9 steps to better sleep.
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of health. Lack of quality sleep can lead to all sorts of health issues including weight gain, and it’s even been associated with Alzheimer’s. Our body repairs and renews itself while we sleep. There are numerous processes that require adequate quality sleep in order for our bodies to function at their best. Most of us know we should be aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep per night (this can very person to person, for example I know I’m at my best with 8.5 hours). But lets not forget that word “quality” that came after adequate.
One indicator of poor quality sleep is being tired, or feeling “foggy” during the day despite sleeping 7-8 hours. Some other signs of poor sleep include taking longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep, waking up more than once per night, or waking up and staying awake for more than 20 minutes during the night.
What can you try to improve your sleep quality?
1) Go to bed at the same time every day. Wake up at the same time every day. This is so important! Our bodies need us to follow a schedule. It can vary a little day to day, but the more consistent you are with when you go to bed and wake up, the better off you’ll be.
2) Determine what time you need to be in bed. Figure this by starting with what time you need to wake up, then count back 8.5 hours (if your goal is 8 hours of sleep). If you need to wake at 6am and you want 8 hours of sleep, you should aim to be getting in bed at 9:30pm. That will give you 30 minutes once you are in bed to drift off to sleep.
3) Have a nightly routine. Drink a cup of tea, take a bath, meditate, read, journal, or any other activity that promotes unwinding and relaxation. Be sure to start it at the same time every night, and start it early enough to be in bed at the time you determined above.
4) TURN OFF THE SCREENS! No phones, TV, tablets, computers, etc for a minimum of 1 hour before bed. 2 hours is better. The light from these devices inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. If you are looking at your phone, TV, or computer right up until you get ready for bed, or worse- IN BED, you may have a much more difficult time falling asleep.
4-A) Do not look at your phone if you wake up in the middle of the night.
5) Your room should be pitch black. Turn off the TV (we already covered that). Turn alarm clocks face-down if needed. Put electrical tape over any small lights (for example, my phone charger has a charging indicator light on it, and there’s tape over it). Use black-out curtains. Turn off lights in any adjacent rooms.
6) Your room should be cool. The optimal room temperature for sleep is generally considered 60-67 degrees. We actually invested in a mattress pad that cools to a preset temperature (I prefer 66-68 degrees, my husband sets his side to 60-62), and we always sleep with the ceiling fan on.
7) Limit alcohol consumption to no more than 2 drinks. While it may seems like alcohol helps you fall asleep, the quality of your sleep can be severely affected the more alcohol you have consumed. Alcohol interferes with the production of melatonin, and throws of the normal sleep cycle.
8) Avoid caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime. I actually avoid caffeine even longer- 8 to 10 hours before bed because I’ve learned that I have trouble falling asleep if I have caffeine in the afternoon/evening. I would also include any “energy” type drink in this recommendation, including pre-workout mixes.
9) If you find your mind zooming from thought to thought while trying to fall asleep, try one of these: keep a notebook and pen by your bed and jot down your thoughts, or try a meditation app (just be sure to have your phone automatically go to ‘do not disturb’ mode once it’s done). Headspace is a good app, but there are many to check out.
So, there you have it. My 9 recommendations for better sleep! Let me know if any of this helps, or if you have something to add to the list!