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Sleep More, Drink Less: How to Quit or Moderate Alcohol and Cure Insomnia

April 19th, 2018

 

Many people find it difficult to switch off at night, believing a few night-caps will lull their busy minds into compliance and improve their sleep. Others drink late and into the early hours. It’s not uncommon to see business men and women or students out on the town still drinking until 3 or 5 am.

Some people think a quick nightcap will help them sleep, but a 2013 review of 27 studies shows that alcohol does not improve sleep quality.

According to the findings, alcohol does enable healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply. But this is only a short-term fix. Alcohol disrupts rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. And the more you drink before bed, the more pronounced these effects.

“Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night,” says researcher Irshaad Ebrahim,  the medical director at The London Sleep Centre in the U.K. “Alcohol also suppresses breathing.”

No doubt you’ve heard of tragic cases of people who have left their friends to sleep it off, only to find when they go to check on them in the morning, that they’re dead.

Sleep plays a vital role in your health and wellbeing. Getting enough shut-eye helps you maintain your mental and physical health and enhances your quality of life.

Modern science proves conclusively that if you skip out on sleep you’re compromising not just your productivity and efficiency, but also your health.

More than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, according to a February 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sleeping less than seven hours a day, they report, can lead to an increased risk of frequent mental distress, impaired thinking, reduced cognitive ability, and increased susceptibility to anxiety and depression.

Lack of sleep also increases the likelihood of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. None of which will aid your quest for happiness and prosperity.

When stress becomes too much, is your quality of sleep affected? The next time you’re worrying and feeling anxious around bedtime, try one of these simple hacks to relax and quieten your mind enough to fall asleep:

Take time to unwind after a stressful day

Before going to bed, take some time out to unwind from the stresses of the day. Allow at least 30 minutes before bed for a quiet, “preparing to sleep” activity. Enjoying a calming cup of herbal tea, listening to soothing music, reading a novel or book of poems (paperback), an aromatherapy bath with lavender and other scented oils, or even a relaxation or meditation practice.

Clear mental clutter

If the events of the day or other issues are still running through your head before bedtime, start writing them down in a journal for you to revisit later. The simple act of writing down your troubles–and noting how you feel about them in that moment–can help you make sense of the root cause of your problem and free up some space for more important activities like sleeping.

Schedule time to worry

If you want to sleep better, you need to empty your mind of all thoughts, tasks, and stresses. Another way to clear your mental chatter is to “box your worries” by scheduling dedicated “worry time.” This is a programmed time that is dedicated to–you guessed it–worrying. A scheduled 30-minute window in your day allows you, and even encourages you, to think constructively through the problem. Many of my clients tell me that when their “worry time” comes around, their issue has disappeared or become less important.

If the worrying issue is still lingering, by granting yourself some time to focus on it, you’re forced to either formulate a solution or to let it go.

Be proactive and create a to-do list

Another active way to clear your head and get to bed is with a master to-do list. Write down “things to do” on a list in your diary so that you don’t need to keep thinking about them over and over. This is why planning your “tomorrow” the day before is also an effective strategy. You can sleep well knowing that you have your bases covered. This also minimizes decision fatigue.

Did you know that humans are only capable of keeping seven to nine different things in our working memories at once? When you try to recall all the tasks you need to complete, this uses up valuable mental energy and can prevent you from sleeping soundly.

Creating a list transfers your chores from your mind to the page (paper or digital), freeing up valuable brainpower. You’ll be better able to analyze tasks and prioritize, delegate, or even eliminate some of them. It’s a win-win success strategy.

Numerous studies reveal that a to-do list can also make you happier. Don’t sweat it if you don’t manage to cross everything off your list; the act of compiling one can still help you reach your goals, manage your stress levels, and help you relax enough to get some well-earned sleep time.

Disconnect

You can also enhance your sleep by turning off all devices and leaving them outside your bedroom.

“I will not sleep with my phone in my room,” Jessie Burton, author of The Muse, shared on one of her blogs. After suffering from burnout and severe anxiety, she created a not-to-do list to restore and protect her mental health.

If lack of sleep is keeping you awake at night and making you tired during the day, consider reading and applying the strategies in Arianna Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time.

Be ruthless about prioritizing your well-being. Remind yourself of the benefits that flow while you sleep, and when you enhance the length and quality of your sleep.

 

 

This is an edited extract of Cassandra Gaisford’s new book Mind Your Drink: The Surprising Joy of Sobriety (Control Alcohol, Discover Freedom, Find Happiness and Change Your Life), available in print and eBook from all good bookstores, including:

Amazon: getbook.at/MindYourDrink

Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Nook and iBooks: https://www.books2read.com/u/bQBLj0

Or direct from the author  http://www.cassandragaisford.com/product/mind-your-drink-the-surprising-joy-of-sobriety

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