• 3 Tips to Improve Sleep


    In a previous blog, we talked about the three fundamentals of emotional balance: eating, sleeping and moving. Of these three, sleep is often the trickiest.


    Just because you’ve made time for sleep doesn’t mean it will necessarily come — or come easily when it does. The need for sleep varies between individuals, but studies suggest that 7 or more hours is optimal for many adults. We all have nights we toss and turn. However, longer-term disruptions in the amount or quality of sleep we get can negatively impact physical and psychological health — and even cognitive functioning. You may have problems remembering things, gain weight, experience emotional dysregulation or become more susceptible to illness and heal more slowly.


    Here are three things you can do to improve sleep.


    1. Planning

    Although planning for sleep doesn’t always offer up immediate relief, it’s a great place to start. Setting a regular time for sleeping and waking is good for our internal clock that regulates the sleep/wake cycle, which is part of our circadian rhythms — or the natural cycle of mental and physiological changes that occur over each 24-hour period. These rhythms are greatly impacted by exposure to light and darkness. So, if you work the overnight shift, that can be a real problem. Whether you sleep at night or during the day, make sure your sleeping area is as dark as possible. Avoid light sources like video screens and TV at least 30 minutes before bed. Don’t use your bed for work or recreation as this can cause your mind to associate the bed with activity. Keeping your bed only for sleep and sex will send more congruent signals to the mind and body regarding sleep.


    1. Mindfulness

    Practicing mindfulness a half-hour before bedtime can signal your mind and body that you’re entering sleep mode. It can be hard to relax if your mind is racing with stressful thoughts. The emotional and physiological centers of the brain will sense threats — even if there’s no clear and present danger — and fire up the fight-or-flight response. Mindfulness helps reduce anxious thoughts and find more comforting places for your mind to be. You can read about mindfulness techniques in earlier blog posts — or consider downloading the free app Insight Timer.


    1. Exercise

    Getting in just a little bit of mild activity on a regular basis, such as walking for 20 minutes, can do wonders for regulating the sleep/wake cycle. Research shows that a little light exercise can improve sleep. Performed two or more hours before bedtime, exercise can reduce stress and encourage the release of hormones associated with well-being, such as endorphins, and reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.


    These tips may not solve the problem for everyone. If you suffer from persistent insomnia, see your family doctor or mental health provider, as it can impact your relationships and occupational functioning or be an indicator of a more serious emotional or physical condition. As always, you can contact me via email at or call 407-579-2070.

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