When our body is rested, it is easier to face the challenges of the day as a missionary, as a student, or at any time in our life. Adequate rest helps us feel better physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep. It may take 3-6 months to readjust a sleep pattern. For example, for someone returning from military deployment when they only got 4-5 hours of sleep a night or after experiencing a traumatic event. Good rest makes it easier to concentrate, to communicate, to work, and to be kind. In his biography, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency said he had to learn to be kind even when he is tired. And it is much easier to be kind when we are rested.
- Go to bed and get up about the same time each night. This will set your “biological clock.”
- Have a comfortable sleep environment. Reduce light and noise. Use earplugs or a fan as “white noise” to minimize disruptive sounds from outside. If possible, have heavier drapes for the windows to eliminate light.
- Do not use alcohol, drugs, coffee, tea, or energy drinks. They are unhealthy and negatively impact sleep patterns.
- Turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime (including cell phones, computers, laptops, iPads, televisions, video games, etc.).
- Have a consistent bedtime routine. This routine gives your mind and body permission to relax and get ready for sleep. Your routine could include having a small snack, planning for the next day, brushing and flossing your teeth, listening to music, reading your scriptures, writing in your journal, and saying your prayers. (see Adjusting to Missionary Life, page 26).
- Practice focused breathing and relaxation. Work on different muscle groups from head to toe. Tighten muscles as you inhale, relax muscles as you exhale. Let your body sink into your mattress. (see Adjusting to Missionary Life, pages 18-19).
- Do not watch the clock. Or look at the clock and tell yourself “It’s okay to sleep until (whatever your wake-up time is).
- If you are unable to sleep in 20 minutes, get up, walk around, read a little, then try again.
- Do not worry in bed. If you are having intrusive or racing thoughts, replace them with calm thoughts: a favorite scripture or hymn; the 13 Articles of Faith; name and describe five fruits; think of a calm, peaceful scene you describe using all five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. If a worrisome to-do list continues to keep you awake, write them down, then go back to bed.
- Do not go to bed mad. Let it go. Turn it over to the Lord.
- Don’t be overly concerned about the amount of sleep you get. Tell yourself that if you only get a few hours, you’ll be fine. Being overly concerned deters relaxation.
Approximately 25% of people have nightmares. Tell yourself that nightmares will not hurt you. Bad dreams are normal and common. If nightmares are repetitive, then write them down and re-write the story into a different version. Add safety features, pretend to view it on TV, add your peaceful ending. Develop mastery over your dreams. Practice the new dream at least twice a day. Then relax and enjoy your sleep!
May the Lord continue to bless you in all that you do.
[Note: The ideas and suggestions contained in these articles are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional. In addition, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical or mental health assistance immediately. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat at 988lifeline.org/chat/. Services are free and confidential.]