The ABCs of Getting More zzZs

RedHeaded Baby Sleeping

It’s generally understood thanks to science, Deepak Chopra, and Arianna Huffington, that sleep is a vital component to good health. Seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep is the nightly goal.

What is the biggest sleep disturber? Bulldog snoring? Yes, sometimes for some (aka me). But the real culprit is of course stress. The ability to quiet the mind improves with a consistent meditation practice (yet another reason to meditate). But sometimes stress persists, resists, and simply keeps us up at night.

When this happens, we don’t want add fuel to the smoldering fire of restlessness by passing judgment,  condemning ourselves for being awake because self-imposed guilt only causes further agitation. We also want to avoid grabbing our phones. A book or kindle, yes. But we know from ample research that the blue screen effects of computers and smart phones is a proven disrupter to sleep (the current recommendation is to avoid all screens an hour before bedtime).

When I’m lying awake, preferring to be asleep, I play what I call the Gratitude Game. I go to my ABCs and come up with something that I’m grateful for, for each letter of the alphabet. As opposed to conjuring up objects “like A is for Apple and I like to eat apples so I’m grateful for them”, try thinking of impactful people, meaningful places, and learning experiences. Since the goal is not to get to the letter Z, but to get to zzzZ, the more meaning you give to each item, the more your brain starts to relax as it remembers those warm and fuzzy feelings that the grateful memories evoke.

Just this week while at my parent’s house, I found myself awake at 3am wrestling with falling back to sleep. Having already wrote most of this week’s post, I thought it only appropriate to put the Gratitude Game to the test. Here’s what I remember (because I feel asleep soon after):

  • A is for Abbi – I’m grateful for my 16 year old niece who is so present and patient with my children, even though I’m sure when we come to visit she’d rather be hanging with her friends.
  • B is for Bob – I’m grateful for my step-dad who’s been in my life since I was 5. Aside from a loving upbringing, he gave me 3 wonderful siblings who I adore.
  • C is for Canada – I’m grateful for Canada and our wonderful relatives there. My husband and kids love our summer trips to Lake Muskoka and I appreciate it for the joy it brings them (even when I’m bundled in a blanket in August). Their Prime Minister is also really cool (and good looking).
  • D is for Debordieu – I’m grateful for the beachside golf community where my parents live and all the kids and grandkids love to come visit, and where I’ve inadvertently donated gobs of golf balls to their greens.

The more you do it, the more involved your answers become, and the faster (I find) that you fall asleep. But of course, the goal is not to need the Gratitude Game at all. The ABCs of getting more zzzZs should be as simple as 1, 2, 3, zzzzZ. But if life were that easy, we’d all just be bored.

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