Sleep Like a Puppy With the Dog Mindfulness Program

Many of us wish we could sleep like a baby or, in this case, sleep like a puppy in these stressful times.

Sleep is emerging as the latest casualty of the COVID-19 crisis. Too many sleepless nights can aggravate both physical and mental health problems, but a few simple adjustments to our already altered routines may resolve our bedtime issues before they snowball.”

Although puppies usually need 18-0 hours, most of us would be happy with just 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. So how much sleep do humans really need? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults try to obtain around 7 hours of sleep per night.

Why is it so important that we get enough sleep? Here are some of the top reasons what insufficient sleep can do to our mental and physical health.

  • Memory issues; lack of sleep causes problems in short and long-term memory.
  • Concentration, performance issues, mental energy, problem-solving, and even creativity are diminished.
  • Negative moods can result due to sleep deprivation. Anxiety and depression may escalate. Less REM sleep increases the activation in the amygdala, which is where anxiety is created in the brain. More anxiety can lead to depression.
  • More cortisol and adrenaline are released, which can lead to sleep disruptions and a reduction in restorative sleep.
  • Less sleep can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system, increase susceptibility to infections, and the body’s ability to heal properly.
  • A risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, increased weight gain, low sex drive, prone to having more accidents, and balance issues are also reactions to the body’s lack of sleep.

Here are some tips to improve our sleep:

  1. Wake up at a consistent time:Having a consistent wake-up time can help entrain your circadian clock, which is important because it can give consistency to your sleep patterns.
  2. Scheduling virtual work meetings on weekday mornings and virtual social meetings with friends or family on weekends.
  3. Go to bed when you feel sleepy (as opposed to just when you feel tired), and maintaining a consistent rise time will help you figure out how much sleep your body needs. This will help you figure out your ideal bedtime.
  4. Realize the effects of light on sleep:Light helps synchronize your circadian/biological clock day and night cycles of the earth. Note that blue and green light from your phones, tablets, and computer screens can shift your sleep-wake circadian rhythm to later at night and affect the body’s natural melatonin production, potentially making it difficult to fall asleep.
  5. Try to get at least 30 minutes of natural light before midday if possible.
  6. Unplug your smartphones, tablets, and computers for about 1.5 to 2 hours before going to bed. Television is okay as long as you are seated far enough away. It also helps to dim/soften the lighting in your home.
  7. Make sure you get enough sleep:Adults average 6 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Being homebound during COVID-19 may provide an opportunity to get a little more sleep. If that is your goal, try to increase your sleep gradually by going to bed 15 minutes earlier each week using how sleepy you feel as a guide.
  8. Limit alcohol and other drug use. Both negatively impact REM Sleep.

What can we learn from our puppies or dog(s)? Help them to help you.

  1. Make your bedroom inviting to sleep—comfortable, relaxing, dimly lit, and the same for your dog’s crate or bed.
  2. Establish a bedtime routine for yourself and your dog by giving your dog a routine right from the start, by teaching that nighttime is for sleeping. Come up with 3 behaviors that you do consistently every night. For example, brush your teeth, put on your pajamas, and read a book. This helps your brain ready for sleep. If you do this repeatedly, your brain is cued into sleep readiness. Do the same for your dog.
  3. Keep your sleep area and your dog’s area quiet and dim.If you watch TV in bed, keep the volume down and the light low. You may even want to use blackout shades if the room gets early morning light. The quiet and dark will be the cue to get your dog ready for sleep. You can put a cover over the top of the crate to make it darker and more den-like. If you sleep with your dog, make sure you don’t keep your dog up late because, in the morning, you may awake to a hyper and anxious dog.
  4. Read your dog a bedtime story or share an event that happened to you that was pleasant.
  5. Do a meditation breathing exercise with your dog. Place your hand on your dog’s belly, feeling it expand and contract and do the same to yourself with each inhalation and exhalation.
  6. Lastly, try doing the G.L.A.D., which is a gratitude technique in mediation. G.L.A.D stands for:
  • G- be grateful for one thing that you have identified that day
  • L- one thing you have learned today
  • A- one accomplishment you did today
  • D- one thing that delighted you or made you laugh-out-loud today

Make sure you end with telling yourself, “Glad, I have a dog.” And don’t forget the hug and kiss good night.

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