If you’re anything like me, you’ve experienced your fair share of sleepless nights. You go to bed looking forward to a good night’s sleep, but the moment your head hits the pillow, tomorrow’s to-do list spirals through your brain. Or perhaps you faced a stressful situation during the day, and your mind can’t stop thinking about it at night.
You’re not alone. I’ve experienced all of this, but nothing compared to the insomnia I faced during my years of burnout.
Burnout And Insomnia
I was working at a non-profit in leadership development, systems creation, and project management. In addition, I was on a crisis line 24 hours, seven days a week. Over the course of many years, the chronic stress and lack of professional boundaries led to burnout. And then insomnia became a constant companion.
Since then, I’ve learned many valuable lessons for avoiding insomnia and sleeping well. Of course, there is still the occasional night when I struggle with sleep, but the following guidelines have helped me combat insomnia and become a better sleeper.
Guidelines For Overcoming Insomnia
Create A Sleep Ritual
What you do before bed counts. It’s essential to have a routine that informs your mind and body to prepare for sleep and keep the routine consistent.
- Mindfulness practice – An hour before bed, go to a quiet place away from distractions. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and breathe. Focus on your breath, noticing how it feels as you inhale and exhale. Begin to slow and lengthen your breath. Incrementally make your exhale slightly longer than your inhale. This mindfulness practice settles your nervous system.
- Brain dump – Open a journal to a fresh page and sit comfortably with pen and paper in hand. Close your eyes and let your mind wander. Soon enough, you’ll start thinking about what you need to do or ideas for a project. Write them down, then resettle and repeat until you no longer have thoughts popping up in your conscious mind. Taking the time to write down everything on your mind intentionally ensures they won’t crop up once you lay down to sleep.
Create A Sleep Sanctuary
Where you sleep has as much to do with combating insomnia as what you do. Preparing your bedroom according to your biological needs ensures a much better chance of sleeping well.
- Make a sleep nest – Biologically, your body requires a dark, cool room without noise to sleep well. Invest in room-darkening curtains or blinds to block light from entering the bedroom. Set your thermostat a couple of degrees lower than your daytime temperature. If you live in a noisy neighbourhood, use earplugs or a white noise machine to cover environmental sounds.
- Keep your devices out of the bedroom – Nothing causes more sleep problems than being on call to your electronic devices. I recommend turning off your devices, including all notifications, at least an hour before bed. Then, leave your devices outside the bedroom, so you are not wakened by noises or the sleep-disrupting blue light they emit.
Create A Wake Routine
Believe it or not, what you do when you wake up is as vital to healthy sleep as your evening routine.
- Get into the sun – Sunlight naturally tells our bodies and brains that it’s day and, therefore, time to be fully awake. If you live in a sunny environment, go outside to enjoy your cup of coffee or tea first thing in the morning. If you live in an area where it is dark in the morning, invest in a high-quality daylight lamp. Use it according to the manufacturer’s directions. It’s commonly recommended to use it for twenty minutes first thing in the morning, at a diagonal, so it’s not shining directly into your eyes.
- Move your body – Upon rising, move your body to get the blood flowing to your brain. You can do this with a simple stretching routine or by doing your favourite yoga poses. Even better, go outside for a walk to stimulate blood flow and wake up your body and brain. By moving your body early, coupled with natural or manufactured daylight, your natural sleep rhythms will improve over time.
Sleep is essential for our physical, mental and emotional well-being. By creating a sustainable sleep and wake routine as well as a sleep sanctuary, you provide yourself with the gift of better sleep.
Food For Thought
What is your most helpful tip for getting great sleep?
Do you find it has more to do with your pre-sleep routine, bedroom environment, or morning routine?
About The Author
Bonita Eby is a Burnout Prevention Strategist and owner of Breakthrough Personal & Professional Development Inc., specializing in burnout prevention and wellness for organizations and individuals at the intersection of health and leadership development. Bonita is on a mission to end burnout. Learn more at www.break-through.ca.