It’s not uncommon to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and let your sleep schedule suffer as a result, but a good night’s sleep is vital and gives your body and brain some much-needed time to grow, repair and recharge. Whether you struggle to fall asleep every night or you wake up feeling groggy instead of refueled, there are things you can do to get the most out of the time you spend asleep.
Setting a Routine
Not to take you back to your childhood or anything, but setting a time to go to sleep and wake up every day – including the weekend – is an important first step is getting your sleep pattern in order. Though eight hours is recommended, everyone’s body is different. Figure out how much sleep you need to feel truly refreshed, and try to get that much sleep every night. If you lose sleep one night, make up for it the next day with a short, relaxing nap. Make sure not to nap after dinner time, which will just further mess up your schedule. If you work demanding hours during the week, use the weekend to catch up. Though your schedule won’t be consistent, you’ll feel less run down during the week.
Your Natural Sleep Cycle
Our bodies work on a 24 hour cycle based on light. When it gets dark, your brain creates melatonin, making you sleepy. In light of that, it’s important to keep things bright during the day so you stay awake and alert. Spending long days in a dimly lit office building can impact your wakefulness, so make an effort to sit by windows or spend your lunch hour outside.
The same idea goes for nighttime. A lot of people like to wind down at night by surfing the Internet or catching up on favorite shows, but those bright, harsh screens stimulate your brain and affect your melatonin production. Dimly lit, relaxing activities will help your body prepare for rest. If you work the night shift, do your best to make your bedroom as dark as possible before you get ready to go to sleep.
It’s important to make sure your bedroom is a good sleeping environment. Your bed should be comfortable for you, and you should test out different pillows and mattresses to find out how much firmness is right for your back and neck. People tend to sleep better in a cooler bedroom, so try keeping your thermostat between 68 and 72 degrees before bedtime. Finally, your room needs to stay quiet. During light sleeping stages, the simplest sounds can be enough to make you wake up and start the process of falling asleep all over again. If you live in an apartment or with people who have a different schedule, turn on a fan, or play relaxation sounds or white noise to drown out noisy distractions.
As mentioned before, it’s not advisable to watch television or stare at the computer right before bed because of the bright screens. Right before you go to bed, unwind from the day by listening to music, taking a bath or reading a book. If you’re having trouble relaxing, take deep breaths and practice yoga or meditation exercises.
If you wake up in the middle of the night, stay calm and you should fall back asleep in no time. Don’t think about sleep, just think about relaxation and sleep should follow. If not, read under a low light or eat a small snack until you feel tired enough to try again.
Your Diet and Habits
Eating big meals before bed creates trouble for your sleep schedule. If the foods are especially fatty, spicy or acidic, you’ll be kept up as your stomach digests them. And though many people like to end their long day with a beer or glass of wine, alcohol isn’t advised as a sleep aid. It makes you more sensitive to struggle with waking up throughout the night.
As far as caffeine is concerned, limit it as much as possible. Drinking caffeine after lunchtime can affect you all the way through that same night. Cigarettes have a similar effect. Since nicotine is a stimulant, smoking before bed can keep you up. Beyond that, your body grows restless through the night, since it isn’t used to not smoking for eight hours.
Exercising or having some sort of physical activity spread throughout the day is thought to help aid deeper sleep at night. However, exercising right before bed increases your temperature and adrenaline, making it difficult to relax.
Whether you’ve been struggling with sleep for a while or you haven’t noticed anything abnormal, following these tips is a good way to improve your quality of sleep and lead a more alert, productive lifestyle.
What do you do to fall asleep at night? Please, tell us in a comment below!