Everyone experiences emotional vulnerabilities. We all have situations that can make us more sensitive. And we all have factors that lead us to experiencing emotions more intensely at different times. Many emotional vulnerabilities we do not have control in changing. However, there are some that we do! One way to reduce emotional vulnerabilities is making sure you are getting a good night’s sleep. Easier said than done for some of us. Let’s talk about ways we can cope ahead to increase the likelihood of getting a better night’s sleep.
Better Sleep Tip 1: Develop and follow a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.
Our brain and body functions best on consistency. So it’s important to create an effective sleeping routine that works best for your schedule.
This can be difficult if you are someone who has different work hours throughout the week. Or if you are someone who enjoys sleeping in on the weekends.
Trying your best to make sure that you fall asleep and wake up around the same time on a daily basis will help keep your body and brain functioning properly.
Better Sleep Tip 2: Do not use your bed in the daytime!
Make the commitment to keep your bed reserved only for sleep or intimate times with your partner.
Be aware of your urges to use your bed during the day. You may wish to do things such as online classes, school work, job responsibilities if you work from home, reading, therapy sessions, etc. Avoid this habit!
If space is limited in your home, make a plan by creating a work space in your home that is not your bed.
Better Sleep Tip 3. Be mindful of what you consume before bed.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, heavy meals, and exercise late in the day before going to sleep. All of these things will keep the systems in your body running, instead of calming down to get ready for rest.
Be mindful of when you are having that last cup of coffee, soda, or alcohol. Schedule your workouts several hours before bed. And avoid eating big meals or late night snacking.
Better Sleep Tip 4: When ready, turn off the light, keep the room quiet, and the temperature comfortably cool.
Prepare the room for the right mood; a sleep mood! Adjust your environment to what makes you most comfortable and relaxed. Turn off anything that makes noises and can be disturbing, like TVs or cellphones.
An issue I have with this is that I am easily woken up when there are the slightest noises. To help with this, I have a noise maker that I run at night so there is a consistent noise and can drown out other noises.
Turn off your lights to make the room darker. If you are someone who prefers light when sleeping, perhaps invest in a small night light or light plug-in.
I am someone who absolutely hates being cold. However, when it’s time for sleep I adjust my room to cooler temperatures, which makes me eager to get under those warm and cozy covers. 60-67 degrees is ideal for your body to regulate to it’s natural dip in body temperature at night.
Another helpful tip: Make your bed in the mornings so that when you come to bed at night, it is all prepared and ready for you. I notice this as a little nighttime welcoming gift from my bed.
Better Sleep Tip 5: Give yourself 30-60 mins at most to fall asleep.
Remind yourself that sometimes it takes your brain and body some time to wind down. Be patient in getting settled.
If you are noticing that you are anxious or ruminating before going to bed, perhaps try things that are self-soothing, like taking a shower, using essential oils, drinking warm water or decaffeinated tea.
You can also try using distractions such as reading a calming novel or completing a word search or crossword puzzle before bed. Audiobooks can also help distract an anxious mind while trying to fall asleep.
Whatever you do, do NOT pick up that cell phone! This will only cause you to ruminate and stay awake longer.
Better Sleep Tip 6: DO NOT CATASTROPHIZE.
Heading into crisis thinking of what will happen if you don’t fall asleep is the most sure fire way to NOT fall asleep!
Use DBT skills to help get out of this mentality. Check the facts if you begin to think of all the terrible things that will happen if you are unable to get settled and fall asleep. Validate your frustration and impatience. Remind yourself that sleeping is something you do every day and some days it can be harder than others. It’s important to give yourself this affirmation so that you can help your brain to be calm. Radically accept that tonight is a more difficult night than others.
If you are noticing that you need more than these pep talks to yourself, try using other distress tolerance skills to calm yourself. Try using temperature change (cold water), paced breathing, paired muscle relaxation, or meditation. Your brain will absolutely not fall asleep until it no long perceives a threat. So it is up to you to soothe yourself in hopes of making the situation better.
Be patient with yourself as you begin to make these changes!
Getting this down can take time. A lot of this may also be trial and error. Don’t give up, and keep trying other interventions to create the routine that works for you!
About The Author
Kristen Moyer, LCPC is a licensed clinical professional counselor with Montgomery County Counseling Center in Maryland. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from West Chester University (PA) in 2010 and continued on to earn her Master’s Degree in Professional Clinical Counseling from La Salle University (PA) in 2014. In 2017, she began working with children and adolescents who struggle with education and their behavior in a school setting and has since evolved to working with emerging adults and adults in DBT settings. Kristen became EMDR trained in June of 2021. Kristen is currently accepting EMDR and DBT clients ages 16 and up for online therapy.