While many people underestimate the importance of sleep, the truth is that high-quality sleep is vital and something that most of us aren’t getting enough of.
According to surveys conducted by the NSF, at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders. Additionally, 60 percent of adults say that they have sleep problems a few nights a week or more.
Many of us are guilty of burning the candle at both ends, staying up late and getting up early. We all have busy lives and things that need to be done, so when we’re running low on time, sleep is often the first thing to go. While in some cases, temporary sleep deprivation may be inevitable—say, for instance, if you’re adjusting to a new shift at work or sleep training a new baby. However, for many, a lack of sleep is something that happens consistently and regularly—and over time, that is something that can have a negative impact on your health.
If you’re finding yourself struggling during the day—or if you’re feeling sluggish, anxious, or under the weather, it could be that you’re not getting enough rest. Fortunately, in many cases, sleep habits are something that can be improved by establishing a new routine and being intentional about the amount of shut-eye that you get each night!
With that in mind, here’s a look at some changes you can make to set yourself up for good night’s sleep.
Set a Routine
Bedtimes aren’t just for kids. They can be helpful for grownups as well. If you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, it will help to set your body’s internal clock—allowing you to have a higher quality of sleep; and helping you to get in sync with your natural sleep-wake cycle (your circadian rhythm). Before long, you may even start waking up on time without an alarm clock, since you’ll be getting enough sleep. When setting a bedtime, try to choose a time that you’re normally tired to save yourself from tossing and turning while trying to fall asleep.
Unwind Before Bed
Instead of spending your time surfing the web or watching a movie, consider unplugging before bed. Experts recommend at least 15-30 minutes of technology-free time before bed, to help your body relax and prepare for sleep. Taking a warm bath, doing some light reading, or writing in your journal can help your brain start to power down. Be sure to dim the lights to help your brain get ready to sleep. Relaxing before bed can help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Create a Sleep-Inducing Environment
To improve the quality of your sleep, make sure your surroundings are conducive to a good night’s rest. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you may want to remove any screens like TVs or computers that you have in your room. You’ll also want to avoid using bright, overhead lights just before bed. Instead, choose softer lights, such as lamps or lights with a dimmer switch. Finally, keep your phone in a different room—or if you require it for emergencies, consider keeping it away from your nightstand so you’re not tempted to wake up and check your messages during the night.
A good night’s sleep doesn’t start just before bed; it begins from the minute you wake up. Exercising during the day can help to prevent insomnia, as well as help you fall asleep faster each night. Just take care when timing your exercise routine. Having a workout earlier in the day is ideal since when you exercise, your metabolism speeds up and your body and mind come to life. Avoid doing a vigorous workout right before bed as it could make it harder for you to fall asleep.
Watch What You Eat
Watching what you eat and drink also plays an important role in how you sleep. Eating too close to bedtime can keep you awake longer or cause indigestion. It’s a good idea to avoid heavy foods at least two hours before you turn in for the night. You’ll also want to avoid caffeine for a minimum of 6 hours prior to bedtime. Finally, avoid alcohol if you’re finding it hard to sleep since it can also interfere with your sleep patterns.
While being intentional about sleep may not be possible all the time, it’s important to try to get adequate sleep as often as you can, and to work towards establishing healthy sleep patterns. Improving your sleep habits can drastically improve your outlook and overall quality of life, and will help you feel happier, more alert, and even healthier as well.