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5 Reasons You’re Not Sleeping Well, and How to Fix the Problem

5 Reasons You’re Not Sleeping Well, and How to Fix the Problem

Nothing gets your day started on the right foot better than a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, spending hours tossing and turning all night will almost assuredly lead to a slow start the next morning. Of course, getting a good night’s sleep isn’t as simple as laying down and closing your eyes. Your body and mind needs to be prepared to spend eight hours at rest. A lot can get in the way of a good night’s sleep, but with proper care for yourself and your environment, you can optimize your chances of resting well.

Thinking too much

We lead busy lives – there’s no doubt about that. Some of us fill our daily lives with dozens, if not hundreds, of responsibilities and obligations. So it makes sense that, when we lay down to sleep for the night, our brain starts reminding us of everything it thinks we should be doing instead of laying dormant for eight hours. Unfortunately, when this happens, we often get caught in a thought-loop that makes it impossible to fall asleep. Or, if we do fall asleep, something in our dreams will wake us up and cause us to start thinking again, denying us the deep REM sleep we need to become fully rested.

To alleviate this problem of overthinking, you can start using your time during the day more wisely. Procrastinating a few minutes here and there might not seem like much, but if you add them all up you’ll realize you waste much more time than you initially thought (don’t worry, I’m guilty, too). Try to get as much work done as you can during the day, and spend your evenings relaxing and letting your worries fall away until the following morning.

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If your thoughts become too cyclical, get out of bed for a few minutes and take a walk around your house. Sometimes the simple act of removing yourself physically from a situation will allow you to remove any negative thoughts that have been running through your head.

Muscle soreness

Getting a good night’s sleep is all about finding that perfect spot in bed that gives you the comfort needed to drift off to dreamland. Of course, if it’s physically impossible to get comfortable in the first place, you’re going to end up tossing and turning until the wee hours of the morning. Constant neck and back pain can disrupt your sleep patterns, or keep you from falling asleep in the first place, no matter how exhausted you are.

If you’re generally in good shape and healthy, the problem might not be on your end. It might be your mattress. Your choice of mattress should never be taken lightly: it’s where you’ll spend a third of your day, every day of your life. Find a mattress that conforms to the contours of your body, while also giving you the support you need in all the right places. When it comes to adjusting or replacing it, rather than going by a timeline (every three years, for example), go by when it’s necessary. You might end up replacing your mattress earlier than you thought you’d have to, but you can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep, right?

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Irregular sleeping habits

Back in your college days, you could get away with staying up until two in the morning and sleeping ‘til ten, and taking hour-long naps in the middle of the day without it affecting your nightly sleep schedule. I hate to break it to you, but those days are long gone. Now, sleeping in on Sunday morning will mean you’ll get to bed later come Sunday night. And work doesn’t start at noon on Monday like your classes used to; you’ll have to get up and moving whether your body’s ready or not.

The best way to battle this is to keep a routine and stick to it. I don’t mean you need to wake up at five in the morning over the weekend, but you shouldn’t sleep more than an hour later than usual. By sacrificing some sleep time on the weekend, you ensure you won’t absolutely hate yourself come Monday morning. If you absolutely need to rest in the middle of the day, or after a long day of work, set your alarm for no more than 20 minutes. Any longer and you’ll fake your brain out, making it think it should be settling in for the night – and then you’ll have a tougher time getting to bed later on that night.

Irregular eating habits

Whether you’re going to bed too hungry or too full, neither is conducive to a good night’s sleep. Obviously, if your stomach is growling for food and cramping up, you’re not going to be able to just ignore it. On the other hand, however, if you spend your evening gorging on snacks full of salt or sugar, you’re going to be much too bloated to get comfortable – and will probably have to take a trip or two to the bathroom overnight, as well.

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If you must eat before bed, do so about an hour before you lay down. But be careful with the food you choose. Ignore the chocolate donuts, and opt for the more healthy fruit, salad, or protein-rich cheese and eggs. The lighter fare will satisfy your hunger, but won’t bog you down for the rest of the night. Save the sweets for your cheat day.

Too much “noise”

“Noise,” in this sense, refers to any extraneous stimuli that causes a disruption in your sleep pattern. From nightlights and car alarms to pets and a messy room, noise can distract your mind in a variety of ways and keep you from nodding off at night. These stimuli keep your brain active and alert, whether you want it to be or not. The anticipation of feeling your cat jump on your bed or hearing a car horn blare in your complex’s parking lot inhibits your brain’s ability to let down its guard, meaning you won’t be getting to sleep any time soon.

Of course, there are many ways to deal with these distractions and ensure you get a good night’s sleep. Turn off any small lights at night – especially ones that blink (from your computer, for example). Combat intermittent noise from outside with the constant hum of a fan or air conditioner; the droning sound can actually be comforting. Close your door at night so your pets aren’t constantly jumping on and off your bed (and your body). Finally, clean up the area around your bed. You might not consciously realize it, but a room full of “stuff” can subconsciously cause your mind to continue working long after you’ve laid down. Once all external stimuli are stifled, you’ll be free to drift off and enjoy your slumber.

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Featured photo credit: Insomnia / Emil Johansson via farm5.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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