3 Tricks to Make Sleep Your Valentine
It’s Valentines Day and Valentine’s Day is all about relationships. Some are good some are bad but one thing is for certain, firefighters and sleep have a complicated relationship. During your shift, a nights rest can be broken up at any time. When this happens you’re going to get up, handle the call, come back and then lay in bed to go back to sleep. But falling back asleep can be challenging. Like any relationship that is challenging it can cause conflict and begin to negatively impact your health. You have certainly experienced this conflict with the incredibly frustrating feeling of trying to get back to sleep and being unable to. Like any relationship, mending it after conflict takes effort and commitment. While you can’t prevent calls from coming in during the middle of the night, there are some simple habits you can instill to make falling asleep faster and easier after those late night runs. So, here are 3 simple ways you can rekindle your relationship with sleep and make sleep your Valentine.
- Limit your light exposure
Your body is conditioned to associate darkness with being still and brightness with being active. This association is behavioral and physiological. While your biological clock is always functioning, it can be easily altered. When you are around bright light, it stimulates the nerve pathway from the eye to the brain that releases hormones made to manage your body temperature, neural activation and other functions essential for the body and mind during day time. When we see bright light, there is a physiological and chemical adjustment that happens to your autonomic and sympathetic nervous system begin to prepare for action. This plays a great role in how we operate, however, it can be a hindrance when you are trying to get back to sleep. At these times, you want your parasympathetic or calming nervous system to start working so you can prepare your body for rest. If you come back from a call and turn bright lights on, you are stimulating your body for action without even knowing it. Instead, turn on a dim light for your Valentine and allow your body to begin to prepare for rest if you need to turn the lights on. For those moments when you have to walk through bright lights the firehouse to get back to your bed, you can squint safely limiting the amount of light coming in while still seeing where you are going.
- Put the phone away
One of the worse feelings when you are trying to fall asleep, is the boredom that goes along with it. What do you usually when you get bored? Check your phone! Check Facebook, check your email, or look for something new from FD-PT to name a few. This is the last thing you need to be doing to your Valentine if you are trying to mend things. While this habit is great during waking hours but during times when you are trying to sleep you will be stimulating your mind to operate very rapidly by transporting to another place. With the incredible and amazing abilities of your phone, you can be anywhere in a matter of seconds. Consequently, you are taking your mind there also. You see a funny video on YouTube, you are for those moments right there. You see an email that reminds you of that training you are going to conduct next week, you are there as well. When this happens you are mentally, taking yourself out of bed and becoming active. This then increases the inner dialogue you are experiencing adding resistance to falling asleep. Why fall asleep when there are so many cool videos to see, feeds to like or if there is work to do? You may be looking at your phone thinking it will put you back to sleep but research shows that you are actually preventing it. So rather than having your phone right next to your bed, set it out of your reach so you won’t be tempted to check that latest Instagram post, Facebook feed or email.
- Breaking Math!
Falling asleep can also be incredibly difficult because your mind is racing on so many different things even if your phone is put away. One thing that can be challenging is staying focused on your Valentine. When you are distracted you internal monologue or inner voice becomes overactive and can create problems if you don’t regulate it. For that here is an amazing technique you can use to help calm it. Find a comfortable position. Close your eyes and determine that they will remain closed until you fall asleep. What you are going to do now is count your breaths. Every time you inhale you will add one. You will not make any additions when you exhale. As you are doing this seemingly easy task your mind is going to begin to wonder and think about all sorts of other things. When this happens very gently and kindly bring it back to counting. If you find yourself losing count, that’s ok. Just go back to zero and start counting again. Now, you may find that this is too easy. A very easy progression you can make is to make it so that each breath has a different numerical value and add them together with each breath. Your first breath could be 2 and your second breath could be 1. So, your breathing you would add 2 to 0 for the first inhalation then 1 to 2 for the second inhalation. Then you would add 2 to 3 for your third breath. You would only say the sum of the breaths you have counted thus far though, not the numbers you are adding. Not challenging enough? Add a third value for the third breath. It would look like this then. First breath equals 3, second breath equals 2, and third breath equals 4. Now each time you inhale you are counting like such. 3-5-9-12-14-18 etc. This will really teach your mind to stay focused and reduce it from wandering around and getting too wrapped up in ways that can keep you awake. May sound easy not but when you are trying to sleep you are managing all these numbers in a calming context. Guarantee you will lose count and guarantee you will fall asleep!
Relationships take time and effort. When your sleep gets interrupted you need to respond the same way. By taking these three simple tips of limiting your exposure to light, putting your phone away and breaking math, you will be on the right track to restore the brokenness of sleep making sleep your Valentine!
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!