Yeah, we all wish we got more sleep. We all know sleep is important for the immune system, brain function, digestion, weight loss... But the media is saturated with tips for sleeping better. Why are we all still exhausted?
These three tips not only help you sleep, they actually help you build habits that allow you to prioritize getting enough sleep and that will, over time, re-program your brain and body so that the common culprits in sleeplessness - anxiety, stress, an overactive mind, not enough time - just fade away.
1. No backlights within 30 minutes of bedtime.
You've probably heard before that the blue-green light that comes from anything with a backlight (TV, computer, mobile phone, Kindle) disrupts your circadian rhythm. It's true. You're robbing yourself ofhours of sleep every night because it takes you longer to fall asleep and causes you to sleep restlessly. But we're all still watching TV or surfing Facebook right up to the moment we turn out the light. How do we break that habit of clinging to our technology like it's a security blanket?
2. Develop a bedtime ritual.
This is something most of us did when we were children (with much protest, naturally), but it does wonders for your sleep because your brain and body quickly build an association between your bedtime ritual and sleep. After a while, the moment you start the ritual your mind and body begin preparing to sleep. You'll feel more relaxed, you'll fall asleep more easily, and you'll sleep more soundly through the night.
So what is a bedtime ritual? It's a series of activities you repeat in the same order every night. It can include:
- Brushing your teeth
- Putting together your outfit for the next day
- Organizing your purse/backpack/briefcase for work/school
- Reading (actual print material only, no e-readers or phones)
- Prayer or a gratitude practice
- Getting a glass of water for your bedside
- Repeat a mantra like, "I deserve to sleep well tonight. My reward for sleeping well is having the energy to accomplish great things."
By picking several activities that make sense to do before bed and repeating them every night, your brain (which is great at pattern recognition) will begin to associate your ritual with sleep. When you begin the ritual, you'll already be getting in the right physical and mental state to have a peaceful, sound night of rest.
3. Move more during the day.
The more you move during the day, the better you sleep at night. Your body craves movement, and our often sedentary lifestyles rob our bodies of the need to move and stretch and expend energy. If you're not in the habit of exercising regularly, even adding mini activity breaks throughout your day will make a big difference. Climb a flight of stairs a few times, take a 5 minute walk around your office building or around the block every 3 or 4 hours, stand up during a 10-minute phone call. Note that intense workouts in the evening can actually disrupt your sleep, even if you feel exhausted afterward. If you want to exercise after work or school, try something like yoga or even walking. These activities will be energetic enough to help improve your sleep and will also allow you to clear your mind, setting you up for peaceful sleep.
Sleeping poorly literally shaves years off your life and puts you at greater risk for developing all sorts of diseases and health problems. Plus, being tired makes you less pleasant to be around. No one likes a grouch! Try out these three tips and you'll start sleeping better right away. You'll start waking up refreshed and you'll have plenty of energy during the day. You'll be more productive and more patient.
And for those times you still wake up in the night, instead of looking at the clock and panicking about how little time you have left, say this instead: "I'm so lucky that I still have [X] hours to sleep!" Re-framing how you perceive the countdown to your alarm will help you fall back to sleep quickly, rather than lying awake agonizing over how tired you're going to be.