Do you feel like you can’t ever seem to get a good night’s sleep? Getting good quality sleep these days is harder than ever before. With endless distractions, more screen time than ever, being able to work from home and so many other factors, it can be extremely difficult to get high quality sleep for 7-8 hours per night. On average, adults need at least 7 hours of sleep for optimal health and wellbeing, but 35.2% of American adults report sleeping less than 7 hours per night.1 So how do we fix this?This is another one that many of us don’t take into consideration when thinking about why we may not be getting adequate sleep. These days more people than ever are working, sleeping, eating and relaxing in the same place. But when it comes to sleep, it’s important to have a calming environment that allows you to escape from work and other daily stressors. When you’re ready for sleep, try out the following to optimize your environment and create a calm space:
Why do we need sleep?Let’s start with why we even need at least 7 hours of sleep. Sleep is actually just as, if not more, important as eating a healthy diet and regular exercise. It allows our bodies to recharge for the day ahead, maintains our body’s immune system, reduces inflammation and reduces the risk of disease. Sleep is also imperative for our body’s cognitive and behavioral functions to work properly.2
Acquiring Good Sleep HabitsIn order to start getting better sleep, you should start with observing what your current sleep habits are. For one week, track the following in a journal when you wake up: What time did you go to bed? What did you do before bed? Was it hard to fall asleep? Did you wake up in the night? What time did you wake up for the day? What is your morning routine? After observing your current habits, it’s time to start acquiring new ones by taking small actions each day. If you notice your bedtime routine isn’t consistent or you spend too much time on your phone, then you can begin to change those actions by replacing them with new ones. Below are 7 tips to start getting better sleep naturally:
1. Reduce screen time before bedWe’ve all heard this one by now, but it really does make a huge difference in not only the quality of your sleep, but getting to sleep quicker. Blue light from our screens makes our bodies think that it’s daytime and slows down the creation of melatonin, our sleep hormone that tells our bodies it’s time to rest.3 In order to reduce blue light exposure, try to turn screens off at least 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep. Instead of scrolling on your phone, find another activity you could do that would help relax your mind and body. Below are a few ideas:
- Read a physical book
- Crochet or knit
- Journal about your day (more journaling ideas below)
- Listen to music or a bedtime story
- Listen to a meditation
2. Create a Consistent Sleep ScheduleGetting into a consistent sleep routine can help your body’s natural rhythm get used to going to bed and waking up at certain times. If you find yourself bingeing Netflix and unable to stop, set an alarm on your phone for a certain time that you’d ideally like to start getting ready for bed in order to get those 7 hours. For the morning, try to wake up at the same time every day for at least a couple of weeks. A great trick here is to have a ritual in the morning that you look forward to doing. It could be having coffee on the patio or reading a few pages of a book you love.
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3. Adopt a Relaxing Practice Before BedYou ideally want to have a relaxing ritual before bed that calms you down and increases melatonin levels. Some relaxing bedtime practices can be:
- Using a face mask
- Taking a warm bath or shower
- Reading a book
- Gratitude journaling (write down 3 things you’re grateful for that happened that day and why)
- Meditation (Insight Timer has great free guided meditations and bedtime stories)
- Counting your breath - On alternating inhales & exhales count up to 10. When you get to 10, count backwards down to 1. Repeat until you feel relaxed or fall asleep!
4. Avoid or Limit Alcohol IntakeWhile this one isn’t ideal for those of us who enjoy a glass of wine in the evenings, limiting alcohol can make a huge positive impact in your sleep quality. Drinking alcohol can contribute to less time spent in REM sleep, which results in more sleep disruptions throughout the night.4 If you tend to reach for alcohol to relax at night, try avoiding it for 1-2 weeks and observe how it affects your sleep quality. Instead, drink a warm cup of calming tea or try out one of the relaxing practices listed above.
5. Move your body every dayMany people don’t realize how much physical activity actually directly affects our sleep patterns and quality. Due to the energy you’re exerting during a moderate to intense workout, your body is able to fall asleep faster when it is bedtime. Exercise can also actually increase the amount of energy you have during the day, which leads to less napping and saving sleep for when it’s nighttime. A 2013 study found that roughly 76-83% of participants who exercised regularly reported very good or fairly good sleep quality.5 While you don’t need to practice rigorous activity every single day, it’s beneficial to move your body in some way, whether it’s a 20 minute walk or playing with your kids outside.
6. Enhance your bedroom environment
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- Put all work items away (computers, tablets, notepads, etc.)
- Keep bedroom lights as low as possible and turn all lights off when it’s time to go to sleep
- Maintain a cool environment - around 65 degrees Fahrenheit
- Incorporate a white noise machine or relaxing music to help fall asleep
- Keep your bedding clean by washing your sheets at least once every two weeks