Sleep is one of the cornerstones of health, and nothing is more frustrating than a poor night of sleep when you want to be productive the next day. But, improving your sleep will go further than just giving you the energy you need, it will decrease your chances of developing several diseases, it will boost your mood, and it will help you to focus. You need at least seven hours of sleep a night, and eight are optimal.
If you’re having sleeping difficulties, here are 10 changes you can make to get some more shut-eye.
Make Your Bedroom a Sleep Sanctuary
Your bedroom should be used for only two purposes – sleep and sex. When you are sleeping, your bedroom should be dark, quiet (or have the gentle hum of a white noise machine), and the temperature should be cool. Try to keep your bedroom neat, clean, and free of clutter because this environment is more conducive to rest and relaxation. Make sure your bed, sheets, and pillow are comfortable and clean. Finally, if your four-legged friends are keeping you up at night, you may have to move them to another area of your house for you to get a good night’s sleep.
Regulate Your Sleep and Wake Times
Although you may want to stay up late on weekend nights and sleep late on Saturday and Sunday mornings, this habit disrupts your sleep patterns and can lead to poor sleep during the week. It’s as if you have jet lag every Monday morning, and that’s no good. Instead, reset your internal clock by going to bed and waking up at about the same times every day of the week, even on the weekends, especially if you are plagued by insomnia.
Bath Before Bed
As part of your nighttime routine, try taking a hot Epsom salt bath about 30 minutes before you plan to get into bed. Raising and lowering your body temperature is a way to hack your system, and it signals that it is time to sleep. In addition, Epsom salts are comprised of mostly magnesium, a mineral that many people are deficient in, and one that promotes feelings of drowsiness and peacefulness. Finally, having a specific nightly routine will help to set up sleep-inducing cues.
Ditch the Screens
While it is fun to watch TV in bed, it’s just not conducive to sleep. The blue light from screens disrupts your circadian rhythms and can actually stimulate you. So, if you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try removing all of the screens from your bedroom – that includes the TV, your cell phone, and any tablets. In fact, you may want to end your interactions with any screens about 30 minutes to an hour before you want to fall asleep.
Light and Dark Therapy
When your circadian rhythms become out of whack, you can train them to get back on track by using light and dark therapy. When you wake up, expose your face and eyes to either real daylight, or a daylight lamp. Better yet, get a daylight alarm that simulates waking to the rising sun. In addition to light therapy, you can use dark therapy in the evening to signal to your body that it’s getting close to bedtime. You can use amber light bulbs in lamps and turn off the harsh overhead lights in your house, and you can also get amber eyeglasses to block the sleep-disrupting blue light from your television or cell phone.
Meditation is becoming ever more popular as a way to treat stress and disease, and these benefits are now backed by several scientific studies. Meditation is the practice of sitting quietly while taking the focus away from your thoughts and placing it on your breath. There are also ways to meditate with audio and visual prompts, known as guided imagery or guided meditation. You don’t have to meditate for a long time; you can even receive benefits from five to ten minutes of daily meditation. Several studies have examined how meditation affects sleep, and they have found that those who meditated were able to fall asleep and stay asleep more easily. If you’re not sure how to meditate on your own, try an app or look for a meditation class in your area.
Cut the Caffeine
Some lucky people don’t seem to experience any effects from drinking coffee throughout the day, while others are kept up by just one cup. If you’re finding it hard to shut down your brain at night, caffeine might be the cause. Try cutting down on your caffeine intake to improve your sleep. Also, don’t drink any caffeinated beverages after noon. You may find that you have to cut it out completely to see an improvement in your sleep.
Drink Less Alcohol
It’s a common myth that alcohol helps your sleep. In fact, while it may make you feel drowsy, it disrupts your deep sleep and affects the quality of your sleep, making you feel less rested in the morning and adding to your sleep deficit. Alcohol ends up stimulating your body later after you’ve fallen asleep. So, it’s better to limit your intake of alcohol to one or two servings or remove it altogether.
Have an Early Dinner
It’s possible that your tossing and turning in bed is due to when you eat dinner or what you eat for dinner, or both. Most sleep experts advise that you should finish your last bite at least four hours before you plan on sleeping. And, if you tend to have a slow digestive system, aim for finishing your dinner around five to six hours before bedtime. In addition, avoid foods that might be causing you gastrointestinal distress, like those that are highly acidic or very fatty. By changing how and when you eat dinner, you may just improve your sleep.
Exercise in the AM
While including exercise in your day will actually improve your likelihood of getting a good night’s sleep, doing your workout too close to bedtime could disrupt your natural sleep patterns. So, try to work out in the morning or early afternoon.
Enough quality sleep is crucial to your health, so if you’re finding it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep, try to make one of these lifestyle changes to see if you can improve your overall health and wellness by improving your sleep.