How to Sleep Like A Baby — Even if You’re Stressed The F Out
How to Sleep Like a Baby, Reclaim Your Energy, and Heal Your Chronic Stress 1 Night at a Time
I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?
Do you spend hours in bed ruminating about what you didn’t do today or what you have to do tomorrow?
Do you consistently wake up in the morning feeling just as tired as you did when you went to bed, rushing out the door to get to work on time?
Said differently, are nights your seventh layer of hell?
I’ve been there, and I can intimately relate. A broken record of self-defeating thoughts. Night sweats. Tense jaw. You name the anxious symptom; I had it.
In my pursuit to heal my chronic stress and anxiety, I left sleep off the checklist, thinking that it was for weak and unambitious. I adopted the same mindset towards sleep as 50-cent, I can sleep when I’m dead. The not-so-funny thing about that mindset is it was that mentality that took me to my own personal hell, with a straight shot to an early death.
The Forgotten Step-Child
Regarding personal growth, mornings are at the top of the food chain. (One of my favorite writers on Medium, Benjamin P. Hardy, wrote a fantastic piece on morning routines here.) But when you are dealing with chronic stress and anxiety, sleep matters more. Getting quality z’s has a multiplier effect that can lead you to a quicker recovery or a rapid decline. In my case, I suffered from the latter.
During the 10-months that my anxiety was at its peak, my sleeping patterns were sporadic, and my bedroom conditions were even worse. A mattress laid on the ground, covered in dust, without any fresh air or proper circulation. My roommates would consistently blare music in our living space until 4 am, causing me to get an average of about 3–4 hours of sleep a night.
This is not okay, especially if you are dealing with chronic stress and anxiety.
Angry. Anxious. And On Autopilot. I was lost.
After graduating university and moving into my own place, my mind couldn’t take this cycle any longer, finally shutting down.
On the first night in a proper bed without noise and distraction, I slept for 22 straight hours. When I woke up, I wasn’t a different person, but I felt different. More grounded. A bit calmer. A bit clearer.
Hmm. I thought to myself. Maybe there is something to this whole sleep thing.
And so, with a new mindset towards sleep, I embarked on what I now believe was the most critical journey I took to healing my anxiety and getting back to my old self, the quest for learning how to sleep again.
If you are anything like I was, you may also have a pseudo 50-cent mindset towards sleep. In our age of productivity pornography, it is rare to see the value in sleeping. In doing nothing. In taking the time to breathe. But the science tells a different story.
The Most Powerful Drug for Healing Stress
You may be saying to yourself; I do just fine on 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night.
Not likely. According to research collected by the New York Times, millions of people are shortchanging themselves of the vital sleep needed to function and operate properly. Contrary to popular belief, most people need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. If you are consistently getting inadequate sleep, you are putting yourself in jeopardy for a plethora of potential adverse health issues and increasing your stress and anxiety levels in the short term.
The bodily systems that are negatively affected by inadequate sleep are numerous. Your heart; Your lungs and kidneys; Your appetite, metabolism and weight control; Your immune function and disease resistance; Your sensitivity to pain; Your reaction time; Your mood; and your brain function.
Also, poor sleep is linked to higher rates of depression and substance abuse, according to Anne Germain, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.
In short, getting inadequate sleep is terrible for both your mental and physical health.
How to Optimize Your Night to Sleep Like A Baby
Okay, so now that you know that sleep is important, how can you set up your nightly routine to sleep like a baby?
Well after months and months of tracking my sleep and changing my bedroom conditions for optimal sleep, I have found some amazing hacks that have helped me get to sleep quicker and stay there.
Ultimately, you need to test what works best for you, but these will be a great starting point! Let me know in the comments if you have any tricks that you have found helpful that are not on the list! I am always looking for new approaches to optimal sleep
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.’ ~Marcus Aurelius
Commit To a Consistent Bedtime
Your mindset is critical for any habit change to stick. You must be definite in your declaration to change and clear on your reasoning for doing so. To do this, be committed to setting a consistent time that you will go to bed every single night. Preferably, it will be able 8.5 hours before you need to wake up. If you are not a morning person, check out this article. It will help.
Set Up Your King (or Queen) Chambers
Optimal sleep is a direct correlation to an optimal bedroom environment. During the year that I was averaging 3–4 hours of sleep a night, my room conditions were horrible.
Now, I make sure that my bedroom is set up for a King. Here are some suggestions:
Do it now:
Make your room cold, like 68 degrees cold.
Get a sleeping mask. This is the one I use.
Set up a fan or noise maker. It will help block external noise
Optional: Invest in good sheets. A far cry from the thing you most want to spend your money on, but I have come to realize the value of a fine set of cotton sheets.
If you see distraction externally, you end up creating an internally distracted state.— Tim Ferriss
The first domino to fall that sets in motion the entire night routine is my mindful reminder. I configure the alarm on my phone to go off 30-minutes before I want to be in bed. Or 9 hours before I need to wake up. The alarm is a simple message, “get ready for bed.”
Now that you are committed to making sleep a top priority, also commit to stopping whatever you are doing and prepare for bed when the alarm goes off.
Multiple times I stopped in the middle of an article or tv show when my alarm went off and got ready for bed. Your roommates or significant other may look at you weird, but I promise that they will like a rested you much more than an anxious, tired you.
Do it now:
Set a reminder on your phone to go off 9 hours before you need to wake up telling you to get ready for bed.
I am not Amish, but I do not have a tv, so this part is a bit easier for me, but it still took some getting used to. (p.s. I mean no offense to the Amish.)
We have all read the articles that articulate how bad it is for our sleep to look at screens past a certain time at night. And for whatever reason, we don’t listen. Well, therein lies the problem.
You need to commit to turning off all screens and putting your phone on airplane mode as soon as the reminder goes off. Checking the mind-numbing feeds of the social apocalypse is NOT the way to sleep like a baby. So stop it. And put it away.Be okay with being unreachable. Your health deserves it.
Night Drink (Tea)
The cornerstone of my nightly routine is a concoction of ingredients that act as a natural Xanax to put me right to sleep.
Whether you hate yoga or not, stretching before bed can be a fantastic tool to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. You do not need to do a full 45-minute routine. I just do 3–4 poses for approximately 5-minutes, and then I am done.
I don’t have particular poses that I do every night. I am sure there are more effective ones out there. But my goal is simply to relax my body and mind by doing some moving meditation.
Take The Leap
Now that you have had your tea, done your yoga, and hopefully brushed your teeth, jump in bed.
Try to get in bed at least 8.5 hours before you want to wake up to give yourself a bit of time to practice the next item on the list.
Tim Ferriss suggested a switch from non-fiction to fiction before bed to ensure optimal sleep. I was hesitant at first because I felt like reading fiction was a waste of time. What a bunch of type a bull shit.
The first book I picked up was The Alchemist. It worked wonders for curbing my anxious ruminations, calming my thoughts and helping me fall asleep after 15–20 minutes reading. Now, I try always to read a bit of fiction before bed. It is an excellent way to get out of the problem-solving mode our brains are constantly in.
Give it a try.
Start Small and Be Patient
You can have anything you want in life, but you can’t have everything.”— Ray Dalio
It took me several days to start following 50% of the above and then another month or two to start following 100%.
Start small. My suggestion is a consistent bed time. That has been the single biggest factor in my development.
Flux. The bright white light that you refer to as your “computer” might be disrupting your internal rhythm. Download the free Flux application to have your screen’s lighting automatically switch to a sunset hue in the evening.
Philips Wake-up Light. If you despise alarms as much as I do, then check out the Wake-up Light. It makes waking up gradual and pleasant.
Are you ready to wake up and find more happiness in your life?
If so, sign up for my free 21 Day Mindfulness Email Course. I’ll be sending you an email every day that will help you reduce stress, increase focus, and find more happiness!
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One last thing…
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Originally published at www.fullyrichlife.com on February 20, 2017.