Getting good sleep: it can be tough. Our lives are filled with distractions, stressors and ailments that can make settling into a good night’s rest very difficult. But it’s not all bad news. Despite the aforementioned obstacles to getting good sleep (plus all the others not mentioned!) getting adequate sleep isn’t impossible. If you’re looking to improve your sleep hygiene and increase the number of Zs you’re catching every night, check out these recommendations!
Make it a Priority
If you want to get more sleep, then it’s crucial to make it a priority. This begins with creating the expectation that you need to get more sleep for your own health and wellness, and that it should trump other items in your life. Aim to get around eight hours of sleep every night. Set a bedtime for yourself and then schedule your evening activities around it. This can help you better schedule your time, preventing the evening hours from slipping away from you. To make things even easier, set an alarm that reminds you to go to bed. We have alarms that wake us up in the morning, why not have alarms that remind us to go to sleep?
Create a Welcoming Environment
Good sleep hygiene is a major factor that contributes to the quality of sleep a person gets every evening. Use the following guidelines to make your sleep space a welcoming environment for sleep:
- Make sure your room is cool and dark. Temperatures between 65- and 72-degrees are recommended as optimal for the body. Make sure you block out any light by investing in some blackout shades. Place a piece of paper over smoke detector lights and make sure your screens are facing down (but remove them from the room entirely if possible).
- Utilize your room for two things only: sleep and sex. Avoid bringing work, TV or other activities into your bedroom.
- Minimize noise. That means turning off your phone or silencing it (to include the vibrations). If there are other noises in your home or around your home, see what you can do to minimize them when it’s time to hit the sack.
- Remove clutter. Your bedroom should be an oasis, a place where your body and mind automatically know you can enter into a state of rest and ease. Clutter can often prevent that from happening, making the mind feel like there’s “more to be done.” Keeping your room clean and clear of clutter will create a relaxing and welcoming environment.
- Use comfortable bedding. You spend one-third of your life asleep — it’s important you’re comfortable for it! Invest in a quality mattress and change it out every ten years. Use sheets and blankets that make you feel comfortable, cozy and at ease. Find a pillow that properly supports your neck; there are lots of pillows available on the market that are designed specifically for the way you sleep (i.e. side, back, belly, etc.).
- Say “bye-bye” to Fido. While having a pet on the bed can be cuddly, they’re actually disrupters of sleep. Fighting for space in the nighttime not only disrupts your sleep, but it can make it hard to fall back asleep. As hard as it is to kick pets to the floor, your sleep is best served with just you and your partner in bed.
- Remove technology from your space. For many of us, our phones also serve as our alarm clocks. But our phones are major obstacles to getting good sleep. Invest in a Bluetooth speaker and leave your phone in a different room overnight. When it’s time to wake up, your alarm will go off through your speaker.
Eat an Early Dinner
It’s hard to achieve a restful evening of sleep when your body is busy digesting food. If possible, eat at least two and a half hours before you head to bed and try to eat lightly. This will give your body the chance to digest your delicious meal before you go horizontal for the evening.
Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine and Nicotine
It’s time to kick the habit of ending the day on a night cap. Studies show that people who drink alcohol within an hour of going to bed may fall asleep faster, but their sleep is much more disrupted and restless than if they didn’t have alcohol. In addition, ingesting nicotine or caffeine as early as 3 p.m. in the afternoon can delay your sleep, making it harder to fall asleep at a time that will allow you to log a full eight hours. Try substituting your afternoon coffee or smoking break with a cup of non-caffeinated tea or a power nap.
Studies show that regular exercise is a key component to getting good sleep on a regular basis. Whether you walk, lift weights, swim or practice yoga, make sure to find a physical outlet for your body every day.
Incorporate Calming Practices into Your Evening
Instead of sitting down and watching hours of TV after you get home, trying incorporating some practices in your evening free time that will evoke the Relaxation Response. Practices like meditation, qi gong, yoga and breathing practices all can help stroke your vagal nerve and “turn on” your parasympathetic nervous system — the rest and digest system. Reading, connecting with friends or family members, playing board games, doing art or listening to music can all help you start to wind down in the evening, too. Also consider eliminating screen time on your phones as much as possible. The blue light emitted from screens is similar to the light from the sun which tells our brains its time to be awake. And even if you have a nighttime filter on your screen to block out blue light, social media, email and news can cause our stress levels to stay high into the night. Step away from technology at least two hours before you head to bed to facilitate a restful night of sleep.
Create a Wind-Down Routine
In addition to the above items, establishing a routine you complete every night before bed will also help you unwind and prepare for a good night’s rest. It will signal to your brain that it’s time to wrap up the day and prepare for a time of ease and rejuvenation. This process includes going to bed and waking up at the same time every day — even on the weekends — and aiming for around eight hours of sleep every night. It also includes activities like brushing your teeth, brushing your hair, showering, washing your face and putting on different clothes that you use only for sleeping. Your routine may also include an evening meditation like iRest, a cup of chamomile tea, or reading a book unrelated to work. Follow your routine as regularly as possible to help guide your mind and body into understanding that when you do these activities, it’s time for bed!