Most Americans are sadly severely sleep deprived. The average American has little vacation time and many of us drift off into sleep with our cell phone in hand, often after a long day of staring at computer screens. Throughout the current COVID-19 pandemic, sleep disturbance is a frequent complaint of my patients, with anxiety and worry as extremely disruptive factors.
As a child, I experienced frequent nightmares and fell into the category of sleep avoidance. No suggestions of The Sandman visiting or attempts to count sheep assuaged my fears of entering the world of sleep where I was certain that monsters and witches waited, readying unimaginable torments.
Given my childhood sleep history, I found it really refreshing to encounter Kat Duff’s writing and her perspective of always having been at peace with sleep. In Kat Duff’s excellent book, Secret Life of Sleep, she discusses the richness of the sleep portion of our lives. She talks about how as a child, going to sleep was her favorite time as she welcomed the mysteries that awaited her in dreams and enjoyed awakening the next day feeling refreshed, with a new, energized perspective on life.
Recently, I have been sleeping exceptionally well and waking up feeling more refreshed than I have in years. What is my secret? Here are five tips taken from the recent changes I have made to my sleep routine, as well as a few more that I have learned from others:
- As with most tasks, it helps to have the proper equipment. Do an inventory of your tools. How old are your mattress and bedding? Was your bed purchased during the Carter administration? Maybe it’s time to upgrade. Mattress technology has come a long way in the past thirty years. Investing in a bed and pillows that perfectly suit your body type can make a world of difference.
- Tip number 1 goes hand in hand with tip 2. Make your bed an inviting, attractive place that you want to visit. Ideally, your bed is a sanctuary; a safe, sacred, private place where you find peace and restoration. Follow Feng Shui guidelines for your bed placement in order to create harmonious, appealing energy. A soft, cozy down comforter, silk pillowcases, or luxurious high thread-count sheets may be worth your dollars as they may help promote the restorative sleep that is so essential to a happy, healthy brain and body.
- Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, particularly before going to sleep. Both can significantly reduce deep, restorative sleep. If a nightcap is your thing, drink it earlier in the evening and reduce the amount.
- Turn your computer and cell phone off at least one hour before going to bed. Draw a line between your electronic world and your sleep world and stick to it. Place your cell phone away from your bed and keep your sleep space as free from electronics as possible.
- Try going to sleep earlier. We are programmed for sleep when the sun goes down, so try to retire earlier in the evening after unplugging your brain and body with a walk, meditation, warm bath or shower, or an episode or two of your favorite series.
Here is a bonus tip: Keep a dream journal by your bed to capture your dreams as soon as you wake up. Making friends with your dream life by honoring your dreams with written records can be a great psychological boost and can help welcome sleep back into your life.
I hope the above tips work as well for you as they have for me recently. Wishing you restful sleep and pleasant dreams!
For further tips on getting a good night’s sleep, please see this article by The National Sleep Foundation which I mention in the Resources section of my book.
Kat Duff (2014). Secret Life of Sleep. New York: Atria Books.
James F. Zender, PhD (2020). Recovering from Your Car Accident: The Complete Guide to Reclaiming Your Life. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
Sleepfoundation.org. “NSF Tool to Get the Right Amount of Sleep.” Accessed November 10, 2020. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/nsf-tool-get-right-amount-sleep.