Since sleep is a partially learned skill, today I thought I would talk about learning.
I have been thinking about this a lot as I prepare for some new teaching that I will be doing this fall.
I want to improve how I support people as they are learning new skills.
Skills like how to calm your breathing when you are trying to fall asleep. Skills like how to recognize when your active mind is over-riding your fatigued body.
These are skills. A discipline. And completely under your control.
Right now, think about something you have learned that you are now good at. Your golf swing? Your expertise in your profession? Being patient with your kids? Whatever it is.
There are steps that you took, maybe unknowingly, that helped you learn well. You didn’t just think about being better. You tried different things to get better. You noticed what worked. You noticed what didn’t work. You paid attention to the results and feedback that you got. Then you did something differently for the results you wanted.
The knowledge about what to do didn’t help you. The action helped you.
What you thought didn’t create your results. What you did created your results.
You spent some time thinking, but then you moved into action.
This is the key for healthy sleep as well.
There may be a lot of things that you are doing that disturb the quality of your sleep. You probably know what they are.
You drink too much in the evenings. You eat too close to bedtime. You work until the last minute and then expect your mind to slow down when you suddenly hit the pillow. You stimulate yourself with television or the internet. Your room isn’t dark, quiet, or comfortable enough. You sleep with your iPhone close to your pillow, and you check the time when you awaken during the night.
Yet, you know that doing the same thing over and over again not only doesn’t help you get better, but it is a recipe for gradual decline.
So you think more about what to do to improve the situation.
But thinking won’t solve it.
Your ACTION will solve it.
Tonight, just pick one healthy thing, and do it.
(Or, if you are not going to do it, stop wasting your time and energy thinking about it.)
Pick something that you WILL do. For example….
- You will STOP consuming caffeine by 2 PM in the afternoon.
- You will HANG your black out curtains.
- You will JOURNAL your thoughts and worries before you get into bed.
- You will DIM THE LIGHTS all around you as bedtime approaches.
- You will CONTACT ME to help you wean yourself off sleeping pills.
- You will POWER DOWN your electronics one hour before bedtime.
- (Get more ideas here: Top 10 Quick Tips to Sleep Well Tonight)
Just pick ONE idea, and DO IT. Forget the rest.
Stop thinking about what you should do. Stop thinking about what you didn’t do. Stop thinking about why you’re not doing it. Stop thinking about how mad you are at yourself because you keep doing it.
Just pick one idea, and do it.
Do this one thing today. Do it well. And do it consistently. Because your body, your mind, your soul, and your sleep love rituals.
Eventually you will embed this healthy thinking/action pattern into your long term memory, and adeptly bypass your somewhat unreliable short term memory. This is the “Principle of Deliberate Practice” as outlined by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool in Peak: How to Master Almost Anything.
It’s time for ACTION.
Let me know about your results!
I would love to speak about Sleep with your team, corporation, or community group. I also have a limited amount of consultation slots available if you need some coaching to improve your sleep. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Dr. Chris Carruthers is a sleep health champion providing individuals with the information and skills they need to take smart action to overcome insomnia and conquer fatigue. For her curated list of practical sleep resources, click here.
With a lifetime career in healthcare and recovered after 7.5 years of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, Chris shares her sleep strategies through speaking, coaching and her signature program, The Sleep Well Tonight Method.