Dear Dogtor Zach: Getting Good Sleep
By Gettysburg College Counseling Services
Dear Dogtor Zach & Co.,
I am having trouble sleeping and feel like I have tried everything, but I just can’t seem to fall asleep and stay asleep! I feel like it is impacting my entire life. How can I stop this cycle?
Having difficulty sleeping affects many aspects of our lives. You may experience problems with focusing, memory loss, increased stress, and complications with your physical health. Sleep is also vital for our mental health!
First, start to look at what may be negatively impacting your sleep. Here are some common things that impact sleep:
- Worry. Often when we lay in bed our mind has more quiet space to roam. Try journaling before bed. Make this a nighttime routine so you have a place to “dump” your stress and clear your mind.
- Pay attention to your caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol intake. That afternoon cup of Joe may leave you lying awake for hours. Did you know caffeine can stay in your body for up to 12 hours? Try hot lemon water or even physical activity for a mid-afternoon boost. Also, consider making your high-intensity workouts earlier in the day because this can also impact your ability to fall asleep.
- Avoid screen time an hour or two before going to bed. Excessive artificial light exposure can disrupt our internal clock causing our body to think we should be awake. Try setting a reminder on your phone to let you know when to put your phone down, turn off the television, and put away your computer. Replace your bedtime screen time with meditation, reading a good book, or writing.
- Poor sleep can leave us exhausted during the day and a nap may be tempting. Try not to nap because this will make it more difficult to sleep at night.
- Make sure you are only using your bed for sleeping. This is important in training your brain to understand that when you lay in bed it is time to sleep.
Second, know it’s a difficult process to improve your sleep hygiene, so be patient! Make a schedule for your nighttime sleep routine that works for you! Try to maintain waking up at the same time every day and not sleeping in because this also disrupts your sleep.
Lastly, with these changes you should be well on your way to improved sleep hygiene, but if you have more serious concerns about your sleep and are fearing persistent insomnia, it may be a good idea to see your doctor or talk to a counselor.
Dogtor Zach says to ask your human to take you on a nice long morning walk and be sure to stop and sniff the mailboxes. He also suggests playing fetch because it always makes for the best snoozes. Still not feeling tired enough to fall asleep at night? Zach suggests getting in some belly scratches and finding the comfiest bed to catch the most zzz’s.
Note: Dear Dogtor Zach & Co. has been developed for fun, inspiration, and informational support. It is not a substitution for therapy, diagnosis, or crises. If you are experiencing an emergency please go to the nearest emergency room. By submitting a letter or question, you are consenting to allow Gettysburg College Counseling Services to edit for length and/or clarity and use it in part or full. If we use your letter or question, we will NOT attach your name and may further edit content as we deem necessary to protect your privacy.
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