You’ve certainly heard before how important it is to get adequate sleep. It affects your choices in food, causing you to crave comfort food. But now Matthew T. Feldner, a health science specialist at the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Menlo Park, California, has co-authored a book, Sleep and Affect: Assessment, Theory and Clinical Implications. The book explains that lack of sleep will cause you to respond to stressors with more emotional arousal.
I guess that is no surprise. You know that when something has kept you up at night… a sick child, worry about a big presentation or anything that keeps you staring at the ceiling, the next day, you have your cranky pants on.
Some things are unavoidable, like a sick child, but others are bad habits. Worrying about anything while you’re supposed to be sleeping is not helpful. Keep a pad of paper (or worry journal) by your bed and jot down anything that is on your mind. Release it on paper and resolve to pick it up in the morning.
One of the most effective things you can do to relax and sleep is breathing… I know you already do that. But I mean relaxation breathing. Try this: inhale and on the exhale whisper, “La, la, la, la…” for the length of the exhale. Don’t force the breathing. Let each inhale come naturally.
If you’re worried about your partner hearing you, simply do slow deep abdominal breathing. Place one hand on your abdomen, inhale deeply through your nose, feeling your ribcage expand, making your belly expand outward. Exhale through your mouth, using your abdominal muscles to push your belly button towards your spine.
You can use either of these breathing techniques when you first go to bed or if you wake up in the middle of the night.
And don’t forget your bedtime ritual. A 15-30 minute routine before bed will help prepare you for sleep. Make sure it doesn’t include anything with screens (TV, phones, iPads, laptops) because those light-emitting screens alter the melatonin production, altering your sleep. Sleep well tonight…
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