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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

Having Trouble Sleeping? 9 Quick Fixes to Help You Sleep Tonight

Having Trouble Sleeping? 9 Quick Fixes to Help You Sleep Tonight

According to surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, one-third of people living in the United States don’t get enough sleep.[1] Americans are also the least happy they’ve ever been, based on a recent U.N. report — they’ve dropped in happiness rankings for the past three years running.[2] It’s difficult to say whether poor sleeping habits and sleepless nights are causally related to unhappiness, but there is very little doubt that when you have trouble sleeping, it negatively affects your overall health and well-being.

Whether you want to fall asleep faster or get higher-quality rest overall, improving your sleep isn’t necessarily difficult. Here are 9 easy things you can do to get better sleep right away:

1. Write Before Bed

The difficulty in getting to sleep for many people lies in an inability to shut off their thoughts. As you wind down, you’re often not only thinking about events of the day, but also on the next day’s challenges. These thoughts aren’t aimless chatter, either — they represent feelings, observations, or intentions that your subconscious has deemed important, and doesn’t want you to forget during the night.

One solution is to write as many of those thoughts down as you can. Whether it’s a journal, a diary, or just a stack of post-it notes, writing down your thoughts and feelings before bed will move them temporarily out of your mind. You’ll often find this makes it easier for you to relax.

2. Make Your Bed

Making your bed might seem like too simple of a chore to carry with it the power to change your sleep quality. Interestingly, however, there is a correlation between making your bed and your quality of sleep.

That’s right: the National Sleep Foundation compiled data from a “Bedroom Poll” and found that people who said they made their beds in the morning also reported better sleep overall.[3]

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Why this correlation exists is still a mystery, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth exploiting it. After all, it only takes a few minutes to make your bed each morning, and chances are that if you’re reading this article, you’re probably lying awake in bed for longer than that every night anyway.

3. Drink More Water

You might think drinking more water would harm your sleep quality by causing you to get up at night and use the bathroom. That can happen, which is why a good hydration practice involves not waiting until bedtime to guzzle water.

If you’re surprised that hydration affects sleep patterns in the first place, you shouldn’t be. Even mild dehydration dries out your mouth and nasal passages, making you more likely to snore or wake up during the night. It can even lead to nocturnal leg cramps.

Whenever possible, drink plenty of fluids (non-caffeinated, if you’re having trouble sleeping) at regular intervals throughout the day. About 90 ounces of fluid a day is appropriate for most women, while most men should be getting closer to 125.[4]

4. Take a Shower Before Bed

During the day, your core body temperature naturally fluctuates in accordance with your circadian rhythm, which, as you may know, controls your sleep-wake cycle.

Body temperature is one of the factors your body relies on to know whether it’s time to sleep or stay awake. A lowered core temperature prompts melatonin release, and the body progressively cools overnight before warming again around “wake-up” time.

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This is called thermoregulation, and you can manipulate it with a warm bath or shower. The warm water heats up your body, and when you get out, your skin dries and cools quickly — triggering melatonin and other “sleep cues” in the brain.

5. Take a Night Drive (In Your Imagination)

This is a visualization technique similar to what many therapists recommend to treat stress and anxiety, and one of many such techniques put forth by the National Sleep Foundation.[5]

Think of a drive or ride you take often (your daily commute to work, for example). Now picture yourself getting in your vehicle, pulling out of your parking space, and commencing the trip. Try your best to focus on the road and imagine each stop, turn, curve, and landmark. Chances are, you’ll be asleep before you reach the second mile marker.

6. Quit Coffee

Of all the ideas on this list, you might be most opposed to trying this one. After all, if you’re already groggy and tired in the mornings from not sleeping well, coffee might be the one thing that seems to help you get going.

Unfortunately (especially for those who drink coffee for the taste), the same caffeine that is your best friend in the morning becomes your enemy at night, disrupting your circadian rhythm and promoting an unhealthy cycle of wakefulness.

You might think, “Sure, but I don’t drink caffeine at night.” What you might not know is that the quarter-life of caffeine is a full 12 hours — meaning if you drink a cup of coffee at noon, a quarter of the caffeine from it is still in your system at midnight.

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Ditching caffeinated stuff for decaf or hot tea might be difficult in the short run, but it will make it easier to relax and wind down later in the day. If you find that you just can’t give it up, try to drink your caffeine as early as possible in the day to help minimize its late-night effects.

7. Try Dinner for Breakfast

While nutritional science is still in its infancy in many ways, its research has already made waves in demonstrating how what we eat affects us. Potassium, for instance, benefits the body in many ways — including acting as a mild muscle relaxant.[6]

Protein, meanwhile, may be billed as the muscle-building nutrient, but did you know it also aids in sleep?[7] Another key to getting quality rest is making sure the body’s blood sugar level stays regulated — something a good source of light carbohydrates can help immensely with.

Put all that together and what do you get? A prescription for breakfast at dinnertime. A banana for the potassium, some eggs for the protein, and some carbs, like a piece of toast or bowl of oats, will prime your body for a relaxing night of high-quality sleep. (Just leave out the coffee.)

8. Try the ARMY’s 2-Minute Technique

If there’s one organization that absolutely can’t afford groggy employees, it’s the military. To guard against mistakes committed by sleep-deprived soldiers, the U.S. Army trains its members in a technique to fall asleep within 2 minutes.[8] Here’s how it works:

  1. After getting ready for sleep (teeth brushed, alarm set, etc.), lie down in a comfortable position (you can also do this in your car, in which case just lean your seat back)
  2. Tighten all the muscles in your face, then let them relax as much as possible
  3. Let your shoulders and arms relax as well
  4. Clear your mind for 10 seconds, trying to think of nothing at all
  5. Picture one of the following: you’re lying in a canoe, in a calm lake with clear blue skies above; or you’re in a velvet hammock, gently swaying in a pitch-black room

If this doesn’t work right away, it may be worth trying again. The best results are reported after several weeks of consistent practice.

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9. Get More Exercise

When it comes to packing everything into your schedule, do you prioritize extra sleep or extra exercise? The truth is you need both to maintain your health. The solution might be to focus on exercises that have been documented to actually benefit your sleep quality.

For example, doing 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise after waking up in the morning has been shown to improve sleep quality in adults. According to at least one survey, those who exercise are almost twice as likely as non-exercisers to report getting good sleep each night.[9]

The Bottom Line

While these tips can be highly effective, it’s important to remember that poor sleep can also be caused by underlying medical conditions. That said, in many cases, lifestyle changes have been shown to be more effective than medication at improving sleep in the long term. Either way, it’s a good idea to discuss these kinds of issues with your physician or healthcare provider.

Whatever you decide, trouble sleeping isn’t something you should ignore. Lack of sleep can contribute to a number of serious health problems, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

You spend up to a third of your life asleep, so if you want to improve your quality of life and overall well-being, it stands to reason that your sleep habits are a good place to start!

More Tips for Better Sleep

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. David Minkoff

Health Expert | CEO BodyHealth | Co-Owner and Medical Director at Lifeworks Wellness Center | Author

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Last Updated on April 20, 2021

5 Best Guided Morning Meditations for Energy And Motivation

5 Best Guided Morning Meditations for Energy And Motivation

Do you wake up feeling fatigued, depressed, or unmotivated? Adding a simple morning meditation for energy may help. Practice one of these guided morning meditations for increased energy and motivation daily, and you will wake up refreshed and ready to take on each day!

The benefits of meditation are hard to ignore. Meditation is a long-held tradition in Eastern cultures that has recently become popularized in Western culture, using science to back its effectiveness. Meditation has been proven to decrease stress, depression, anxiety, and pain. It has also been shown to increase motivation and attention.[1]

What is Meditation?

First, let’s explore the different forms of meditation before diving into specific guided morning meditations for energy and motivation.

There are a few different forms of meditation that we will explore:

  • Moving Meditation
  • Mindfulness Meditation
  • Mantra Meditation

Moving meditation combines gentle exercises, breathing, and focus. Examples of moving meditation include walking meditation, yoga, tai chi, or qigong.[2]

Mindfulness meditation involves present-moment awareness of whatever action you are taking. It can be practiced as you move through your day simply by bringing your awareness to your breath, mind, and body.

Mantra meditation is similar to using positive affirmations. It incorporates repetition of sounds, words, or chants as a focal point for meditation. Mantra is thought to shift stuck energy from the body. Certain mantras (or sounds) have been shown to synchronize both hemispheres of the brain. This can help oxygenate the brain, decrease blood pressure and heart rate, and calm brainwaves.[3]

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, it provides a general introduction to the several forms of meditation. For a more comprehensive list check out: 17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) To Practice Mindfulness.

How Does Meditation Increase Energy and Motivation?

Meditation increases endorphins in the brain, which is the chemical responsible for a runner’s high. However, when compared with runners, master meditators show higher levels of endorphins than runners post-meditation.[4] Long-term meditation practices are also associated with increased melatonin, which is responsible for regulating sleep.[5] Over time, consistent sleep patterns increase overall wellbeing and energy levels.

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Other long-term effects of meditation include an increase in the grey matter in the brain. Meditation has also been linked with increased cognitive function, memory, and attention.

The long-term impacts of stress contribute to feelings of exhaustion, burnout, and fatigue. Meditation has been shown to decrease the impacts of the sympathetic nervous system (commonly referred to as the fight or flight response). A regular meditation practice may assist in relaxation by decreasing heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. [6]

However, meditation is not just for relaxation. The Buddhist tradition where mediation originated focuses on remaining alert during mindfulness. Seasoned meditators show increased alertness and awareness in brain functioning compared to non-meditators.[7]

5 Best Guided Morning Meditations for Energy and Motivation

Now that you know how meditation can help increase energy and motivation, here are the 5 best guided morning meditations you can try.

1. Wake Up With a Sun Salutation for Increased Energy

Yoga practices that focus on breathing have been shown to increase energy and attention.[8] Starting your morning with a Sun Salutation is one excellent way to increase energy and motivation in the morning for lasting results.

A Sun Salutation is a sequence of yoga poses strung together in a specific way. A focus is placed on moving mindfully with the breath through the postures. If done mindfully, one can enter a flow-like state while practicing a Sun Salutation.

Practicing Sun Salutation Type A

Inhale and reach the arms up overhead. Exhale and fold forward with a slight bend in the knees. On your next inhale, place the hands on the thighs while straightening the spine. Exhale and melt down into a forward fold once more.

On your next exhale, place your hands on the mat and step your feet into a plank pose. Lower down from straight legs or bent knees with your triceps just grazing your rib cage. Your whole body will be flat on the mat. As you inhale, keep your hands on the earth and lift your head, neck, and chest off the mat. Exhale and press back into downward-facing down.

On your next inhale walk your feet back to the top of the mat and hang in a forward fold. Roll your body up letting your head and neck come up last. You can choose to finish your practice here or flow through the sequence once more.

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If you are new to yoga, practice alongside a trained instructor or find a yoga video that walks you through the correct alignment to ensure you do not injure yourself as you practice. Allow yourself to be guided through the practice so you can focus on your breath as you move from one pose to the next.

2. Practice Walking Morning Meditation

Another way to combine movement and mindfulness is through walking meditation. Walking meditation involves slow, mindful steps with a focus on the breath. Exercising outdoors can help to boost serotonin and increase endorphins. This can be a wonderful way to start the day with increased energy and a positive mood.

Step slowly and mindfully, as if you are walking on thin ice. Slowly begin to inhale through the nose and count the number of steps you take. Then, slowly exhale and count your steps. As you walk, keep counting your steps on each inhale and exhale. Try to keep your pace even while focusing your attention on your breath and body.

Try to avoid busy areas with lots of people or traffic to reduce distraction. A walking path with lots of open space is ideal. Once you have finished you can bring your attention to the sights around you and mindfully breathe in and out as you slowly return to a normal pace.

3. Let Your Stress Melt Away During a Mindful Morning Shower Meditation

One of the easiest ways to practice meditation is by adding it into activities you already do. The trick is to bring your attention to the present moment. Choosing activities with lots of sensory input can help heighten the experience of mindfulness.

Examples of mindfulness activities can include chores like doing the dishes or sweeping. It may also involve routine activities like exercise or showering.

If you shower in the morning, you can easily incorporate mindfulness into your routine. It is best to remove any distractions while you shower but if you would like you can play gentle, instrumental music in the background. Focus on the sensation of the water running over the crown of your head and down your entire body. Imagine the water is cleansing stress, tension, and worry from the body and mind.

Bring your attention to the five senses. This can aid in grounding for decreased stress and anxiety, which will improve long-term energy and focus. Notice the temperature of the water and the air. Smell the different soaps and shampoos as you wash. Allow yourself to indulge in the moment by closing your eyes as you stand under the water. If you get distracted come back to one of your senses.

This shower meditation is a form of mindfulness. It does not take any extra time from your day. It is simply one way to incorporate present-moment awareness into your routine.

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4. Practice Bellows Breath for Increased Energy

Deep breathing is another way to increase energy and attention. There are several forms of breathing exercises utilized in yoga and meditation. Breath of fire or bellows breath is one exercise for increasing energy and vitality.[9]

This breathing exercise can cause dizziness or light-headedness. Discontinue practicing if you experience any negative side effects and return to normal breathing.

Begin by inhaling through the nose. With a forceful exhale, contract the diaphragm as you breathe out through the nose. Inhale and allow the belly to expand and then exhale and allow it to contract.

When first starting, it can be helpful to go slowly. Reverse breathing, where you expand the belly on the exhale and contract on the inhale, is common but should be avoided.

Once you have the rhythm down, you can move quickly through the breathing exercises. An emphasis is placed on the inhale while the exhale is forceful and contracted. The inhale and exhale should be similar in duration.

Aim for three breath cycles a second. Do not practice for more than 15 seconds without taking a break when you are first starting. As you become more advanced you can add 5 seconds, working your way up to a minute of practice.

5. Practice Mantra Morning Meditation for Increased Energy

Science suggests that repeating the mantra “OM” can result in increased alertness and sensitivity to sensations (pronunciation of “OM” sounds similar to “A-U-M”). In spiritual traditions, it is considered a primordial sound, which created all other sounds[10].

When “OM” is chanted aloud, it vibrates at 136.1 Hertz. This is the same frequency as everything in nature.[11] Scientific studies have uncovered evidence to suggest that chanting OM may be related to vagus nerve activation, which assists in the rest and digest response in the nervous system.[12]

If you are new to chanting, it can be helpful to practice reciting “OM” aloud. The sound of “OM” is similar to “A-U-M” with the word being drawn out for several seconds on the exhale. More seasoned meditators may choose to focus on the word internally.

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To begin, simply inhale, and on you exhale, chant “A-U-M.” You may choose to set a timer on your phone for as long as you have to practice.

Another way to practice mantra or chanting is to use mala beads. Mala beads come from the Hindu faith and are a string of 108 beads with one larger bead at the end. Hold the mala in your left hand and begin with the first bead between the thumb and pointer finger. Each time you chant OM, move your fingers to the next bead until you reach the largest bead, also known as the guru bead.

Once you have finished, take a few moments to sit in silence and observe any new thoughts or sensations that arise.

Incorporate Morning Meditation into Your Routine

Now that you know the 5 best guided morning meditations for energy and motivation, where do you begin?

Follow these tips for forming a new habit:

  1. Set realistic and sustainable goals
  2. Practice at the same time, every day
  3. Weave the practice into your current routine

Ten weeks may be a realistic time frame to commit to a consistent practice, despite the adage that it takes 21 days to form a habit.[13] Choose one of the morning meditations for energy and motivation that fits your current schedule. Keep it simple and try to build it into your already established routine.

Choosing to practice at the same time every day will make it easier to practice consistently. Instead of looking at this like something you have to do, choose to view it as something you get to do. This should be an enjoyable activity that you look forward to each morning.

Doing one of these activities each day can assist with increased energy and motivation, not to mention the variety of established physical and psychological benefits of meditation. Practice these guided morning meditations for energy and motivation every day for ten weeks and you might just become a morning person, after all.

Featured photo credit: Sage Friedman via unsplash.com

Reference

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