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Leadership Thought #337 – Don’t Spend Time Tossing and Turning in Bed

April 17, 2012

Free Woman in Gray Tank Top Lying on Bed Stock Photo

I have always envied people who don’t have any problems sleeping although this number is small, especially as you age.  My sister used to joke that not sleeping well is a sign of a guilty conscience. I certainly hope not.    It has a lot to do with what is on your mind, but it is also a reflection of what you eat and drink, how much exercise you get, and whether you have good sleep habits.  Some nights I sleep deeply while other nights I seem to wake up sporadically throughout the night and never quite drift off as I need to.  It can all get a bit frustrating if you let it get to you.

I received some great advice a long time ago.  Never lie in bed tossing and turning on those nights you can’t sleep.  Get up and do something.  If there is something pressing on your mind put your thoughts down on paper.  Brainstorm viable solutions. Think through different scenarios and what you could do should they happen.  I keep an extra journal near my bed for this very purpose.

If there is nothing pressing on your mind, then get out of bed, find a comfortable chair, and read a book or magazine that isn’t too deep or thought-provoking.  Let your mind wander a bit and escape somewhere else.  You will find it won’t take too long before you’re ready to try and fall asleep again.  I usually include a ritual where I will make myself some “Sleepy Time” tea that also helps calm me down a bit.

I have also practiced mediation and breathing exercises with varying degrees of success.  There is an instructional CD I sometimes play where the narrator’s voice is soft, reassuring, and easy on the ear.  If I don’t fall asleep right away, I certainly feel more relaxed after listening to it.  I received this as a welcome gift package when staying at a hotel many years ago which also included earplugs and a blindfold – neither of which worked for me, but I have heard they do help others.  They also had a calming sound/white noise machine in each room, which is more of a distraction for me but has always worked well with one of my kids.

Whatever you do, don’t turn on the TV or make yourself a snack.  The former usually provides too much mental stimulation and will make you wake up even more.   You may even end up buying things at 2 AM you later regret.  The latter, if it becomes a habit, will lead to unnecessary weight gain.  It may also adversely affect your sleep depending upon what you eat.  I also don’t like sleeping pills because they can lead to misuse and dependency.  In addition, don’t get fixated on how much sleep you are missing.  It’s been ingrained in all our heads that we need 8 hours of sleep.  The fact that you might not make this total on a given night shouldn’t ruin your day the next day or make you miserable at that moment in time.

Lastly, if you are sharing the bed with another person, it is unfair to make them suffer through your tossing and turning.  At some point, you will wake them up and the other person will end up having difficulty falling back asleep.   The next day you will have two people who are tired and cranky rather than just one.  I have always believed that my problems should not become someone else’s problems unless they are the source of the issue.

It is my contention that very few people get 8 hours of sound sleep every night.  I also don’t believe everyone needs the same amount of sleep.  We will have good nights and bad nights.  If you are suffering from ongoing insomnia that is another issue altogether and you should seek professional help.  Otherwise, accept the fact that, like most things in life, there will be ups and downs.

When you can’t sleep, get up and do something else.  You will find that eventually you’ll get tired again and you will fall asleep. Take control of your sleep or lack thereof.  Don’t let it control you.  Tossing and turning in bed will never work and only makes a frustrating situation worse.