A good night’s sleep is crucial for a clear and healthy mind and a healthy body. Lack of sleep is a frustrating problem as it disrupts our daily rhythms and affects both our body and mind. As we grow, our sleep needs by age change. It can be very difficult to identify the underlying problem. Often our first instinct is to turn to our doctor. Our doctors will likely ask a series of questions in an attempt to get to the root of the problem. “Are you stressed out?” “What are your anxiety levels like relative to usual?” “Are you exercising?” These typical questions may get to the problem. Or they may not. Sleep medication is of course an option but we should really try to avoid this unless we’ve truly tried everything else first.
Before you do anything else to identify your sleep problem, try what we call the 8-2-2-1 rule. This rule is a guide to giving up things before bed at distinct hours, forcing us to unwind our minds and bodies.
First, eliminate all caffeine 8 hours before bed. If you are drinking coffee at 5pm and trying to sleep at 10pm, change this. Do not have coffee or any other caffeine drink 8 hours before bed. So, if you want to go to bed at 10pm, try not to have coffee after 2pm.
Next, (and this one is crucial) stop eating and drinking alcohol 2 hours before bed. Force yourself to avoid food, desert or beverages (except for water) 2 hours before bed. So if you want to try to get to sleep at 10pm, do not eat after 8pm. This allows the stomach and body ample time to digest and prepare for bed.
Next, 2 hours before bed, during the same time you cut out the alcohol and any food, stop working. That’s right! Turn off the computers and iPads and stop working. This helps the brain and body to relax and naturally calm down.
Lastly, and one of the most important ones: turn off all screens 1 hour before bed. This is a difficult one as many people are used to bringing their cell phones and iPads to bed for a little bedtime reading. Resist this urge. Studies have shown that reading your phone or computer right before bed has a negative impact on sleep. One good way to avoid bringing the cell phone to bed is to leave it somewhere else in the room.
Try implementing this 8-2-2-1 rule on a daily basis and see if it has a positive impact on your sleep.