“To sleep, perchance to dream-
ay, there’s the rub.” Hamlet–Shakespeare
Once again, the Bard prooves to be an astute observer of the human condition. If he were born 400 years later, would he still be a writer or would he perhaps be a psychologist? But I digress…
Few things cause as much frustration as failing to get a good night sleep. Most adults need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night, while teens need about 9 and a quarter. Many adults do not get their full share of sleep, and I’d hazard to guess that even more teens are not getting their full 9.25. Sometimes life gets busy and we aren’t able to have our full measure of sleep, but other times difficulty falling or staying asleep cut into our precious Z-z-z-z time. Here is the first in a series of tips to help make the most of your eyes closed time.
Tip 1: Use your bed for sleeping. Your bed is not a desk, a lazy boy chair, a library, and certainly not a kitchen table. Don’t do work, read, pay bills, watch tv, have heated phone conversations or discussions, or eat in your bed. Remember the story of Pavlov’s dogs? Pavlov’s dogs heard a bell and then were presented food. Naturally, they salivated when they saw the tasty treats master Pavlov had prepared. When this pairing of bell and food was presented many times, the bell stimulus became associated with food. Later, when the bell was presented without the food, the dogs would salivate. In psychology, we call that a classically conditioned response. Same goes for your bed. No, I’m not talking bells and dog spit, stay focused people! This really does have to do with sleep!
The connection you want your body to have with your bed is one of relaxation and sleep. When you are doing things like reading, watching tv, or working while on your bed, you are associating your bed and all the cues in your bedroom environment with staying awake, being alert, and focusing. If you are doing work that is frustrating or having heated phone conversations or arguments on your bed, you are additionally connecting the bed with uncomfortable feelings. Not conducive to sleep. As much as possible, try to move all these activities out of the bedroom. Make the bedroom a sleep sanctuary–surround yourself with relaxing and comforting objects and sounds. Associate the bed with sleeping and relaxation. If you do have difficulty falling asleep, or falling back to sleep upon awakening in the middle of the night, get up and leave your bedroom. Staying in bed feeling frustrated about an inability to sleep sets up an association of feeling frustrated with being in bed. Go somewhere else, read, watch tv, play solitaire on the computer–something relatively mindless that will not further rev up your brain–and return to bed when you begin to feel sleepy again.
Remember: Bed=sleep, bed=sleep, bed=sleep… you get the idea.