Full disclosure, I am writing this article so I can find techniques for getting enough sleep. Between Purim and Pesach, sleep might not even find its way on the to-do list, as once we get in to bed, it’s hard to get up.
This is not my problem. I get into bed quite early, actually. However, once I shut the lights, I often find my mind racing, reviewing what I did during the day, what will be going on the next few days, my worries, anxieties… the list goes on. I find myself waking up in middle of the night, tossing and turning for hours. Other times, my eyes pop open before five, for no apparent reason and I know that sleep is over.
I am not the only one with this problem. According to a recent Center of Disease Control report, about 35% percent of adults do not get enough sleep (between 7-9 hours every night). The risks of inadequate sleep are high. Those who get less than six hours of sleep more than double their risks of heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Inadequate sleep will also affect your mental health, your ability to think clearly, make good decisions, and drive safely. In fact, sleep-deprivation is one of the leading causes of vehicular accidents, higher than those caused by texting. If that is not enough, inadequate sleep has a direct correlation to obesity, as your drowsiness causes you to crave high fat and calorie-laden foods to get you through the day.
But how to get sleep when you just can’t relax enough or find yourself waking up at random times during the night? Here are a bunch of helpful tips I curated from different sources. Try a few and let me know how it goes for you! I will be trying them as well.
Keep your days light and your evenings dark. Try to get plenty of sunlight during the day, and avoid screen time and other artificial lights closer to bed. This will help your circadian clock, your night/day regulation system and help you stay on track.
Exercise almost every day; it helps release stress and anxiety. Yoga is an excellent method to ease all those aches and pains we carry throughout our bodies. It is also a great relaxing method.
Create and maintain a bedtime schedule. Just like infants rely on routine to inform them when it is time to settle down, we can learn to instinctively know that a routine of hot bath/shower, book, hot drink equals bed and rest.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol: We all know to avoid caffeine in the afternoon (though that is easier said than done when you are struggling to stay awake) but did you know that you should also avoid alcohol? Alcohol will help you fall asleep, but it won’t keep you asleep. You might find yourself waking up, dry-mouth, but still not refreshed.
Bedrooms should be very dark, without any artificial lights disturbing you. This means no screens, including phones. I used to wonder about those people who use sleep masks, until I began to use one. Now, I can’t sleep without it.
The bedroom should be a moderate temperature, somewhere around 65 degrees. Too hot or cold will make it difficult for the body to regulate its temperature.
There are some herbal supplements that people swear by. I myself use a non-habit forming one when I find I am struggling to sleep, and I wake up without any hangover side effects. Check with your doctor before taking any supplement.
If you still can’t sleep after all these methods, you can journal as a way of releasing thoughts that are keeping you up, listen to classical music, count down from 200 by 3’s, or speak to yourself in the few words you know in a foreign language.