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When one good night of sleep is not enough (DW#721)

Over the last few weeks, we have been talking about the importance of sleeping well and enough as a way to reboot and replenish our energy.

But sometimes, even though you have been sleeping enough, you still wake up feeling tired and lacking in energy.

If you are experiencing this, you may also be experiencing some or all of the following:

Lack of energy

Lack of motivation

Feeling irritable or frustrated often

Feeling "fuzzy-headed"

Forgetting things or making silly mistakes

Feeling stress at doing things you used to enjoy

If all of any of this is going on, it could be sign that just focusing on sleep is not going to be enough.

It may be a sing that you are experiencing "burnout" And that it is time to consider a longer break.

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Dealing with chronic insomnia (DW#720)

The sleep strategies that we have been talking about work with most people most of the time. They are meant for people who are not aware of proper sleep hygiene and may be unknowingly doing things that interfere with sleep.

And then there are others who suffer from chronic insomnia. Experts tell us that about 10% of people suffer from what is known as chronic insomnia disorder.

The symptoms of chronic insomnia disorder include:

Trouble falling or staying asleep at least a few times per week.
Experiencing sleepless nights regularly for over a month at least.
Sleeplessness significantly getting in the way of functioning or causing distress.

If this sounds like you, of course you can try what we have mentioned. But do consider talking to your health care professional about other medical and non medical interventions to help you sleep.

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Exercising too late (DW#719)

You may have heard, like I had, that you should not exercise at night because it can cause sleep problems.

Traditionally, experts have recommended not exercising at night as part of good sleep hygiene. A recent study published just last year suggests that you can exercise in the evening as long as you avoid vigorous activity for at least one hour before bedtime.

The study found that not only did evening exercise not affect sleep, it seemed to help people fall asleep faster and spend more time in deep sleep. (Turns out hubby dear was right)

However, those who did high-intensity exercise — such as interval training — less than one hour before bedtime took longer to fall asleep and had poorer sleep quality.

So, here is the takeaway: Getting regular exercise any time of the day is a valuable part of good sleep hygiene habits. If the only time you have to walk is after dinner, do that.

If you have a regime of high intensity workouts or cardio sessions, complete those at least...

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A full tummy may be impacting your sleep (DW#718)

We have been discussing how our busy brain can keep us awake. But sometimes, it is not our brain at all but our body that makes it challenging for us to wind down for the night.

According to the results of a new study by "the sleep doctor" Michael J. Breus, PhD, the timing of food intake can have a significant effect on sleep patterns. Eating more in the evening hours, close to bedtime, can make it hard to fall and stay asleep women are more affected by food-related sleep disruptions.

In short, we are now finding out that both how much you eat, what you eat and when you eat can all have an impact on sleep.

Here is the summary of what to do if a full stomach tends to keep you awake:

1) Eat dinner like a beggar – small quantities of simple food

2) Stay away from high fat dinners

3) Finish eating at least 2 to 3 hours before you plan to sleep

Of course eating like this has multiple health benefits and you may find that your sleep quality improves significantly. Something to...

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Practice Acceptance (DW#717)

Here are the five strategies that we discussed to calm your busy mind:

1. Schedule a worry window

2. Download your thoughts

3. Slow down and engage your senses

4. Get out of your mind and into your body

5. Change the story

Today’s bonus tip: Practice Acceptance

If none of the strategies are working for you on any given night, please do not stay in bed and engage in resistance and self criticism for the fact that you cannot sleep.

Instead, get out of bed. And give up on your goal of sleeping for the moment.

Just get up and do something else. Leave the bed and even the bedroom if you have to. Read a few chapters of your book, clean out a closet or do something that you meant to do during the day. Experts believe that doing this is far more effective than lying in bed and getting increasingly frustrated about your inability to doze off.

Eventually, your body's sleepiness will override your busy brain and you will be become drowsy.

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Change the story (DW#716)

We have been discussing ways to quiet our busy brain so that we can we rest and sleep.

Todays’ practice is one that I find most effective.

Sometimes, when I am feeling really frayed or the buzzing thoughts are very persistent, it is really challenging to settle down. I find that body scans, breath focus or imagery does not work as well as I would like it to. My brain seems to be insistent on telling stories and getting into the nitty gritty of today’s happenings or tomorrow’s schedules.

At times like this I find that I need to distract myself from my own stories and get lost in someone else’s. And for this, I find that listening to audio books or podcasts works really well.

So the next time you find meditating, body scans or other methods are not working, try listening to something. (Watching TV does not work well for all the reasons we have already discussed)

It is best to choose something that’s overall pretty even-keeled (even monotonous), without...

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Get out of your mind and ride your breath (DW#715)

Today’s strategy is similar to yesterday’s one where we slowed our thoughts by focusing our attention on the environment around us.

Today let us get out of our mind by focusing on our body.

You can start with noticing your breath. Are you breathing fast, shallow, deep? No need to change it in any way or judge or label it. Simple notice it. Just "ride the breath" and focus your attention on it. And when you notice that your attention has wandered (which it will), simply bring your attention back.

That is it actually. The whole exercise.

Notice your breath.

When you notice that your mind has wandered away from the breath, bring it back.

Repeat. Again and again.

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Slow down and engage your senses (DW#714)

Our brain is very good at at telling stories using words. They are language machines and very fast ones at that. Our thoughts are just stories that we (our brains) tell ourselves so that we can make sense of our world and our experience in it.

Now since so much information and input is coming into our brains from our environment at any given time, our brain must process these inputs super fast to make sense and keep up. This is why it seems to be racing at a million miles per hour. And it can be exhausting, especially if we trying to switch off and rest.

The good news is that we can slow down this thought train with a simple strategy and that is to focus on the imagery rather than the words.

For example, your brain is remembering the conversation that you had with the rude person in the parking lot. You are replaying this event and thinking of all the things that you should have said and could have said instead of what you did end up saying.

How do you slow this down?

Get your other...

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Download your thoughts (DW#713)

Now that you have scheduled your worry times (as discussed yesterday), there should be far fewer anxious thoughts that interfere with your nighttime rest.

However, there will still be thoughts and ideas that your brain will keep spinning because you might forget something important. And we all know that the best thoughts and ideas come to creative people when they are trying to sleep (or shower or pray).

A very effective way to deal with these thoughts and ideas is to download them – out of your brain and onto paper. Please do NOT use your phone for this (for obvious reasons). Simply keep a notepad and pen/pencil next to your bed. Just before bedtime, write down any random thoughts and ideas that are occupying your mind at that time.

Of course there is no pressure to make this a literary project. It doesn’t have to be profound, poetic, or grammatically correct. You need not write in full sentences or make it legible for anyone but yourself.

Once you are done, your brain...

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Schedule a “worry window” (DW#712)

The first strategy that we will explore to wind down our buzzing brain may sound counter-intuitive at first, but please hang on.

Instead of allowing our brains to stress and worry about the next day or anything else that may be on our minds at the moment, we will schedule a time to worry.

So go ahead. Set your alarm for tomorrow during the day. From 4pm to 4.20pm, for example, plan on indulging every worry and anxiety that comes your way. If you cannot think of anything to worry about, try hard. You can kick start your worry session, says Stephanie Silberman, (author of The Insomnia Workbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Getting the Sleep You Need), by simply asking yourself, "What are the things that come to my mind when I’m lying in bed at night?"

If a worry doesn’t seem that big during your worry session, go ahead and amplify it in your mind. Your soul purpose during this "worry window" is to welcome and indulge your worries and anxieties about things that you cannot...

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