How to… Sleep Like a Baby

Research proves the importance of getting sufficient sleep and emphasizes the role sleep plays in a person’s ability to be productive and healthy. While experts say that everyone needs 7-8 hours of sleep every night, many individuals argue that they can be at their best with less. Regardless, the fact remains that a good night’s sleep, however you define that, is essential.

When I first wrote my notes for this post months ago, I was exhausted. I had gone to sleep later than usual, and I had woken up at least a half dozen times during the six hours that I tried to sleep. Waking up at least a couple of times a night was normal for me at that time, but the hourly wake up pattern was not the usual. The result was a day where I felt groggy and struggled to focus. Unfortunately, this problem was more common than not over the past several years.

Up until a couple of months ago, a good night’s sleep eluded me. Fortunately, I can now say that I have victory in that area of my life. While I still wake up once a night to go to the bathroom, most nights I now sleep a full 7 hours and wake feeling refreshed. My husband has the gift of being able to sleep anywhere, anytime and to get a solid night’s sleep virtually every night, a goal I now have for myself.

Below are 5 tips for getting a good night’s sleep, some based on my personal struggle with sleep and some based on what experts recommend.

  1. Consider supplements. Some people swear by prescription sleep aids, but I never liked the results and side effects. For me, taking melatonin every night before bed helps me fall asleep quickly, and I also sometimes drink tea with valerian and/or chamomile. There are a variety of supplements that can help with sleep that experts say (and my experience proves) can be very helpful.
  2. Evaluate your environment. While my husband can sleep with the lights on or off and with noise or quiet, I need almost total darkness and complete silence. The temperature of the room matters too. I don’t like to be too cold, but my mother loves to have the window open when it’s freezing outside. Finding what works takes experimentation.
  3. Experiment with tools. Tools for sleeping include eye masks, ear plugs, white noise (a fan, for example), a body pillow, and an electric blanket. Again, play with these different tools to see what helps you sleep better. While the electric blanket is the only one I use at home (we live in Michigan, and the nights can get quite cold, especially when my husband is traveling for work), I do use ear plugs sometimes when traveling (like when camping). I have also used an eye mask in the past when I wanted to take a nap and could not control the room’s lighting.
  4. Change your bedtime routine. Caffeine and alcohol or wine too close to bedtime can affect how a person sleeps, and so can viewing any type of media screen (television, smart phone, computer, etc.). For me, having herbal tea (my favorite for bedtime is Calm by Tazo) an hour or two before bed starts my relaxation process. Think about what you do after 8:00PM that may be contributing to your sleep problems. Adjusting your bedtime routine as well as going to bed and rising each morning at about the same time can go a long way in assuring a solid night’s sleep.
  5. Think about how you rest. Some people struggle sleeping at night because they replay their day over and over again in their minds. They struggle with how to relax. Counteracting this can be done in a variety of ways, including writing down thoughts before going to bed and purposefully finding ways to relax during the day to prevent a buildup of stress that can keep you awake at night. Some people find that a power nap every afternoon helps them relax in a way that not only gets them through the day but allows them to feel less stressed at the end of the day. Others use full-body muscle relaxation techniques, and still others (this would be me) employ stretching and exercise to reduce stress.

Bottom line: Find what works for you. The combination of techniques is unique to every individual.

The benefits of a good night’s sleep include increased productivity and energy and improved relationships, and results in a more positive outlook on life. In fact, a good night’s sleep is an essential building block for EVERY area of life from the physical and mental to the spiritual. Don’t neglect this crucial proponent of good health. Simply put, a person must be well-rested in order to truly “make the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

DISCUSSION: If you consistently sleep well, how do you make that happen? If you don’t, what will you try to hopefully change that?