Do you even practice good sleep hygiene?
Oh sleep. It seems like it should be easy. Our bodies and minds require sleep, so it should just happen naturally, right? But for many, tossing and turning, lying awake for hours staring at the ceiling, and overall struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep is a nightly reality. Or you still have the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” attitude. STOP WITH THAT ATTITUDE. Here are my 5 tips to get a better night’s sleep.
STICK TO A SCHEDULE
Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep, but many of us get far less than that and then try to “catch up” on the weekends; but that’s not really how the body works. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day makes it much easier for your body to maintain a consistent sleep-wake cycle. It may take some time to get used to, but setting yourself a consistent bedtime and waking at around the same time every single day (yes, even on weekends, don’t ask me how many times I’ve said “I’m going to sleep in on Sunday!” and wake up at 6am, which is earlier than I get up during the week) will lead to better rest during sleep, which ultimately leads to feeling better throughout the day, every day. For me, sleep is equally important as getting to the gym regularly, getting my diet lined up and keeping my stress at bay. And for me, when one thing goes, they all slowly follow. If I eat crappy foods, I am almost guaranteeing a 3am wake up because of the spike in my blood sugar and cortisol. Or even worse, I’ll wake up at 3am and then be awake for at least an hour. Sugar is certainly my gateway drug.
Create a routine
As part of that consistent bedtime and wake time, having a routine around each helps to reinforce to your brain what it needs to prepare for. This doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out event if you don’t consistently have the time; even just 5 or 10 minutes of some sort of routine that works for you will do the job. For your bedtime routine, this could include laying out your clothes for the next day, dimming the lights, reading a few pages of a good book, taking a warm bath, listening to your favorite relaxing music, meditating, or anything else that prepares your body and mind to calm down. For your waking routine, it could include some light stretching, brushing your teeth, drinking a big glass of water, taking a short walk, meditating, listening to some upbeat tunes, or anything else that signals your body and mind to get ready for the day ahead. After implementing these routines for a while, you’ll notice that your body moves into that sleep or wake mode much faster and easier.
TURN OFF THE TECH
Many of us are glued to our phones up until we close our eyes for the night, but that may also be a big reason we struggle to fall asleep. Our natural circadian rhythm, our sleep-wake cycle, is greatly influenced by light. We are meant to wake with the sunrise and go to sleep at sunset. So keeping bright lights on, especially right in front of our faces with our phones or TVs, throws this schedule off completely. Try turning off all tech no less than 30 minute before you need to go to sleep and start that bedtime routine I mentioned above. Now I’m going to confess something to you all….I watch tv in bed at night! I know! I just said to turn off all tech! However, for me, I will fall asleep quicker in my comfortable bed as I tune out to some mindless tv show than reading a book. Books have a way of sucking you in and then before you know it, it’s 1:45am as you’re turning to the last page of Birdbox. So if you are like me and like to zone out with a show, invest in a good pair of blue blocker glasses. Swannies are what I wear and while they are more expensive than other brands, they have made a world of difference for me, as installing a program on my laptop like fLux which will vary the amount of blue light coming from your screen.
Maintaining a regular exercise routine at some point in your daily schedule will help to improve your sleep quality, and potentially help you fall asleep faster. While it used to be thought that intense exercise within a few hours of bedtime was a definite no-no for everyone, but it seems that may not be true. For some, it may actually be helpful to workout in the evening, while others may be too revved up to fall asleep so a morning or early afternoon workout is best. Try both and see what seems to be best for your body and your schedule. Personally, I’m a sooner rather than later person because as they day goes on, my motivation drops further and further and also, for me, getting it done first thing in the morning usually gets my day off on the right foot.
KEEP STRESS AT BAY
It goes without saying that stress plays a major role in our quality of sleep. For many, that means lying awake for hours unable to “shut off” our brains and just let go. Regularly incorporating stress-management and self-care techniques such as meditation, massage therapy, and exercise can greatly improve stress levels. While they won’t solve all your problems and stop all stresses from happening, they do help you better manage the stresses that life throws at you, whether small daily worries or life-changing events.
In good hands,
Rebecca Tamm, LMT