We all understand the importance of a good night’s rest. While we’re all a little different in our sleep patterns, “normal” sleep is typically considered to be 7–9 hours of continuous sleep a night.
Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to increase the quality and ease of sleep. Here are six simple steps to help you through the night.
Good light, bad light
Getting out and enjoying the natural light helps your body understand when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to sleep. For instance spending time outdoors is known to help you relax. This is the “good” kind of light. The “bad” kind of light comes from things like alarm clocks and other artificial sources in your bedroom that can disrupt your sleeping patterns. Even a small dot of light can disrupt your sleep or ability to fall asleep. A visible clock can lead to clock-watching, which can increase anxiety as you watch the minutes (or even hours) tick by.
Try a mocktail instead
Contrary to what we might think, alcohol does not help us sleep. Because while it can make you temporarily drowsy, it makes it much more difficult for your body to stay asleep. This leads to a poor and unsatisfying slumber that leaves you tired and groggy when you get up, which can lead to vicious nap cycles and late nights. It’s also a good practice to avoid eating large meals before bed or drinking too much water — as well as caffeine and sugar — as these can keep you up or running to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Routine and consistency
One of the best ways to enhance your sleep is to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine. A regular routine and sleep time helps you prepare for sleep and signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. This can help you fall asleep faster and easier. Sleep routines can include reading, music, a weighted blanket, meditation, and more. Some people find that taking a warm bath also helps them get ready for sleep.
Sleep only zone
If at all possible, try to keep your bedroom reserved for sleeping. The more you make your bed exclusively a place for sleeping, the more your body will associate your bed with sleep and bedtime practices. This ties in with avoiding screens and watching TV in bed. Your bed should be a sanctuary of sleep, and it’s difficult to maintain that, and for your body to understand that, if you do other things in that space. So avoid those screens, and definitely avoid working in bed.
Turn off the screens an hour before bed
Speaking of lights, this includes screens of all kinds, whether that’s your phone, tablet, laptop, or television. These unnatural light sources not only keep you up via disruptive light, but artificial light has also been known to lower melatonin, which is the naturally-occurring hormone that helps you sleep.
If you need time to decompress before bedtime, or just a little something to take your mind off the day, try reading a book or listening to some soothing music. You may also want to consider sleep or meditation apps that offer soothing sounds to fall asleep to (just make sure your screen is off while you’re listening).
Regular exercise at similar times each day is a great way to prepare your body for sleep. Not only does this reduce stress and anxiety, it also helps wear out your body and get you tired enough for sleep. Aerobic exercise is especially helpful in enhancing your sleep (walking, swimming, and dancing are some great options).
As with trying to create any kind of good habit, take it step-by-step and don’t be too hard on yourself. A good routine takes time and practice to cement, but a healthy sleep regimen will give you more energy throughout the day and help keep your mind and body healthy.