Health Coach Tip – Fix Your Sleep Associations!

Sleep is a crucial component of our overall well-being, allowing our bodies and minds to rest, restore, and rejuvenate. However, when sleep becomes fragmented due to all-around poor sleep hygiene, insomnia and disrupted sleep associations, it can have a significant impact on our daily functioning and quality of life. The good news is that understanding your personal sleep associations can help improve sleep quality and combat insomnia. What do you know about sleep associations?

Understanding Sleep Associations

Sleep associations are the conditions or circumstances we associate with falling asleep. They can be external factors, such as environmental cues or bedtime routines, as well as internal factors like thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. While positive sleep associations can aid in falling asleep peacefully, negative associations can disrupt sleep and lead to insomnia. For instance, if you associate your bed with stress, rather than relaxation and sleep – it may be detrimental to your sleep quality or increase the time it takes you to fall asleep. Similarly, if you create a dependency on specific cues or behaviors for initiating sleep, it may lead to difficulties falling asleep or maintaining sleep when those associations are not present. However, the opposite of both of these statements is also true – if you associate your bed with rest, it can improve your sleep, and if you create a sleep ritual that honors your schedule, it can promote restful sleep.

The Vicious Cycle of Insomnia

You may have insomnia if you experience difficulty when it comes to: falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing non-restorative sleep. Unfortunately, insomnia establishes a vicious cycle: frustration of being unable to sleep leads to anxiety, stress, and feelings of being ‘wired and tired,’ making it all the more challenging to fall asleep. This cycle allows your insomnia to run rampant. To combat insomnia, it is crucial to address both the underlying causes and your sleep associations (the focus of this article!).

Strategies for Fixing Sleep Associations and Overcoming Insomnia

1. Create a helpful pre-sleep routine that signals to your body and mind you are winding down. Your routine may include activities like reading, taking a warm bath, practicing relaxation techniques, or listening to calming music. When it comes to effective nighttime routines, consistency is key. Consistency is what trains your brain to associate these rituals with sleep – so choosing something that works for your schedule is crucial (i.e. if you’re traveling a lot and a bath is not possible everywhere, it might be better to choose another night-time practice for your night-time ritual). Feel free to play around here and see what works for you – if something is not working in your favor, remove it or replace it with something else. A little trial, error and patience will get you to the right routine!

2. Create a sleep-friendly environment by sleeping in a comfortable and relaxing environment. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using earplugs, eye masks, or white noise machines to minimize disturbances. We also recommend that you invest in quality bedding: a comfortable mattress and pillow that support your sleep posture. If you have sleep issues, investing in quality bedding, pillows and mattresses, can work wonders! Also, experts say that the color of your bedroom and bedding can matter for sleep too – these colors influence your association with sleep through psychological and visual cues, as certain colors have been found to evoke different emotional and physiological responses that can impact relaxation and sleep quality. Reference the color associations here:

colors for sleep

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3. Practice good sleep hygiene by maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding stimulating activities close to bedtime, and limiting exposure to blue-light devices. Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine and prioritizing sleep as a non-negotiable part of your sleep routine.

4. Reduce feelings of stress and anxiety before bed. Stress and anxiety are often culprits of insomnia. And when you don’t include time throughout the day to allow your brain to decompress, you might just end up doing it when you get into bed. This may cause you to begin associateingyour bed with stress, rather than relaxation. So, regularly engage in stress management techniques such as: meditation, deep breathing exercises, or journaling to alleviate anxious thoughts and promote relaxation before bed or throughout the day.

5. Optimize healthy habits. Avoid consuming caffeine, nicotine, and booze close to bedtime. These stimulants can interfere with sleep quality and promote over-thinking. In addition, to combat insomnia, physical exercise may be best when kept to earlier in the day. This will help promote well-being and support sleep patterns. To further support your sleep, eat a whole foods diet and limit large meals before bed!

6. Check out cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT-I). Have you heard of CBT-I? It is a therapeutic approach for treating insomnia, that has helped so many people! CBT-I not only helps to identify, but also works to challenge negative thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviors surrounding sleep – including your negative sleep associations! It employs a variety of techniques, not limited to: stimulus control, sleep restriction therapy, and relaxation training.

7. If self-help strategies aren’t working, look into professional help. If you’re having a really hard time with insomnia, or if you’ve tried all of the above tips – know that relief is possible. Sleep doctors and medical professionals can evaluate your health and sleep hygiene on a deeper, more personal level – which allows for the diagnosis of potential underlying conditions, and the recommendation of appropriate treatment options.

We hope by now you are feeling a bit more confident in knowing what to do to tackle your negative sleep associations and sleep troubles. Remember to stay kind to yourself and don’t lose hope! Working to establish healthy sleep associations and implementing effective strategies, will help you in reclaiming restful sleep. With persistence and the right tools, you can break free from the grip of fragmented sleep!

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