Perhaps one of the most basic parts of life that often doesn’t get the credit or attention it deserves is sleep. It’s essential, and we spend about a third of our lives doing it, so maybe we should consider giving it a little bit more love. There are things you can change in your routine, your home, and even your mindset that can improve the way you sleep.
Many people forget that sleep is a huuuuge part of your self care and an important way to love and appreciate your body. Your body needs sleep, and so does your mind. Let’s start sleeping productively!
Ways You Can Start to Get Better Sleep in Your Daily Routine
Trying to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, is a great way to get better sleep. We know it may be super tempting to sleep in late on the weekends, but if you can avoid doing so, your workday self will thank you for it. Another thing to try to avoid: naps! While we all wish we would’ve held more appreciation for them during mandatory nap time in preschool, they can really mess up your sleep schedule as an adult. If you need to take them, it is best to limit them to 15-20 minutes and take them early in the afternoon, long before you lay in bed for the night.
It is also good if you can get a break in the day or find time before or after work to create time for exercise. Daily exercise is a great way to improve your sleep.
If you absolutely have to stay up late and cannot get the full recommended 7-9 hours of sleep for most, healthy adults, one way to sleep better and wake up in time for work is sleeping in hour and a half increments. Sleepytime is a great website, that also comes in the form of an app, that does the math for you. You can input the time you need to wake up, and after factoring in the approximately 14 minutes it takes someone to fall asleep, sleepytime will tell you what time you should plan to go to bed to wake up on the right end of your sleep cycle. It also works vice versa, so you can input the time you’re going to bed and it will give you good times to set an alarm to wake up for the next day.
Changing Your Environment in Favor of Productive Sleep
We also have some steps you can take to improve your environment that can lead to better sleep. Getting more sunlight during the day and actively making a point to be outside is not only great for your mental health, but can also improve the circadian rhythm that your body operates by. While daylight is great during the day, we also understand most people can’t sit outside all day when there is work to be done. If you can find creative ways to let the optimal light into your daily workspace, that can be tremendously helpful.
In turn, limiting bright light exposure at night, will help your body be more ready for sleep and will help you sleep through the night. Blue light is especially good to limit your exposure of (leave the phone outside of the bedroom–it can wait!).
That brings us to another point, not only is leaving your phone outside of the bedroom good for your sleep, but it can improve intimacy with your partner, too. Limit TV watching and instagram scrolling before bed, so that your bedroom is only a place for sleep and sex. Your association with the bedroom can be really life changing. If you have a hard time falling asleep, even consider going into another room to do a non strenuous activity like reading or knitting until you get sleepy, then you can go back to the bedroom to try again.
Along with less pre-bed light, pre-bed noise is something to avoid. It is also good to find a comfortable sleeping temperature, usually on the cooler side. A good average is 67-70 degrees, but of course everyone is different. A quiet, dark, cool room is the best environment to cultivate a good night’s sleep.
Another simple, but effective way to improve your sleeping space is to make sure you’re sleeping on a mattress comfortable for you and with pillows that fit your comfort needs and preferences.
Before Bed Diet Habits that Can Help
Sure, it might seem like a no-brainer not to drink coffee right before bed, but all kinds of drinks contain caffeine that can really interfere with your nighttime routine. Most sodas, some tea, and especially energy drinks, should be avoided before bed, so they don’t keep you up all night. Drinking alcohol before bed is another no-no as alcohol affects a good night’s sleep also. While alcohol does in fact induce sleep, it also affects Rapid Eye Moment (REM) sleep, which is our most restorative sleep. Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, and rob you of needed ZZZs.
We’re going to throw in another liquid to avoid before bed, that may surprise you. Really you shouldn’t be drinking water, or any liquid 1-2 hours before bed. Avoiding liquids will limit the number of bathroom trips that disrupt your sleep throughout the night. To go with this, it is best to eat dinner, or whatever your final meal of the night may be, at least four hours before your bedtime.
While we are avoiding a lot of things to consume at night, there is one thing that can help if going to bed is often a struggle for you. A melatonin supplement can be a great means to aid in falling asleep. They can be found at any drugstore, and even most grocery stores at an affordable price.
Right Mind, Right Sleep
A great pre-bed practice is meditation. Clearing your mind and finding a way to unwind after a long day can be crucial to be able to fall asleep, and STAY asleep. Simple repetitive crafting like crochet, coloring books, knitting, or weaving are good things to try right before bed. Reading or simple yoga can also be very helpful. Also try taking a hot bath or shower right before bed to relax.
If you can think of going to bed as a time for relaxation, it can greatly improve the quality of your sleep. Rather than focusing on the sleep itself, focus on relaxing and letting your body ease into the bed. Take deep breaths to clear your mind. Don’t lay in bed and brainstorm what you need to work on for work the next day, or activities to play with the kids, or what you’ll pick out to wear in the morning–save brainstorming for the next day! If something is really bugging you and you can’t drop it, write it down. Now it has been acknowledged, and you can move on to trying to sleep again.
We hope these tips were helpful! Sleep is self care, and we want you to remember that. If you continue to have trouble sleeping, reach out to us and get an appointment with one of our therapists to get to the root cause today!
Now let’s go optimize our bedrooms, prepare some pre-bed reading, and grab a bedside journal.