Having trouble sleeping? You are in very good company if that makes you feel any better. I think most people would be surprised to learn that sleep-deprived people have a tendency to overreact to situations in comparison to people who were not sleep-deprived according to the research. “In other words, we tend to become much more sensitive emotionally and socially when we are sleep-deprived. That is what I like to call the ‘who was at my desk or who touched my coffee cup?’ phenomenon,” says Dr. David F. Dinges, Ph.D. in the journal article The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep. So, some of those “touchy” people who fly off the handle on a regular basis may actually be very nice people who are just sleep-deprived.
Approximately 50 to 70 million people in the U.S. had at least one sleep disorder prior to the pandemic according to the research. With the pandemic it is predictable that more people than ever are having trouble sleeping, which is completely understandable and reasonable. At the same time, there are steps you can take to sleep better. If you were not a good sleeper prior to the pandemic, then it is very likely that any sleeping problems have been exacerbated. I am a very sound sleeper and I make sure that I get plenty of sleep. This is a topic that I love because it is so rewarding to help someone who has sleep issues get it turned around. It’s really remarkable and life-changing.
Few people look at their sleep time as sacred. More people look at their sleeping time as a time slot that they can take time from if they get too busy. If you find yourself doing that – skimping on sleep because you are too busy, then I would suggest that you consider how you might use your time better with this post on time management, or how making a list will help you love your life. If you short change yourself on sleep because you are too overwhelmed with life then I would ask you to consider dealing with overwhelm once and for all. If depression or anxiety are preventing you from sleeping that is worth getting a jump start on as well.
Lack of exercise (yes, exercise can help you sleep better if you don’t do it too late)
Medical causes including side effects of medications, neurological causes, hormone changes, restless leg syndrome and more
Poor sleep habits
Improper sleeping temperature (too hot or too cold)
Caffeine (too late in the day)
Eating too late at night
Going to bed too hungry
Inconsistent sleeping patterns or schedule
Age (Teens and older people fall into this situation more often than other ages)
Your environment is not conducive to sleep
Dust mites (allergy related)
We all inherently know that getting enough sleep and good quality sleep is good for us, yet I don’t believe that most people understand the significant benefits of good sleep or on the flip side the extremely negative health consequences of a lack of sleep so I am providing those for your review, which I have summarized from multiple sources.
Benefits of Sufficient Sleep
Improved mental performance (cognitive)
Improved behavioral performance
Improved mood (emotional regulation)
Improved memory consolidation
Improved immune system functioning
Decreases mood disorders
Decreases feelings of loneliness
Preventative measure against dementia
Decreases risk for obesity
Decreases risk for heart disease
Decreases risk for diabetes
Decreases risk of early death
Less emotionally sensitive
Less socially sensitive
Decreases stress (perception)
Helps insight formation
Negative Impact of Insufficient Sleep
Negatively impacts mood (emotional regulation)
Negatively impacts your ability to learn & retain information
Can cause an increase in the risk of serious accidents
Causes profound impairments in cognitive performance
Causes profound impairments in behavioral performance
Contributes to obesity
Contributes to diabetes
Contributes to heart disease
Contributes to an early death
Impaired immune system functioning
Increases mood disorders
Contributes to dementia
Contributes to loneliness
Makes you more emotionally sensitive
Makes you more socially sensitive
Ramps up stress levels (perception of stress)
How Much Sleep Should I Get
According to Dr. Dinges, Ph.D., Professor and Chief of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, the consensus of evaluations conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society jointly concludes that between 7 and 7 and a half hours is what people should be aiming for. It is important to know that when you are experiencing high amounts of stress, a trauma, or other unusual circumstances that you might need more sleep. Sleep is the only time that the body has a chance to repair itself so increased stress might mean bumping up your sleep to help offset the stress.
Steps for Better Sleep
Mindset-What is your mindset about sleep? Specifically, what are your attitudes, beliefs and expectations regarding sleep? What do you say about sleep? This is the foundation for good sleeping because if you expect that you won’t sleep well or that you usually don’t sleep well, then my guess is that you absolutely won’t sleep well. Not surprisingly all of the people who I have coached on improving their sleep stated at the outset that they were very poor sleepers. That is not an accident. There are three key foundations for becoming a good sleeper:
You EXPECT to sleep well.
You RESPECT that you will function better with the proper amount of sleep.
You BELIEVE that you can learn to sleep soundly.
You TREAT SLEEPING like it is sacred, extremely important and you just don’t let life get in the way of your sleeping.
If you are not going to have the proper attitude about sleeping can you really expect to become a great sleeper? No. You won’t become a great sleeper if you have the wrong attitude, beliefs and expectations.
Commitment-Are you committed to doing what it takes to become a great sleeper? Are you willing to make the changes necessary to become a great sleeper? Are you willing to become awake and aware to the obstacles that might be preventing you from getting good sleep? It doesn’t matter what I say from here on out, if you are not committed to becoming a good sleeper – nothing matters. Everything starts with a commitment. Make a firm commitment or resolution that you are going to do whatever it takes to start sleeping very well and soundly. That in and of itself will make a difference.
Rule out underlying medical issues-There are many underlying medical issues that can cause sleep problems or sleep disorders including undiagnosed Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, nutritional deficiencies and hormone imbalances to name a few. Certain prescription medications can also cause sleep to be disrupted so you might need to speak to your doctor about your medications.
Set the stage for great sleep – Your Environment-Some people discount the impact that your physical environment can have on sleep saying that your environment is just not that important. Research shows that too much light, or a messy room, or things like dust mites can disrupt sleep. If your room is messy clean it up. Put clean sheets on your bed. Look around to see how you could make your bedroom more inviting for sleep. Make the changes to your bedroom, as needed, to set the stage for blissful slumber. It’s an investment that will provide high returns.
Clearing Your Mind-It is critical that you clear your mind before going to bed if you want to get really solid and restful sleep because when your mind is clear you will not be fussing, stressing and worrying. To clear your mind, I suggest that you go through these steps. Of course, it’s really helpful if you have a life plan or purpose and you are working having your dream life. But even if you are not, this usually works – in combination with the steps listed above and below. Clearing your mind is a skill set that takes time to develop. Hang in there. Keep at it until you are good at it. I know you can do this!
Make a list before you go to bed of what needs to be accomplished the next day or in the coming days or anything that needs to be recorded on paper.
Deal with your emotions so that you are not tossing and turning trying to sort yourself out in bed. For some of you that might mean learning how to flip the switch on your emotions, or it might mean that you start dealing with your low self-esteem issues, or start growing your emotional intelligence. I have written extensively about how to have a powerful life and be free from stress and anxiety. This is one area that can easily prevent you from getting good sleep. It is well worth the investment of your time to learn how to manage, deal with and process your emotions. Trust me. It’s well worth it.
Once you get in bed if you have any thoughts like – “Oh, I hope I don’t forget to do X, Y or Z tomorrow” or “I should try to remember bla, bla, bla…” GET OUT OF BED immediately and write it down on your list – the list that you made before you got in bed. I am not kidding about this.
Create Your Fantasy Dream-Once you are in bed, hopefully in your bedroom that is an environment that is conducive to sleeping and you have cleared your mind using the above steps, then close your eyes and create your fantasy dream. Of course, in the beginning you will actually be awake, but as you keep going on in your fantasy dream you will fall asleep. Make this fun. Make this amazing. Why not? You have nothing to lose by going to bed and starting your sleep with a fantasy dream of your own making.
Call to Action
What is preventing you from sleeping well? Are you committed to improving your sleep? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? Hint – you might need to re-read either the benefits of good sleep or the negative impacts of insufficient sleep to get some motivation. I think there’s plenty of juicy benefits that should give you the incentive to make the changes you need to. How can I help you? We have more people than ever struggling in life right now. Help them by sharing valuable information. Please leave me a comment on how I can help you!
Suicide Warning/Mental Health Waiver
If you have any thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911 immediately. Please call someone, tell someone or post it on social media and ask for help right now! We have more people suffering from depression, anxiety, and negative emotions than ever before, which means that you are in good company. I am asking that you take a specific action if you are feeling suicidal or that harming yourself because your life matters more than you realize and because there is help available to you. I am not a licensed mental health professional or in the field of medicine. You should get your medical advice from a licensed medical professional. Although my posts are research and experience based, they do not constitute medical advice since I am not a medical professional in any capacity.