Okay so a lot of people have been complaining about the strange weather this year. It seemed like summer wasn’t going to come! I mean, honestly, it was still cold in the middle of October. What’s up with that?! But then summer came in all it’s South African summer glory! The one day we had temperatures in the low twenties and the next day we had temperatures in the mid thirties. Boom! Just like that. And now people can’t fall asleep, because it is too warm. I know this, because I am experiencing it… So is my wife and our neighbours. But technically, the warmth shouldn’t be too much of a sleep barrier. That is if we get ready for bed properly.
We can overcome heat, cold, humidity and even mosquitoes if we prepare accordingly. So if you want to fall asleep without hassles, even though it is still a thirty odd degrees Celsius outside, read on. In today’s blog post we will take a look at how to get ready for bed!
Ready to Relax
The first thing we need to understand about sleep is that it normally doesn’t come in an instant. You can’t be working out or doing stressful budget checks one minute, and then get in bed and expect to fall asleep the next. It doesn’t work like that. Our minds and bodies need some time to unwind and relax before we can drift off to sleep. Sure, lying down is a very good way to relax, but simply lying down isn’t always enough. Especially if you have a hectic schedule that keeps you stressed out from the moment you get up to the moment you fall asleep.
Chances are that when you lie down, your brain just keeps on working and you can’t fall asleep. Then you start developing a fear that you might not fall asleep when you get in bed, because that is what usually happens. And that just adds another thing to stress about to your list of stressful things. This is quite obviously not an ideal situation to find yourself in! Our bedrooms should be places of calm and relaxation, not of stress and anxiety. So don’t just hop into bed after you finished the day’s work. Rather work out a routine that will help you to unwind and get ready for some restful, restorative sleep.
Calm your Mind
The first step to get a good night’s rest is to calm your mind. If your mind is still active when you get in bed, you are doing it wrong. Get out of bed, go somewhere other than the bedroom and get it out of your system. An easy way to calm your mind is to keep a to-do list. If you tend to live in the moment and make decisions based on how you feel, keeping a to-do list might be difficult at first. But if you discipline yourself in the art of making lists, it will help you to fall asleep more easily.
So how does this to-do thing work? I’ts simple, really. At the start of each week, write out all the things that you wish to accomplish that week. Then take a couple of minutes to break it down into days. Decide what you want to do on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc. Don’t overburden yourself though. Rather start out small and work up to achieve more than to start out by assigning yourself impossible amounts of work for each day. This will just cause more problems… Let’s say you have 20 things to do on a Monday and you only get around to fifteen of them. You might feel like you’ve failed yourself and stop making lists of things to do, because “you can’t stick to the script anyway, so why even bother”? Does this sound familiar?Therefore, instead of giving yourself 20 tasks to complete, start off with five or ten.
Okay, so now you have your to-do list. What’s next? Do the things on the list, then tick them off! You can also create a rollover system, where those things that you didn’t get to today gets carried over to tomorrow’s list. But don’t carry to many tasks over, because then you just swamp yourself again and fall back into despair.
What is the effect of successfully completing your to-do list?
It helps you to relax, because it takes the pressure off. First off, you don’t have to remember everything that you want to do, because you wrote it down. That clears up some memory that you can use to apply to your work or studies. Secondly, it leaves you feeling confident! If you see that you can actually do the things you say you want to do, it will give you confidence in yourself, because you know you can. That will translate into your everyday life and, yes, even to your sleep! If you know you can do the stuff you want to when you are awake, it will make it easier for you to fall asleep, because you won’t feel anxious about tomorrow.
2. Don’t get in bed with your work
The bedroom should be an oasis of calm and relaxation. Don’t bring your work into the bedroom, because it will disrupt that relaxed atmosphere. In order to get ready for bed, finish your day’s work (outside of the bedroom), tick it off on your to-do list and then you may enter the bedroom.
Psychiatrists found that taking your work into the bedroom significantly increases the time it takes to fall asleep. In a recent study, sleep experts say that the mind associates different rooms with different things. They found that people who associate the bedroom with work tend to take longer to fall asleep and that their sleep is more restless than those who do not associate the bedroom with work. Other sleep experts advise that, if you still think about work when you get in bed, you should go to another room and do something that doesn’t demand a lot of brain power, until you feel drowsy enough to fall asleep. Only then should you go back to bed.
Ready to get Physical
Another good way to relax yourself before you go to sleep is to do some low intensity physical activity. Don’t go running around the block or do hectic cardio before you climb in bed. Rather do some soothing breathing exercises or some relaxing yoga.
Neither the breathing nor the yoga has to be spiritual or mystical. It is just a simple exercise, whereby you can stretch out sore muscles or just get into a comfortable breathing rhythm before you get into bed. A lot of South Africans tend to associate yoga with mysticism, but we really don’t have to. we can simply benefit from stretching out our limbs in ways that have been tried and tested. Combining yoga with deep breathing is actually very healthy, as it promotes blood flow and lymph movement throughout the body. Increased blood flow means better cellular regeneration, improved digestion and improved brain function. Whereas lymph movement helps your body to get rid of all of those nasty stuff that is bad for you.
So why would you want to rob your body of some healthy, relaxing pre-sleep activity such as yoga? If you can go to bed with good blood circulation, it will enhance your sleep experience greatly! You will just help your body to restore itself even more while you are asleep, which will leave you feeling relaxed and restored when you wake up.
Technology to the rescue!
The best thing about stretching out before bedtime is that you don’t even have to go to a yoga studio to do it. There are a myriad of yoga apps on your app store, a lot of them are free. I use the Daily Yoga app. It is an easy to use app where you can choose what type of stretching you want to do. There are simple routines to help you relax and then there are more advanced routines for those of us that has some experience with yoga. You can chose to do the same routine very day if you want, or you can push your limits by taking on the slightly longer and more technical routines.
Of course Daily Yoga isn’t the only app out there. You can really just go to your app store and punch in yoga. There are hundreds of apps for you to choose from, so go check it out!
Acclimatize your Body
When you are getting ready for bed, it might help to cool your room off and to cool your body off. Our bodies go through a natural heating up and cooling off cycle very day. When we go to sleep, our bodies slowly start to cool and when we get up, we heat up. When it is as warm as it is nowadays, it might not be a bad idea to kick start the cooling off period before you go to bed!
1. Take a Shower
One way to cool off before you get into bed is to take a shower. And the best part is, it doesn’t even have to be a cold shower! Just jump in and do a quick rinse, you don’t have to go through the entire routine of shaving and all that (unless of course you do your shaving before you go to bed). The idea is just to get your skin wet, so that your body thinks it is sweating (which is a natural cooling mechanism, by the way). When you sweat, the evaporation of sweat from your skin causes a chilling effect. Water has the same effect.
I said you don’t have to take a cold shower, bu also try not to create a sauna while you shower. The idea is for you to decrease the effects of humidity and heat, not enhance it!
If you have a pool at home, you can also use that to your advantage. Dive in the pool an hour or so before you go to bed, to kick start the cooling off effect and get your body ready for bed.
2. Wear appropriate PJ’s
Don’t wear full body pajamas during the summer. It might cause you to sweat and sleep in discomfort. Also try to avoid silk pajamas when it is warm, because the silk tends to trap body heat and make for uncomfortable sleeping. The best would be to wear light, breathable fabrics to bed, like cotton.
3. Make sure you have the right linen on the bed
Linen plays a similar role to PJ’s when it comes to sleep. You don’t want heavy sheets on the bed in the middle of summer, nor do you want silk sheets, because it traps your body heat. Try getting your hands on a pair of light cotton or linen sheets, which has a low thread count. Thread count is basically how tightly woven the fabric of your sheets are. Higher thread count means that you have a tightly woven sheet that helps to keep body heat inside. This is ideal for those cold winter nights, but when it comes to summer, you don’t want that.
Ready your Room
A cool room during those hot winter months is ideal for sleep. Good ways of keeping your room cool during the summer is to leave the blinds shut during the day. Like this, the sun doesn’t get time to radiate its heat throughout the bedroom and bake it like an oven. You can also make use of a fan to move the air around in your bedroom. Stagnant air just feels stuffy and warm, whereas a slight breeze (even if it is an artificial one) is always welcome during the sweltering heat of summer!
If you sleep with a ceiling fan or a smaller upright fan on, jut be careful not to catch a cold. To avoid catching a cold, I sleep under a light sheet that covers me from head to toe. Like this, I can keep the fan on to move the air around without catching a cold.
Now you should be ready for the next couple of months! I hope you learnt some deft new tricks today that can help you to fall asleep tonight. Until next week. Stay cool 🙂