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How to Rewire Your Brain for Better Sleep

How to Rewire Your Brain for Better Sleep

Struggling with sticking to a healthy bedtime and tired of daytime fatigue? Your mind may be to blame.

How you think about sleep and how you prioritize it in your daily life can have a significant impact on your quality of rest. If you view rest as a chore or waste of time, it likely won’t top your mental to-do-list.

But, changing your mindset on snoozing can give you a boost. Try these tips to mentally rewire your brain for better sleep and get motivated to make healthy rest a part of your lifestyle.

1. Rethink Your Perspective on Sleep

How you view rest (whether positive, negative, dismissively, or with anxiety) can significantly affect your quality of sleep. Learn to see sleep in a new light by reminding yourself of the immense value healthy habits bring to our lives.

Every minute of shuteye is precious. During sleep, your body actively restores, renews and heals. No matter what you value in life, it’s almost a guarantee that sleep plays a direct role. Here are just a few reasons why sleep should be a top priority, according to the Harvard Health Sleep website:

  • It affects how you look.
  • It affects your fitness.
  • It affects your health.
  • It affects your brain.
  • It affects your relationships.
  • It affects your job.

What are your core priorities? Is there a fitness goal you are trying to achieve, do you want to be more present for your family, or do you want to simply stay healthy? Keep this awareness in mind as you begin rewiring your mind and improving your sleep habits.

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When you feel like there is too much to do in your day to make time for rest or you are struggling to put your iPad down late at night, remind yourself of the reasons why you want to sleep better.

think positive

    2. Put Stress In Its Place

    Although being cognizant of the value of sleep is important, it is also essential to not preoccupy your mind with negative thoughts and stress if sleep doesn’t come easyly.

    Not only can this create sleep anxiety, but researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital found that people who ruminate on stress or try to avoid it were more likely to have insomnia symptoms. Other stress-relief tactics like positive reframing, religion and venting did not increase insomnia.

    If you are stressing over snoozing, try positive affirmations – replace thoughts like “I can’t get to sleep and I have so much to do tomorrow!” with statements like “I will fall asleep soon and feel well-rested tomorrow”. If you are not physically tired, get out of bed and read or relax to music in a dim room until you feel sleepy.

    Other studies also found that people with higher levels of gratitude experienced better sleep. Gratitude also has real effects on sleep-boosting neurotransmitters! Remind yourself of what you are thankful for before bed rather than you to-do list or stressful thoughts.

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    You can also neutralize stress and sleep-stealing thoughts with relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation and visualization. Try different things to see what works for you, and incorporate these habits into your daily routine.

    3. Plan for Better Rest

    An evening pre-bed routine helps prepare you mentally and physically for rest. Your body and mind know that it is time to start winding down, and that sleep is soon to follow. Your nighttime routine should have a consistent pattern and timing every night, and should allow enough time to get adequate rest in.

    Two hours before bedtime, you might start with a warm bath or shower. Slip into pajamas, begin dimming lights, and drop the thermostat to cool your bedroom. Start weaning yourself off of smartphones, laptops and television. Stop checking emails and Facebook, and make a conscious effort to be calm and tranquil.

    Include habits that relax you and release stress as mentioned above. Try reading, journaling, listening to calm music, stretching, a crossword puzzle, meditation, a cup of decaf tea – anything that puts you in the mood for slumber. When it’s close to bedtime, wash your face, brush your teeth, and slip into your cozy bed ready for sleep.

    reading in the evening

      4. Set Gradual Goals

      When it comes to sleep, small changes are often best for long-term results. Set gradual and attainable goals for getting more sleep or adjusting your bedtime and wake time. You might start by sleeping 15 minutes more per night, or shifting your bedtime or alarm 15 minutes earlier.

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      Think of what you hope to accomplish, and set gradual steps for getting there. You can even make it a game where you compete against your personal best, or work together with a partner for encouragement.

      5. Track Your Sleep

      For many people, tracking sleep habits and improvements toward goals can be motivating and encouraging. Use a journal or try sleep apps to monitor when you are sleeping and waking. Tracking rest can help you see where you can improve, and many apps also provide helpful insight into ways your routine affects sleep.

      office journal

        6. Reward Yourself for Reaching Goals

        We are mentally wired to enjoy and seek rewards after we do things. One study on obesity found that people who set goals, monitored progress, and rewarded themselves for changing unhealthy habits had the most success at weight loss. While obesity and sleep are different, the behavioral aspects of changing habits are similar, and links between goals and rewards have been studied many times.

        Plan a few small and healthy rewards to treat yourself as you reach your better sleep goals. Think about small motivators that will encourage you. Examples might include saving episodes of a favorite show on DVR, having a small piece of dark chocolate, listening to your favorite song in the morning, indulging in a new book or new workout gear, or a spa treat.

        7. Stay Consistent

        Consistent routines and sleep/wake times are an important part of good sleep hygiene and of developing new habits, as well.

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        Your internal sleep clock operates best with consistency, and studies even show consistent sleep wake times with healthier body weight. When you plan your sleep schedule, pick times that you can stick to within one hour all week long, even on the weekends.

        Stick with your goals and the new routine, but don’t get discouraged if you slip up for a day or two – you can always jump back in.

        sleeping bulldogs

          Remember, focus on the benefits of rest and make a conscious effort to prioritize sleep. Seek ways to deal with stress, and make better rest a reality by planning and sticking to a consistent schedule, with goals and rewards to motivate you along the way.

          What encourages you to sleep better? How do you make a rest a priority in your routine?

          Featured photo credit: Thom Davies via flickr.com

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          Last Updated on May 21, 2020

          The Top Fad Diets That Are Actually Worth the Hype

          The Top Fad Diets That Are Actually Worth the Hype

          You have probably seen enough fad diets to last a lifetime. Many have become popular overnight and left just as quickly.

          Some fad diets, though, have actually passed the test of time and are making some headway in the nutritional world.

          Outlined below are four fad diets that are actually beneficial for your health and wellness. Read on to find out why you should consider adopting one (or more) of these healthy eating styles today.

          An important concept you should keep in mind is to disregard the term “diet” as it is typically used. The word diet implies the idea of restriction and removal. Instead, think of the word diet in this context as a healthy eating lifestyle.

          Let’s take a look at some of these healthy eating lifestyles that have been categorized, by no fault of their own, as fad diets.

          1. The Paleo Diet

          The paleo diet, or ancestral eating, is simply eating the way your paleolithic ancestors would have up to 10,000 years ago, or when the agriculture age began.

          The advantage now is you don’t have to do this in a loin cloth, unless you want to… The focus of this diet is proteins, vegetables, some fruits, nuts and seeds and some healthy fats.

          In the paleo diet, there aren’t any grains, starchy carbohydrates, sugars, or dairy.

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          How Your Health Can Change With Paleo

          The paleo diet is a good way to keep your blood sugar under control. It can also have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes, and can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

          With this healthy eating lifestyle, people have also achieved good weight loss results and boast improved energy levels. [1]

          It’s not just what’s in the paleo diet that’s important, it’s what’s NOT in it. There aren’t any processed and manufactured foods, junk foods, artificial ingredients or chemical additives.

          Paleo is a way of eating that gets you more in tune with your body and, therefore, can provide a lot of benefits.

          2. Whole30

          The Whole30 diet is relatively new and owes its popularity to social media and the #Whole30 Instagram hashtag that allowed people to share and broadcast their success with the diet.

          With Whole30 you are taking 30 days and focusing on nutritious whole foods such as meats, nuts and seeds, seafood, eggs, vegetables, and fruits.

          During the month you are eliminating:

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          • sugar
          • alcohol
          • legumes
          • grains
          • dairy
          • soy

          Whole30 is similar to paleo, but it goes a bit further eliminating sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.

          At the end of the 30 days, you strategically reintroduce those eliminated foods back into your diet to discover any possibility of health consequences from them or even potential food allergies.

          Finding Out How Food Impacts You

          Most people eat the same things so often and may not realize that certain foods are causing health consequences, as they’ve become accustomed to feeling lethargic and run down.

          With Whole30 you get the chance to see how these foods may have a negative impact on your body. You’ll also reset your taste buds, which may have become desensitized from processed and artificial “foods” and excess salt.

          This diet will help you regain your love of food… in a healthy way!

          3. The Mediterranean Diet

          The Mediterranean diet has been at the top of the list as a very effective diet for some time now.

          For people in countries like Italy or Greece, this has simply been a normal way of life–along with higher activity levels, sunlight exposure, proximity to water, and lower stress.

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          With the Mediterranean diet, the focus is on heart-healthy foods. It looks like this:

          • Fruits & vegetables
          • Whole grains
          • Legumes & nuts
          • Replacing butter with olive oil
          • Using herbs and spices instead of salt
          • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
          • Moderate amounts of red wine

          Help Your Heart & Overall Health With A Mediterranean Diet

          Information from the Mayo Clinic shows that this diet reduces heart disease and lowers your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Studies involving 1.5 million people demonstrated that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality, along with overall mortality. [2]

          With all these benefits, this is definitely a “fad diet” that’s worth the hype.

          4. The Alkaline Diet

          The alkaline diet is about changing the foods you eat so that you put your body into an alkaline state and out of an acidic state. When your body is too far on the acidic side it can result in a condition called acidosis. This can lead to issues in your body such as upset stomach, breathing difficulties, headaches, weakness and, fatigue. In extreme cases, it can result in shock, coma, or death.

          The goal is to get your body in a more alkaline state, which results in overall better health. The focus is on including alkaline boosting foods such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, and legumes. You’re also wanting to reduce acidic foods such as low quality beef and poultry, dairy, eggs, grains, and alcohol.

          Pros & Cons With The Alkaline Diet

          The benefits that come from this way of eating is that reduction in inferior quality foods, processed items and alcohol. You may feel improved energy levels, mental clarity and even better joint health.

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          People also report weight loss but again this may come from the reduction in calories from junk and processed foods but this is not a bad thing at all.

          One con with this diet is that the pH value of the food you eat might not have an impact on blood pH, as your body is able to balance this pretty well on a day-to-day basis.

          Follow These Fads for Better Health and Wellness

          There can be a danger in categorizing things as a fad diet because fads come and go. People are always looking for the next big thing or a quick fix.

          The four examples above buck that status quo. These diets, though mainstream, actually can give you benefits and aren’t going to go away anytime soon because they work.

          What makes these diets special is that they boast real whole foods and the eliminate processed and manufactured junk.

          The Big Takeaway:

          Whatever way you choose to eat, the focus needs to be on whole unprocessed foods. Look for the cleanest, local and most natural things you can find for the benefit of your overall health and wellness. Your body and mind will thank you.

          Featured photo credit: Dan Gold via unsplash.com

          Reference

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