Sleep or the lack of it seem to be a problematic concern for the tech savvy, culturally aware, underemployed, over-worked, over tasked, powerhouse professionals and well basically the “Millennial Generation” or the Generation ‘Y’. These groups of people as well as a few more have worked their way into a reoccurring pattern of stressed sleeplessness.
The correlation between stress and sleep deprivation is becoming increasingly apparent in American society. NPR maintains that 60 million Americans are currently battling insomnia. That is 60 million too many. Our world revolves around the doer’s those that are trying to successfully run the gamut of all that the environment they live, work and play in throws their way. Now I focused on the Millennial’s but the Baby Boomers and Matures are having their share of sleepless nights maybe not in the high amounts of the Millennial’s but enough that it is time to take back the night!
Our sleep is fragile and is affected by changes in schedule, stress, environmental factors and more. Stress over most factors is widely recognized as the body’s response to potentially harmful situations, whether real or imagined. Although the effects of stress most certainly vary from person to person, general reactions include quickened breathing, tightened muscles, spiked blood pressure, and an increased heart rate. One of my favorite sayings, “Knowledge is Power”. Knowing the causes taking steps to counteract these effects will go a long way to helping us all reclaim the night. Join me in waking refreshed with the ability again to tackle challenges with vigor that life puts in front of us.
Three key components to reclaiming the night are in the breath we take, our physical well-being, and our mindset. Some of these are easy fixes others require time, dedication and occasionally a life change.
BREATH: Our breathing or lack of can be directly linked to our mental state as well as just a basic lack of awareness. Quick and shallow breaths only reach our upper chest instead of fulfilling the reason for breathing to evenly distribute oxygen to all parts of the body. Again, ‘Knowledge is Power’ so mindful breathing is step one to taking back the night and it is as simple as adding these (6) six steps to your evening routine until it becomes a habit.
Breathing Technique: “4-7-8”
1) Place the tip of your tongue against the tissue ridge right above your upper front teeth. Keep it there for the remainder of the steps below.
2) Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound as you do so.
3) Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose while mentally counting to four.
4) Hold your breath for a mental count of seven. 1..2..3..4..5..6..7..
5) Exhale completely through your mouth for a mental count of eight. 1..2..3..4..5..6..7..8.. Make the same whoosh sound from Step Two.
6) This concludes the first cycle. Repeat the same process three more times for a total of four renditions.
In a nutshell: breathe in for four, hold for seven, and breathe out for eight. You must inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. The four-count inhale allows chronic under-breathers to take in more oxygen. The seven-count hold gives the oxygen more time to thoroughly permeate the bloodstream, and the eight-count exhale slows the heart rate and releases a greater amount of carbon dioxide from the lungs.
PHYSICAL WELL-BEING: Take a hike… no literally go for a walk! Yes, I know we all had a long day at work and are tired. But, that is a different type of exhaustion it is mental instead of physical even those that have physical exertion jobs should take time to go for a walk when they get home. When walking use your breathing technique, listen to some great music, leave technology behind and just take a moment for yourself. I am not going to start preaching weight lifting or getting in shape, we all know we could be a little healthier. But, I am going to say if you want to sleep better at night your physical well-being matters. Hydrate, eat something light in the evening not heavy and go for a walk to unwind from the day’s events. Let me touch one more time on hydration – you are 50-65% that means if you are not hydrating enough you are going to have more aches, pains, headaches, sleep issues and more.
MINDSET: Now that you have pushed oxygen into your body feeding your heart, lungs and brain as well as aided in your physical well-being (take another sip of H20) let us delve into your mindset. Most think the physical aspect as being the toughest of these three aspects but my experience is the mindset for over 95% of people is actually the hardest area to take control of. It is literally mind over matter – the power of what a mind in the right motion can do is incalculable. You are not going to breath correctly or get yourself in better shape if your mindset is one of I will start that tomorrow. So ALL roads to what you are wanting starts with your mindset.
In the venue of sleep there are a couple tasks that you need to do to help in this area specifically. First step before leaving the office put your desk in order, make out a list of things that you did not get to finish (DO NOT berate yourself – this is an area we can help you with read: Third Time’s a Charm, Schedule Like a Pro, Level-Up, and When Goals Fizzle just to name a few), and mark priorities that you can take care of first thing in the morning… NOW give yourself permission to walk away. This is one of the hardest parts in mindset conditioning – learning to not beat yourself up for leaving tasks or not allowing yourself to stress over it all night. Learning to schedule like a pro will help you but until you can put those things into practice – cut yourself some slack. Give yourself permission to enjoy downtime, family time, me time!
Saying it inside your head or out loud helps. But mindset is all about letting yourself believe what you are saying not tricking yourself into falsities that will hurt you like saying I can fly and jumping… but saying “I did my best today and took care of my priorities. Tomorrow I will get the rest done and this evening I am going to have wonderful moments.”
WRAP UP: Lastly before laying down to sleep; have a notepad next to your night stand for writing down anything in your mind you cannot quiet it. Once it is written acknowledge (mindset) it will be okay to take care of it tomorrow. Hydrate and do your breathing technique. Find a scent that relaxes you like; lavender, vanilla, lemon, or apple… put a drop in your hands and use with breathing steps or put on your pillow. Read a book or use soothing music set very low as it is harder to concentrate on tasks running through your mind when you are humming in your thoughts to a tune or reading a great story.
Remember nine tenths of sleep problems are self made. To sleep like a baby you have to take care of yourself like you would a child and give yourself permission to be at peace like a child who has no concerns. If you have concerns that you cannot quiet in your mind we would love to help you – our team or professionals are here for you! ~K.Kirkland