how many sheep do I have to count?

How do you sleep? Do you find yourself sleeping an average of eight hours a night? Or do you struggle with too much or too little sleep? Do you find yourself laying in bed worrying about life? About your job, finances, goals, children, or other items? Do you have an endless to-do list that is dragging you down and preventing you from getting a good night's sleep?

For years, I struggled to get on a steady sleep pattern. Either I was up half the night, worrying about everything and nothing all at once, or I was so exhausted, I'd fall into bed before dinner. Once I finally fell asleep, I would toss and turn, waking up exhausted. Then rinse, and repeat, I'd do it again the next day. It had been happening for so long, I thought it was normal. I'd forgotten what regular sleep felt like.

There are things I have found work for me to help with getting a good night's sleep. Nutrition, exercise, magnesium, cutting caffeine and sugar, and stopping eating earlier all help. Taking a break from technology for a while before bed also helps. Making a to-do list and checking in on my responsibilities for the next day also allows me to let go of my worries and turn off my brain.

I was curious to see what the experts recommend to help with sleeping. Below is a list of some of the ideas I found shared consistently:

  • Open the blinds and spend time in the sunshine during the day

  • Wake up consistently at the same time daily

  • Exercise

  • Limit screentime

  • Watch what you eat before bed

  • Cut back on caffeine after 4 p.m.

  • Be careful about naps

  • Simplify your sleeping environment

  • Have a consistent bedtime

  • If it is light out when you go to bed, close the blinds/shades to block out light

  • Watch beverage intake before bed

  • Have a comfortable bed, pillow, and bedding

Additionally, I found ideas that were part of popular culture:

  • Use essential oils - namely lavender

  • Turn on a fan to keep the air moving

  • Take a bath before bedtime

  • Do not eat or exercise within two hours of going to bed

  • Take melatonin

  • Do bedtime yoga to help relax your body

  • Get a weighted blanket

  • Meditate

When you are busy, it can be challenging to be consistent. Self-care isn't always easy and making your own health and wellness a priority isn't always the first instinct. I know for myself, I have so many responsibilities to other people, my children, my husband, my friends, my coworkers, my business, my church, my community activities, and more. It is easy to get into the habit of giving to others. When you give all you have to others though, you don't leave enough for yourself. Overcommitment can lead to less sleep, higher stress and overwhelm.

Make caring for yourself by getting enough rest a priority. Sleep deprivation has been linked to depression, obesity, high blood pressure, weight gain, heart disease and more. Get rest so that you can be your best.

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Christy Zuehl

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