By Nasreen Shah, LMHC
With our busy schedules, it is no surprise many Americans feel behind on sleep. It can be difficult to find time for rest and relaxation as it is not part of our daily activities. In other countries, such as Finland, and Canada, breaks are scheduled during the work day. In Spain, India, Italy, and China, workers come home from work in the middle of the day for a 1-2 hour break. People use this time to eat a meal with the family and to take an afternoon nap, offering more opportunities for resting and self-care. Unlike other countries which engage in fewer work hours and create routines prioritizing rest, for most Americans, the evening hours offer the only window of opportunity for sleep in a 24 hour day.
With fewer opportunities for rest, we need to be mindful and intentional with how we use our time in the evenings and create routines that help us have our best sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with poor concentration, low energy, and difficulty with alertness and memory. Many people experience disruptive sleep, however, you can develop habits to increase your quality of sleep.
Tips for getting to sleep:
1. Set up the routine: One of the best things you can do to improve sleep is to set a consistent sleep and waking time. Waking up at the same time, within 30 minutes or so of your regular time, helps your body regulate to a schedule. Upon waking, get outside, or stand in front of a window for natural light. Turning on the lights, and moving first thing in the morning, helps your body adjust to waking early. You might consider doing light stretches or a short walk in the morning.
2. During the day, strive for 10- 15 minutes (or more if you can) of movement. Exercise greatly improves quality of sleep. Cardio can be effective in decreasing anxiety and allowing the body to be tired enough to sleep. Additionally, weight training utilizes energy, allowing you to be tired enough to fall asleep at night. The more movement you can incorporate in your day, the more likely you will be tired enough to sleep at night.
3. Prepare for sleep: Our brains and bodies respond well to consistency and healthy sleep habits. Once you have set a ‘going to bed time’ keep in mind the following:
1. Waking up in the middle of the night can be due to a variety of factors. Here are some common reasons:
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