magnesium helps activate the neurotransmitters responsible for sleep.
Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body, but it can also be taken as a supplement to help regulate your sleep.
Theanine. Theanine is an amino acid with sedative properties. Although it has not been shown to induce sleep, it could help with relaxation.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a compound produced in the brain that inhibits certain transmitters and may help the central nervous system relax.
So here is the bottom line, our health is so important and if we are not ensured a good nights sleep, then our health will begin to wain. We have but only this one body, this one mind, and this one soul… we must protect it with our very lives!
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
- Matthew 6:34