Sleep is essential to everyone’s health and wellbeing. The same way we have to eat, drink, and breathe to survive- we also have to sleep.
Not only is sleep a powerful stress reliever, but it also helps us have better control over our emotions and our behaviors throughout the day. It improves concentration, sharpens our decision-making skills and strengthens our immune system. The benefits are seemingly endless.
It’s recommended for most adults to get more than 7 hours a night, but this comes a lot easier to some people than it does to others. Sleep disorders affect up to 70 million Americans every year – with insomnia being the top diagnosis. Insomnia is formally diagnosed when someone’s lack of sleep is causing them enough distress to negatively affect major aspects of their life, like their work or relationships.
Before you diagnose yourself with a sleep disorder, though… try to relax.
The KEY to falling asleep is to cultivate a sense of relaxation.
We know, we know… That’s a lot easier said than done. That’s why we put together some tips to help. We’ll start with what you can do to create the right atmosphere for quality ZZZ’s.
First and foremost, you want to turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Even if you are using screens to read, the blue light from your phone or a tablet will stimulate your brain and keep you awake. If you’re serious about getting sleep, make sure to dim your lights and use the last 30 minutes of your day to relax your mind as well as your body.
Secondly, check the temperature. The ideal bedroom temperature for sleep is approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit. This slightly varies from person to person but find what works for you and set the thermostat accordingly.
Next, let’s talk about noise. Depending on where you live (or who you live with) it might be impossible to have a silent room throughout the night. It can help to add a sound machine or fan, but if you’re someone with a busy mind then you might find it more difficult to drift off when it is too quiet. If this is the case, try playing soothing music or audiobooks. Audible is a great source for audiobooks, and it has a feature that allows you to set a sleep timer. If you decide to go that route, make sure you are listening to something that helps you relax and not something that will stimulate your mind. Think of it as having someone read you a bedtime story, not an excuse to get more work done while drifting off into dreamland.
The last two suggestions go hand-in-hand. Keep your bedroom sanitary and fill it with a soothing fragrance. A lot of people prefer essential oils, such as lavender, eucalyptus and heliotropin. Find what works for you. It is also proven that the scent of your partner could improve your quality of sleep.
(Kind of cute, right?)
There are also things that you can do throughout the day
that will prepare you for a better night’s sleep.
The same way that you dim the lights at night, you should increase your light exposure during the day. For people with insomnia, daytime bright light exposure has been proven to improve both sleep quality and duration. It also reduced the time it took for them to fall asleep by 83%! If you are unable to get enough sunlight throughout the day, you can use an artificial light that simulates sunlight.
It’s also important to avoid caffeine late in the day. According to one study, having caffeine 6 hours prior to bedtime had significant effects on sleep disturbances. Even if you can fall asleep after drinking an afternoon coffee or energy drink, it will still worsen the quality of your sleep. We know the midday crash can be rough, but that is a symptom of not being well-rested. To eliminate that and to feel more energized throughout the day, it is imperative that you have good sleep hygiene. If you are a coffee drinker, try switching to decaf after lunch and remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
Exercising regularly will also help improve your sleep. There are some stipulations, though. Exercising in the morning will help you wind down at the end of the day, but high-intensity exercises in the evening will give you more energy at the end of the day, keeping you awake for longer. If your schedule doesn’t allow for you to exercise in the morning, then you can do low-intensity workouts at night. You should still give yourself a few hours in between the exercise and your bedtime so that your body can wind down.
Creating healthier sleep patterns will help your body and your mind recharge, leaving you feeling refreshed and alert. If you have exhausted all these efforts and are still dealing with sleep troubles – we suggest speaking to your doctor.
Sleep should not be a luxury. It is a necessity! Take care of yourself so that you’re able to show up and be present with the people around you. You deserve it.