Arianna Huffington, of the online newspaper Huffington Post, has issued a Sleep Challenge 2010, with the goal of getting 8 hours of sleep per night. Well, I have my own suggestions, which I think are pretty good. Personally, I have no problem sleeping, and I get 8 hours and even more per night! Here are some suggestions based on my professional experience as a Physical Therapist/Health Coach, and my own personal experience.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep (Psalm 127:2).
God in His love for us has created our bodies to enjoy rest and repose, and a good nights' sleep. There are certain things which we can do that will either prevent that or enhance that. I am going to concentrate more on things to do that WILL ensure a good night's sleep.
Exercise is a good way to ensure a good nights' sleep. Exercise causes the body to release hormones and neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin respectively, which cause the mind and body to relax, and also produce an euphoric state. The key however is that you do exercises that are pleasurable to you. Forcing yourself to walk on the treadmill or ride a stationary bike will help your waistline, but will fail to release sufficient sleep-positive hormones, if you do not enjoy these exercises. Try different types of exercises until you find something that you enjoy. Personally, I enjoy dancing, zumba, yoga, and boot camp. These exercises I do enjoy, and I feel refreshed and energized afterwards, but not so fatigued that I cannot sleep. The release of endorphins and serotonin associated with these exercises put me in a good mood, and cause my mind and body to relax and feel rejuvenated.
The biggest mistake that people make with exercise is that they exercise themselves to exhaustion, thinking if they are exhausted, that they will fall asleep. The truth is that when we are exhausted, we have even more difficulty falling asleep, and we toss and turn all night trying to get comfortable. So, find exercises you like, preferably something aerobic, and do not exercise yourself to exhaustion. Your exercise routine should leave you feeling invigorated, and refreshed, and not tired and worn out.
As someone who has given a lot of massages, I must say this really works! Massage works to relax tired and achy muscles and the human touch of another person has a very soothing quality to it - whether done by a professional or loved one. A good non sensual massage such as the Swedish massage is very relaxing to the mind and body. The movement of the massager hands over your body causes your body to release endorphins - those feel good hormones that relaxes you and puts you in a state of euphoria. This effect is multiplied even more when one is massaged in a quiet room, filled with soft music or nature sounds, with the lights dimmed.
I have found in my profession that when I put a hot pack on a patient for pain, they invariably fall asleep. Heat is such a good facilitator of sleep, but the person receiving the heat must perceive that the heat is comfortable. If it is too hot, the person will feel discomfort and not sleep at all. In the same way, if the environment is too cold, one will have difficulty falling asleep. A room that is too warm/hot or too cold interferes with sleep. The sleep environment must therefore have enough warmth that is comfortable for sleep. Snuggling up in bed under the covers, and getting cozy and comfortable in bed, is a sure way of falling off to sleep peacefully.
4. Sexual activity
Sex is a good way to ensure a good nights' sleep. Sex which climaxes in orgasm causes the release of the hormone oxytocin, which relaxes you and causes you to sleep. It is that same hormone that causes your husband to just roll off you and fall asleep!
These are just a few of my tips for a good nights' sleep. Oh yes, there are other 'rules' to follow such as don't eat late at nights, don't stay up past midnight, take a warm bath or hot shower, and so on. The tips I have provided above are tips based upon my speciality - physical wellness/exercise. Let us all therefore try to get a good nights' sleep.
ADDENDUM (added 1/23/10 @ 2:49 am)
Well, how could I have forgotten to add these final two tips? These are so essential for a good nights' sleep, which by the way, I was awoken from to write this!
5. A Clear Conscience
One tends to sleep better if one has a clear conscience versus a troubled conscience. Many people lose sleep at night because they have done something or someone wrong, and the guilt from their conscience keeps them up at nights. The solution to this is not always simple, because sometimes the damage has been done and cannot be simply reversed; however, as the saying goes, "confession is good for the soul." If you have wronged anyone, the Bible says that you should confess your sins to the person whom you have wronged, so that you can be healed of your mental affliction, and possibly even some physical affliction caused from a guilty conscience (James 5:16).
6. Dependence upon God
This tip is very important, if not the most important tip of all. Jesus wants us to take all our problems, whether sleep problems, health problems, financial problems, and any other problems all to Him so He can solve these problems for us. Many times we look to ourselves and our own wisdom to solve our own problems, and are up at nights rehearsing our problems in our minds and robbing ourselves of sleep. Put your trust in Jesus, and trust Him to solve the problems that are keeping you up at night. Don't try to do this all on your own. You will just wear yourself out. Jesus can help, and you will end up getting a good nights' sleep!
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."(Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).