If you’re tired, everything in life is more difficult and overwhelming. Making sleep a priority will help you improve your sleep and stay positive before your surgery. Here are 5 ways to improve your sleep:
1. Establish an evening routine. When we were children we all had bedtime routines. It’s as essential for us as adults. Our bodies need a transition period that allows us to wind down. Without this transition, we’re not only still in the mode of doing, it’s also difficult to notice we feel tired. An optimal evening routine starts around the same time each night and promotes the relaxation response, rather than than taking us into stressful or excited state which is counter to falling asleep. A hot bath or shower cleanses any remnants of the day, as well as relaxing the body. A few drops of lavender essential oil in the bath or on the shower floor also adds to the restorative experience. Reading a physical book, rather than scrolling through social media or reading on a tablet helps the body prepare for sleep. If you’re used to watching TV in bed, know that this habit is interfering with sleep patterns, even if you regularly fall asleep with the TV on. If your room is very dark and on the cool side, it will be easier to fall asleep.
2. Minimize caffeine intake. Improving sleep before surgery means minimizing or eliminating stimulants such as caffeine. Although you might already think twice before drinking a cup of coffee after dinner, caffeinated beverages consumed even in the morning remain in your bloodstream and can affect the quality of your sleep as long as 12-18 hours later. Coffee (even decaffeinated), tea, chocolate, energy drinks and sodas all contain caffeine. If you enjoy hot beverages, consider substitutes like organic herbal tea, organic coffee substitutes like Ayurvedic Roast or Teeccino or hot water with a squeeze of lemon. Infuse cool drinks with fruits like cucumber, lemons, limes, and strawberries, and herbs like mint for wonderful flavored water without the artificial ingredients.
3. Focus on enjoyable activities in the evening that don’t involve technology. Many of us are so accustomed to our devices at all times that we sometimes forget we’re even using them. Improve your sleep before surgery by filling the evening with other enjoyable activities. Along with others or by yourself, practice an instrument, do a craft like knitting or sewing, or play a board game or cards. Take a walk after dinner, and focus on your surroundings. An expansive view of the outside world, rather than looking at a device, is a reminder of the big picture. Even if you live in a city, notice the sky, the changing light, and if possible watch the sunset. This practice sends your body the message that the day is complete, and in the approaching darkness, it’s time to prepare for sleep. And when it’s time for bed, keep a technology free bedroom to remove distractions.
4. Add relaxing breathing techniques. The breath is a powerful tool to improve your sleep and help your body move into the relaxation response, or parasympathetic mode. Simply extend the exhale so it is longer than the inhale to help your body to relax. First, count your breath for a minute or two without changing anything. Then, balance the inhale and exhale for 2 counts each. Repeat for a several rounds. Then start to lengthen the exhale, first to 3 counts, so you’re inhaling for 2 counts and exhaling for 3 counts. If you’re comfortable with this 2:3 rhythm, extend the exhale to four counts so it is twice as long as the inhale (2:4). Place your hands on your body and feel the breath move your belly away from your spine. Set a reminder to do this breath practice regularly before your surgery.
5. During your evening routine, limit the time that you’re thinking about the upcoming surgery. There maybe “what ifs” surrounding surgery that are out of your control. What you can affect is your mindset and your response. If you find yourself ruminating about the surgery before bed, acknowledge this is happening. Give yourself a short, prescribed amount of time, such as five or ten minutes to finish the thoughts. Set your alarm clock for those minutes and when it goes off, that will be your time to stop thinking about your surgery. Tell yourself you are done and it’s time to think of something else. Remember, most, if not all things in life are out of our ultimate control. But we can choose to shift our thoughts. It takes practice, so begin by noticing how often you’re thinking about your upcoming surgery, and when it creates angst, choose to think of something pleasant instead, even for a moment. And if find yourself still lost in your thoughts, stand up and move. By shifting your physical body, you also will also shift what you’re thinking about even for just one moment at a time.