Ending the Cycle of Sleeplessness and Focus
After a long, busy day, do you find yourself lying in bed at night with thoughts of everything you have to do tomorrow running through your head? Those anxious thoughts can make it difficult to quiet your mind and truly relax, and falling asleep suddenly becomes much more of a challenge than it should be. Even though your body may be exhausted, if your mind is still racing, you may not be able to get the quality sleep that you need.
But that can be just the beginning of the problem. When you don’t get enough sleep, it’s difficult to focus. You may find yourself dealing with these chaotic, racing thoughts even more, making it hard to fall asleep even more often.
And so the cycle begins.
Understanding the Sleeplessness and Focus Cycle
The effects of this sleeplessness and focus cycle are well-documented. Studies have found that a lack of sleep has a significant impact on cognitive performance, including the accuracy and speed at which test subjects can perform cognitive examinations. The negative effects on speed are particularly dramatic in people who are younger (between 18 and 24 years old), and much older (between 62 and 73 years old).
Lack of sleep affects your performance in other ways, too. With less sleep, it’s harder to focus, so whether you’re in school or at work, you may notice that you struggle more when trying to pay attention or do detailed work. Too little sleep can also slow your reaction time, which can make for dangerous situations if you’re driving or operating other machinery.
Sleep is also important in helping you to think creatively and in being able to solve problems. When you sleep, your brain cells work to reactivate memories and store all of the knowledge that you’ve gained during the day. With restful sleep, you’ll be better able to retain the information. But, conversely, if you don’t get enough sleep, it can be difficult to remember things, further contributing to your lack of focus and the frustration that comes with it. Poor quality sleep can also affect your mood and can contribute to or make depression and anxiety worse.
If you get caught up in this sleeplessness cycle, it’s natural for you to have difficulty focusing. And if your lack of focus is causing problems in your life, like challenges at work or school, you may be frustrated and worried. This can lead to racing thoughts that can keep you up at night, making the problem even worse. To break this cycle, you’ll need to take multiple steps to reset your sleep habits and your mind.
Strategies to Get Better Quality Sleep
To potentially avoid this cycle, or to help yourself break it, focus on creating a calming and relaxing bedroom that will encourage your body to relax and sleep when it’s time for bed. Declutter the space, and remove technology, like TVs and computers, to create a distraction-free, stimulation-free bedroom. Hang blackout curtains so that sunlight doesn’t wake you up too early in the morning, and invest in a quality mattress that allows you to sleep through the night without pain.
You’ll also need to establish a routine that helps you to fall asleep. Establish a sleep schedule and stick to it — even on weekends — so that your body gets into the habit of going to sleep and waking up at the same time. Create a ritual in the evenings that helps your body prepare for sleep, like taking a bath or spending some time reading a book before you go to bed. Be sure to avoid any caffeine for at least four to six hours before you go to bed since its effects are long-lasting and can make it harder for your body to relax.
If you’re unsure of just what’s causing your sleep problems, consider seeing your doctor. Some physical issues can contribute to insomnia. Issues like chronic pain, asthma, arthritis, allergies, and hyperthyroidism can all contribute to insomnia. Your doctor may be able to help you better manage these issues so you can get better sleep.
ADHD may also be closely linked to sleeplessness and lack of focus. Sleep loss seems to also increase the severity of ADHD symptoms, and sleeplessness in people with ADHD is common. If you have, or if you suspect you have, ADHD, prescription medications like Adderall could potentially help you to get better sleep so that you can break out of this cycle.
Strategies to Improve Your Focus and Quiet Your Mind
Creating an ideal sleep environment and following best practices to get quality sleep will help, but if your mind’s still racing, you may still be battling your own body when trying to get to sleep. Try incorporating strategies to boost your energy and increase your focus within your daily routine. Going for a walk in nature, even just for 10 or 15 minutes, can leave you with clearer thoughts and better focus and creativity. Yoga is another great option since it can quickly get your blood flowing again after long periods of being inactive.
Consider meditating daily to help quiet your active mind. When meditating at home, try to eliminate distractions for the session to be as effective as possible. Schedule meditation during times when distractions will be at a minimum, like before your kids get home from school or when you know your dog will be taking a nap. As you meditate, focus on your breath and remind yourself why you’re meditating. If you have a distracting thought, acknowledge it and then just let it go.
Focusing on living a mindful life can also help to improve your focus and may help you to feel more at peace, making it easier to relax at night and go to sleep. Try creating a switch-off time each evening where you turn off your phone and computer and just enjoy some time with your family. This technique may help to reduce anxiety and lets you be more present in the moment, rather than worrying about things like work obligations or tomorrow’s busy schedule.
As you move through life, focus on being thankful and harvesting gratitude for the special moments. This attitude of positivity encourages you to slow down and appreciate life more. This may help you to be more focused and more aware of your surroundings and blessings.
Breaking the cycle of sleeplessness and focus can take time, and you may need to try a number of the above tips before you find a combination that’s just right for you. When you’re better able to sleep, you’ll be better able to focus, so be persistent and work on improving these two important aspects of your health and well-being.
Guest Writer Bio
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work.