Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and it’s critical to get the proper amount each night. It’s been revealed that we spend about one third of our lives asleep, deeming it as important as eating, drinking, and breathing. Lack of sleep can lead to increased anxiety and depression, as well as worsening other mental health conditions, and inhibiting brain function. This being said, we’ve put together some simple steps to help improve your sleep.
These steps can be broken down into four categories:
- Creating a sleep-inducing bedroom
- Optimizing your sleep schedule
- Creating a pre-bedtime routine
- Developing pro-sleep habits during the day
Let’s take a deeper dive into what each of these categories entails.
Creating a sleep-inducing environment
- Keep your room cool and dark
Though the temperature can vary based on the individual, most experts have found that the ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, excess light exposure can disrupt your sleep and circadian rhythm. Blackout curtains or a sleep mask can help prevent light from interfering with your rest.
- Cultivate peace and quiet
It’s important to keep noise to a minimum. If you are unable to eliminate nearby sources of noise, a fan or white noise machine can be extremely helpful.
- Choose quality bedding and pillows
Pick bedding that feels comfortable to the touch and will help maintain a pleasant temperature during the night. It’s also important to choose the right mattress and pillow that will be best for you, based on your sleep position and needs.
- Declutter your bedroom
If your room is a mess, you could be at a higher risk for developing sleep problems. A recent study found that those surrounded by clutter were more likely to have a sleep disorder. When you walk into a room, what your eyes see can influence whether or not you will have a hard time falling asleep. Worrying about having to clean and organize your room will keep your mind active and make it difficult to calm your mind as well.
Optimizing your sleep schedule
- Determine a fixed wake-up time and target bedtime
Consistency is key. According to the CDC, it’s important to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Even on the weekends, or other days you would be tempted to sleep in, remember to maintain your schedule.
- Limit naps
If you want to sleep better at night, be careful when it comes to napping. It’s best to either limit the amount of time that you nap, or eliminate napping entirely. A nap too late in the day, or one that goes for too long, can throw off your sleep schedule. If you must take a nap, research has revealed that the best time is shortly after lunch (in the early afternoon) for 20 minutes.
- Adjust your schedule gradually
When you need to change your sleep schedule, it’s best to make adjustments gradually over time, with a maximum difference of 1-2 hours per night. This will help your body adjust to changes so that your new schedule is viable.
Creating a pre-bedtime routine
- Wind down at least 30 minutes before bed
It’s much easier to fall asleep if your mind is at ease. Read a book, listen to soothing music, or try some relaxation techniques to help calm your mind and prepare for sleep. Research has found that listening to classical music has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. While reading, even just six minutes of being absorbed in a story, can reduce stress by 68%.
- Dim the lights
Instead of using bright overhead lights, use lamps, a dimmer switch, or candles to create a more relaxing environment. Indirect light is less disruptive to the body’s natural circadian rhythms and avoiding bright light can contribute to the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.
- Disconnect from devices
The blue light emitted from electronics such as, tablets, cell phones, laptops, and TVs, can keep your brain wired and make it much more difficult to unwind and calm your mind before bed. This light can suppress your body’s natural production of melatonin. Shut down electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed.
- Take a bath/shower before bed
A warm bath or shower, an hour or two before bed, has been shown to relax the body and the mind, as it can lower both, heart rate and blood pressure. The heat can help you to de-stress and relax your tense and tired muscles.
- Try some yoga poses and/or meditation
According to research, 85% of those practicing yoga reported reduced stress and 55% reported better sleep. Meditation, when done before bedtime, can quiet the mind and body and help reduce insomnia by promoting overall calmness.
Developing pro-sleep habits during the day
- Natural light exposure is vital
It’s important to get enough natural light, as this keeps our internal body clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Aim to get a dose of daylight in the morning or early in the day, as this can help normalize your circadian rhythm. If natural light is not an option, you can talk to your doctor about the benefits of using a light therapy box.
Daily exercise has numerous health benefits. The changes that exercise initiates in energy use and body temperature can promote better sleep. Although, experts warn not to exercise too late in the day due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, as it increases alertness and hormones such as, epinephrine and adrenaline.
- Don’t eat too late
It can be more difficult to fall asleep if the body is still digesting a large dinner. The best way to prevent this is to avoid late dinners and minimize the consumption of spicy and fatty foods (they may upset the stomach).
- Limit caffeine or alcohol consumption
Keep an eye on caffeine intake and limit consumption of coffee, tea, sodas, etc., after lunch and later in the day. Caffeine can hinder the ability to fall asleep and cause sleep disruptions if consumed too late in the day. Similarly, consuming alcohol too late in the day can also diminish sleep quality.
- Reserve your bed for sleep
It’s important to keep a strong mental association between your bed and sleep. Though it may be tempting to hang out on the bed during the day to relax, watch TV, etc., keep your bed reserved for sleep.
These steps will not only help you get a better night’s sleep, but also help your overall mental and physical health. Although, if you are suffering from disruptive sleep and struggling to find a solution or identify the underlying cause, it’s best to speak with a professional. Our team at Feinberg Consulting is here to help, reach out to us today at 877.538.5425.