We all need it, yet, at times, sleep can be difficult to come by.
It helps your body heal from daily stressors while regulating both your appetite and emotions.
What many people don’t realize is that many simple, everyday habits and activities influence how long it takes to fall asleep and how long you stay asleep.
That gives you the power to influence your sleep cycle. A few changes to your lifestyle might be all you need to get a better night’s rest and give yourself a quick health boost.
1. Commit to a Bedtime
Your bedtime is critical to your sleep success.
First of all, it needs to be early enough that you spend at least seven to nine full hours in bed. Most people take 15 to 30 minutes to fall asleep so factor that in when deciding on a bedtime.
Second, and even more critical, is to be consistent. The human body relies on repeated patterns to correctly time any number of biological processes, including sleep. Your brain tries to adapt to your preferred schedule.
Play on your body’s strengths, which is its ability to adapt to your routines, and go to bed at the same time every day.
2. Build and Cherish a Bedtime Routine
In conjunction with a consistent bedtime is a solid bedtime routine.
Bedtime routines train the brain to release sleep hormones at the correct time while helping the body to better respond to those hormones. Sometimes the brain needs preparation before fully shutting down at night, and a routine performs that function.
The routine can be simple—putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, and crawling into bed. Or, more elaborate—a warm bath while listening to relaxing music, a warm cup of milk, and reading a book.
It’s key to find what works for you and perform everything in the same order and start them at the same time.
3. Bask in the Sunlight
Special photoreceptors in the eyes absorb sunlight and send signals to the brain that suppresses sleep hormones during the day.
Without enough of it, your sleep cycle can get out of sync with the Earth’s day/night pattern.
Add a walk to your lunchtime or spend the evening outside with family to increase your exposure to natural light.
4. Eat with Sleep in Mind
Diet can either give your sleep a boost or leave you staring at the ceiling come bedtime.
Eat evenly spaced meals at around the same time every day to create a pattern that the brain can recognize.
Avoid caffeine as it blocks sleep hormones and skip the acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits, and chocolate that can lead to heartburn.
5. Avoid or Turn Off Screens
Technology is everywhere but, if you’re not careful, it can interfere with your ability to sleep. The screens of many popular electronics give off a bright blue light that can cause the brain to suppress sleep hormones much in the same way it does with sunlight.
Turn off screens two to three hours before your bedtime and, if needed, remove devices like televisions and smartphones from your bedroom.
6. Train Your Body to Relax
Stress and anxiety are common causes of sleeplessness. They can lead to physical pain that’s only heightened by a lack of sleep. Some issues can be resolved with a good mattress, but if you need more, take a few minutes each day to calm your mind and body.
Meditative methods that train the brain to focus on the present moment rather than past or future events have been shown to trigger the brain’s “relaxation response.” The drop in heart rate and blood pressure that come with this type of meditative training requires practice so be consistent.
For very deep relaxing power naps, you can try simple yoga nidra or yogic sleep. If you have never understood what meditation actually is, then you can begin the journey with these simple guided meditation techniques. (P.S. For better results, join a meditation/yoga center near you. The internet is flooded with innumerable resources. DO NOT try unauthentic sources)
If meditation isn’t for you, journaling can be helpful.
Some people use a journal to dump all their thoughts on paper before going to bed while others use it as a running to-do list.
The method of relaxation isn’t as important as making sure that you take time to address stress so that you’re ready for sleep once your head hits the pillow.