Can’t remember the last time you got a good night’s sleep? You’re not alone. 40% of American adults clock only six hours or less of slumber each night, which is significantly less than the recommended seven to nine hours we need.
It doesn’t have to be this way. No matter how much tossing and turning you’ve been doing up until now, it’s possible to fall soundly asleep and more importantly, get enough of it. It does, however, require a little planning and sticking to habits that promote quality rest.
Here are three key tips for getting enough sleep and waking up refreshed.
Create a Winddown Routine
There’s a reason why many parents read stories to their kids at bedtime – it helps them relax in anticipation of falling asleep. Likewise, adults can also benefit from having a nighttime routine. After a while, the familiarity of preparing for bed can psychologically prepare the body for rest.
Ideally, you should begin your bedtime ritual an hour or two before you plan to shut the light off. The first step is to eliminate all tasks that could create stress and waste time for you in the morning. This includes choosing an outfit to wear to work and deciding what to bring for lunch.
Write down your to-do list for the following day and put together any mail you need to post. You’ll sleep more soundly knowing these chores have already been taken care of.
Once that’s out of the way, here are several activities you may want to add to your bedtime routine that can help promote better sleep:
Shut Off Anything With a Screen
As tempting as it may be to catch up with your friends or Facebook or scroll through your Instagram feed, using mobile devices right before turning in can make it harder for you to feel drowsy. That’s because their screens emit blue light which suppresses the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. As a result, your body gets tricked into thinking it’s still daylight when you use a mobile device and you stay alert longer.
It’s recommended that you turn off or put away your mobile device 30 to 60 minutes before hitting the sack so your melatonin level has a chance to regulate itself. If you really can’t stay away, using blue light blocking glasses can help deflect the sleep-disrupting rays.
Nosh On a Light, Healthy Snack
Maybe you’ve heard that it’s not a good idea to eat a meal right before bedtime. That is indeed true if it’s a large or heavy meal. But there’s nothing wrong with consuming a small, healthy snack before going to sleep—and choosing the right one can actually help promote better sleep.
Look for foods that contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can help you feel sleepy naturally. Turkey, chicken, eggs, milk, cheese, fish, nuts, and seeds are all good sources of tryptophan. The body converts tryptophan into serotonin, which can help you feel more relaxed.
Other good foods for sleep include cherries (a natural source of melatonin), bananas (their high potassium and magnesium levels help relax muscles), and oatmeal, which boosts insulin production and the release of sleep-inducing hormones. Think of how you can combine some of these foods for the ultimate nighttime snack, such as a small bowl of oatmeal made with milk and topped with sliced bananas.
You may also want to take sleep vitamins formulated with melatonin for those nights where you don’t want to eat a snack before bed. Sleep gummies that contain melatonin and herbs known for inducing sleepiness can help you wake up refreshed.
It goes without saying that you should avoid consuming anything with caffeine, alcohol, or added sugar in it, as any of these substances will keep you awake.
Take a Warm Shower or Bath
A warm shower or bath as part of your bedtime routine can help reduce stress and help you relax. Showering at nighttime will also save you time in the morning. Be sure the water doesn’t get too hot—the goal here is to lower your core temperature which will send a circadian sleep signal to your brain that you’re about ready for bed.
Read a Book
It isn’t so much the act of reading itself that makes many people drowsy; it’s that it’s usually done while they’re sitting in a comfortable position and able to relax because their mind is focused on something else instead of their own problems. That’s why it’s not uncommon for book readers to wake up the next morning only to discover they had dozed off in the same chair they sat down to read in.
Give reading a try if you’ve been struggling to fall asleep. Not only may it help you get your needed rest, but you’ll also be expanding your knowledge or imagination.
Meditate or Practice Yoga Stretches
Both meditation and yoga require concentration, which can be a welcome distraction for a mind that is focused on stress and worry. Meditation can be a wonderful sleep remedy because you’ll be focusing on your breathing, relaxing your entire body, and turning your attention to more positive thoughts. There is no shortage of free guided meditations online that can help diffuse your anxiety and help you drift off to sleep.
Likewise, yoga incorporates controlled breathing with specific poses that help relax muscles for more restful sleep. All you need is five minutes of yoga each night to reap the benefits. Some of the best yoga positions that encourage sleep include the restorative bridge, legs-up-the-wall, and wide-knee child’s pose.
Daily gratitude can decrease stress and anxiety by reminding us of everything we have in our lives to be grateful for. You can get a journal and write down five things in it every night that you’re thankful to have. This helps to wipe your mind clean of all limiting thoughts so you can fall asleep more easily.
These are just a few activities that you can add to your bedtime routine, but they’re not the only ones. Any healthy habit that helps relax your mind and body is going to be beneficial for sleep.
Rethink Your Bedroom
There are several things you can do to your bedroom to make it more conducive for sleep. For a start, treat it as a haven for two things: sleep and sex. Try to keep entertainment devices and other distractions out of it.
If you have pets that like to sleep with you or interrupt your rest, you don’t have to banish them from the bedroom, but get them a cozy pet bed of their own so they can take turns using it and sleeping with you.
A warm and lighted bedroom will make it difficult to fall asleep. For the best sleep-induce atmosphere, try to keep the temperature between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll feel more comfortable if you keep the room on the cooler side and use extra blankets to stay warm; by contrast, just think of how difficult it can be to fall asleep on a hot, muggy night.
The darker you can keep your bedroom when you tuck yourself in, the better. That’s because, as mentioned, light can inhibit your body from producing enough melatonin to help you feel sleepy.
This means shutting off, hiding, or covering up mobile devices and appliances with buttons or screens that light up. Invest in some blackout curtains if outside light is a problem.
Did you know that painting your bedroom a bright color may subconsciously keep you awake? Neutral or muted paint shades will soothe and calm you, while bright colors stimulate.
Additionally, keep your bedroom’s air quality clean by running an air purifier before you go to sleep. An air purifier with a HEPA filter will remove dust and dust mites from the air which can trigger allergies and cause you to wake up in the middle of the night with a stuffy nose.
An organic mattress may also help you sleep more soundly. Unlike traditional mattresses, these are made of natural materials including natural latex and breathable organic wool and cotton. Besides being naturally anti-bacterial, they also eliminate the smelly off-gassing of manufacturing chemicals used in traditional mattresses which can make it hard to sleep.
Natural latex also helps keep you cooler compared to traditional memory foam, which traps body heat. A cooler bed can assist with sleep.
Keep Your Sleep Routine Consistent
Try to get to bed and wake up at the same time every day to feel your most energetic. Although it may be tempting to stay up later and sleep longer in the morning on the weekend to make up for it, it may trip up your sleep-wake cycle during the workweek.
Your bedtime needs to be early enough so that you’ll get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Aim for eight once these sleep techniques start working for you.
Waking Up Refreshed: It Doesn’t Have to Be a Dream
Just as you need to put effort into an exercise routine and sticking to a healthy diet, getting enough sleep each night requires a bit of work as well. But it’s totally worth it for waking up refreshed and ready to tackle the day!
For more tips on obtaining better sleep and feeling your best every day, visit our Health and Wellness section.