Right before Christmas break is one of the worst crunch-time periods of the whole year. It's busy, busy, busy--heaven knows there are few things I wouldn't give to find the world's pause button now, because the minutes are going by faster and faster, and it seems like nothing's getting done.
If you're like me, you're probably losing sleep at night thinking about everything you have to finish in the coming days--which means, upon getting up the following morning, it's like you haven't even gone to bed at all. Against my better judgment, there are actually instances when I feel I might as well stay up and keep working until I feel the beginnings of a snooze gradually spreading throughout my body.
But as tempting as that is, I know I should force myself to hit the sack because 1) staying up all night would mean I'll be dozing off when I should be alert during the day; 2) my brain might be able to handle the stress of an all-nighter, but it's not for certain that my body can manage the same feat; and 3) I don't want to worry about covering up my raccoon eyes in the morning.
So it's settled--a good night's rest is mandatory. But since sleeping doesn't come as easily for us as it does for other people (I've been long resigned to the fact that it's a talent), here are some natural sleep techniques that I've found on the Net, and which might prove helpful:
1. Make your to-do list for the following day before retiring at night. This works absolute wonders--I've been doing this for years, so I'm happy that I'm on the right track, after all. The act of committing on paper all the tasks that you have to accomplish the following day reassures yourself that everything will get done, and you can stop worrying about it. You can try keeping your planner by your bedside, and if you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night remembering an assignment or meeting you've forgotten to jot down, you can do so easily then doze off again.
2. Wind down by reading or listening to music. Watching television isn't really advisable because it leads to a sensory overload--the brain has to process both visuals and sounds. Meanwhile, reading a book or listening to music means your brain has to just deal with either with visual input or aural input. Light reading and easy listening materials--stories or music that aren't too difficult to digest--work best. As for myself, listening to music works better for me than reading books, and the Sleep playlist on my iPod contains mostly classical and piano-driven blues, and even some spoken word poetry.
3. Avoid snacking at night. Having your digestive system work overtime disrupts your body's normal sleep patterns. Or, if you're really hungry, go for easy-to-digest starches like bread; avoid sweets and fats. If possible, limit your food intake for supper as well. The benefit of this is twofold: not only will you be able to sleep better, it will also prevent weight gain, because the less you eat at night, the more time your body will be able to finish digesting the meal before you go to sleep.
4. Have a nighttime ritual right before going to bed. It can be a hot shower, a light body massage with aromatherapy oils (you or your partner can do it), soaking your feet in a foot bath, or meditating for a few minutes. Once you've accustomed yourself to the habit, performing your nighttime ritual will be a way of winding down your body and conditioning it for sleep.
5. Drink a glass of warm milk. My grandmother swears by this, and yours most probably will, too. Even Audrey Hepburn's character in the film Roman Holiday was given milk to drink every night to help her sleep better (that didn't work very well, but I guess it takes more than milk and crackers to help alleviate the stress of being a royal). Flavored milk also works, but try to find a brand that's not too sugary-sweet.
Most importantly, I think the trick that does it is telling yourself that at the end of a long, hard day, you deserve to take a break and rest--and that there'll be time to worry about everything else tomorrow. Sweet dreams!
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