Sleep disorders are very common in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). They have been associated with increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. They have also been associated with faster progression of CKD. In this blog, we will discuss five simple steps to help you improve your sleep for better kidney health.

There are practical steps that you can take to improve your sleep. These include creating a relaxing sleep environment, lowering the temperature in the bedroom, making sure it is dark, and having a comfortable mattress, etc. Yet, many people don’t realize that a good sleep is more about what we do away from the bed than what we do in bed.

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In the era of social media, technology, and 24-hour news that are always available in the palm of our hands, our minds are going a million miles per hour. Many of us are juggling so many things and have even more worries. We worry about work, about the kids, emails, social media reactions, finances and many other things. Some of us get to bed with exhausted bodies but minds that are still going at full speed.

So, what do you need to do to help the brain shut down? Here are the five steps to help you unwind your brain and get a better sleep.

Step 1: Don’t carry today’s problems into bed

Your mind is not going to stop thinking about today’s problems and worries unless you help it clean up. You must tie up all the loose ends from the day. The best way to do that is by allowing your mind to settle down two hours before bedtime. Simply, write down ALL your thoughts and worries on a paper or in a notebook. It does not matter how or what. Think of it as a thought download or a brain dump. 
Do this process outside the bedroom and leave the notebook or paper there. This will train your brain to leave the worrying thoughts outside the bedroom. It allows space for positive thoughts. Positive thoughts are calming and will help you to go to sleep.

Step 2: Plan your tomorrow

After you downloaded your thoughts, look at your plan for the next day. Look at your calendar and prepare for that early meeting, pick workout clothes, prepare and pack for lunch. Your attention to details will help your mind avoid the worry about tomorrow. This will set you up for success and give you control. The control that will help you settle your mind.

Step 3: Keep your phone outside of the bedroom 

In fact, keep all electronics out of the bedroom. The bedroom is for two things, sleep and intimacy. I actually recommend that you stop looking at your phone, social media, emails or any other projects for two hours before going to bed. Trust me, I know it is hard and I am guilty of this too.

I also get that some of you may be in a profession like me where you take calls at night and may need a phone nearby. But in the era of smartphones, it is easy for the mind to wander at night. These types of phones bring your worries and the whole world with you to the bedroom. Do you want the world to be in your bedroom when you’re trying to sleep? 
So, if your profession requires it, get a landline or cheap flip phone to be by your bed for emergencies. No texting, no social media, and no news in the bedroom. Research found that one third of people wake up at night and check their smartphones.

Step 4: Create a bedtime restorative ritual 

A restorative ritual signals your brain that you’re going into a relaxed state. These rituals include things like taking a bath or a hot shower, drinking hot green tea, lighting up candles, dimming the lights, praying or meditating. You can also read a fiction book to take your mind out of your own story into the story of the book. 

Step 5: Think happy thoughts

Pick a location of your dreams. If you love to be on the beach in Hawaii or on top of mount Everest immerse yourself in the experience. Feel it, smell it, see it and dream it. Visualize it as if you are living in it. This powerful way will calm your mind and set it up for dreaming. The goal is to feel calm, safe, quiet and “tucked in.”

Bonus: what if you wake up in the middle of the night

Waking up in the middle of the night is not unusual. Researchers found that 31% of people wake up in the middle of the night at least 3 times a week. So, if you wake and you can’t go back to sleep, use the 15 minute rule. If you wake up in the middle of the night and after 15 minutes you don’t drift back into sleep, you should get out of bed. Do not lay there and start thinking about going to sleep. Do not look at the time, do not check your phone, and do not make a cup of coffee. 
Get up and go to another room. Sit in a comfortable chair, read that novel, light up a candle. If your mind is racing again. Go back to that piece of paper or notebook and write down your thoughts and worries again. Do not do these things in bed because that will train your mind to associate your bed with wakefulness instead of sleep. When you feel drowsy again, go back to your bed and go to sleep.

The Bottom Line

Here is the trick though, you have to do these steps every night. You may feel like you want to stay up watching a movie on your favorite app or stay on your phone or catch up on a project instead of your bedtime ritual. But your health and your mind deserve a good sleep. So, this simple promise to yourself will help you establish the good habit of sleep and set you up for better health and success.