(press release: summitbehavioralhealth) // New Jersey // Maria Ulmer MA, LMFT, CAADC | Chief Clinical Officer
Waking up refreshed after a good night sleep is priceless. If you’re in early recovery, you know (more than anyone else) exactly what I mean. Maybe a mother to a newborn child also knows the struggle, but I think we’d agree – it’s different. Your body is still recharging from a rough run and one of the best ways we rally is through rest. Sleep not only restores physical energy but also helps with regulating our emotions and sharpens our critical thinking, amongst other things.
“Nice to know, but I can’t get to sleep,” you might be saying.
Don’t worry, we’ve got some thoughts for that. Here are some quick tidbits that tend to lead into a better relationship with your bed so you can learn how to sleep better and faster. Disclaimer: As with most things in life, consistency is key!
Lay Off the Caffeine
Don’t hate me. Seriously though. One of the first things a physician or clinician is going to ask a person who has trouble with sleep is about caffeine intake. So I’m betting you’ve heard this before, but it’s true. Just think about your general intake of routinely caffeinated products: coffee, energy drinks, tea, energy drinks, soda, energy drinks… Hey, no angels here! I’m drinking a cup of English Breakfast tea while I’m writing this. I’m not trying to say that caffeine is a bad thing, but keep in mind, it will contribute to sleep disturbances.
How long does caffeine affect the body? Experts say that although nearly all caffeine is absorbed in the body within 45 minutes of consumption, its effects can last 4-6 hours (2). Best bet – anything over 4 caffeinated beverages daily may be adding more sheep to your counting queue (and a 20oz Red Bull counts as 2). If you’re looking to conk out by midnight, the last call is 6 PM.
Get Your Energy Out
Physical activity is essential! Not only is it good to get active and get some endorphins going, but it is a very simple way to help along your physical recovery and use up your body’s energy so that it’s ready for rest. Kind of like feeding two birds with one seed…
Think about your body as an energy generator. It’s self-powered and you fuel it intentionally with food, and indirectly with anxiety, anger, and other strong emotions. (Yes, emotions are energy – but that’s a whole other topic) If you’re not doing anything with that energy by the time you’re looking to sign off for the night, your body may not physically be ready to be still. Insert restless nights here.
Sleep.org advises exercise for good sleep at night, however, cautions to keep rigorous routines to earlier hours in the day as evening workout routines might contribute to a restless night (3). So say yes to sweat, just not right before bedtime.
Get outdoors, get your steps in, have an impromptu dance party in your living room for all I care, just do something. If your energy is being used, your body will crave a reset.
Make Your Bedroom a Snooze Only Zone
The unconscious brain does many things that we’re not aware of and one of them is making associations. An association is when we make mental connections between one thing, person, or concept and another. Sleep Hygiene Tip: Make the brain to associate your bedroom with sleep. To help secure this connection, it would be best for you to limit activity in it to the essentials.
Harvard researchers will tell you, the bedroom should be treated as a space of rest and relaxation (3). If you’re lounging around there most of the day, your brain won’t be associating it with sleep. It will be associating your bedroom with everything else you do and will likely result in long periods of thinking – not sleep.
If your living space makes following this tip unlikely, then try dedicating your bed itself as a sacred place of rest. Put in an arm chair for lounging and other activities.
Set a “Ready for Bed” Routine
We are nothing if not creatures of habit. Again, another fun brain fact. Similar to the previous tip, you can train your brain to not only associate your bedroom with sleep but also prepare it by establishing a routine so that it knows rest is coming up on the evening routine checklist.
Everyone has something that works for them. Maybe this is when you journal, sit for a few minutes to meditate, or stretch and do some breathing exercises. The folks over at Harvard also note “Physically and psychologically stressful activities can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with increasing alertness. If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down—and then putting them aside.” (3).
Limit Your Screen Time at Night
In the world of Netflix, Hulu, and binge-watching random YouTube videos, we could all benefit from putting the technology away for a bit. If you’re having sleep problems, try being screen free (including your phone) for at least one hour before bedtime.
Interesting fact contributed by HuffPost writer Dr. Laurie Hollman, too much light from device screens will interrupt the brain’s production of melatonin, a naturally occurring chemical responsible for bringing on sleep (4). So scientifically speaking, you may be contributing to your own problems.
Give yourself a break from your tech. Your brain won’t be so stimulated and you just might pick up that book sitting on your night stand, talk to your roommate, or play with your pets before getting in some shut-eye.
Never hurts to try. Play around with these tips for two weeks and see how it goes! Give us your feedback and spread the word.
About the Author: Paul Lavella Jr. MA, LPC, LCADC, ACS
Paul shares, “Wellness Based Counseling is a concept very dear to my heart. At the root of it, the counseling relationship is not solely focused on “the problem,” rather how you go about life’s journey in a way that leads you toward feeling and being well. Counseling is not about pathology; it’s about learning what’s not working and figuring out what will.
I am dually Licensed in the State of New Jersey as a Professional Counselor and a Clinical Alcohol & Drug Counselor with ten years of professional experience working with adolescents, adults, and families. As an Approved Clinical Supervisor, I also provide supervision for those seeking licensure for counseling or addiction counseling.”
Embarking on a journey towards wellness and recovery is perhaps the bravest and most inspiring thing a person can do. At Summit Behavioral Health we are here for you every step of the way.
Other Resources for you:
- Learn more about 10 Tips To Help Prevent Relapse in our previous blog post
Read our blog post: 5 Stages Of Addiction Recovery As An External Process
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